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Monday, October 24, 2005

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"I'm so involved in the business side I really don't play side games," Lederer said. "It's very stiff competition. I have too much respect for (players) to put in 10 hours on the phone and then go down to the Bellagio and have enough focus for the game."

Mike Sexton, who also lives in Las Vegas, is a longtime pro who has nearly given up regular poker games for endorsements, book deals and other promotions.

Sexton is a commentator for the World Poker Tour, a traveling poker tournament with 16 events worldwide that is broadcast on the Travel Channel and across 56 countries. Tournament hosts range from Internet poker sites to the Bellagio and Mirage.

The owner of the tournament is West Hollywood-based WPT Enterprises Inc., the only publicly traded poker entertainment company in the United States.

Besides receiving a salary from the World Poker Tour, Sexton also paid to promote -- the largest online poker room with an estimated 50 percent of the worldwide market.

"They were looking for someone who knew about poker," Sexton said.

Sexton helped develop the poker software, trained the site's customer service staff and created the PartyPoker Million, an annual tournament held on a cruise ship that has become the largest event in the World Poker Tour.

"Television is the No. 1 reason poker is so popular and none of these other shows would be around if not for the World Poker Tour," Sexton said. "We're the PGA Tour of poker and the money is bigger."

The tour is creating a "millionaire a week" and last week crossed the threshhold of $100 million in total prize money, he said.

Internet poker is the "No. 2 reason" for poker's rising popularity, he said.

Another local pro paid to promote is Kathy Liebert, a former Wall Street analyst who is known as one of the best female tournament players in the world.