The World Poker Tour World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas reached the final table early Monday morning. On Tuesday Vince Van Patten was manning the microphone, once again calling action during filming of the final table.
“These two men have both made transformational contributions to the poker community, Isai as a pioneer with his incredible ingenuity and boldness, and Vince with his love and dedication to expanding the game of poker,” WPT CEO Adam Pliska said in a news release. “Both honorees are truly deserving of the award.”
Van Patten (pictured in lead image at right with broadcast partner Tony Dunst) spoke with PokerScout last week at the World Championship about his involvement with tour as well life on and off the poker felt.
Van Patten’s passion for poker and the WPT
This season, the WPT celebrated its 20th anniversary. Looking back, Van Patten says he didn’t think that far ahead when joining the team. It never occurred to the actor, poker player, and commentator that he might be sitting in the commentary booth 20 years later.
“Mike Sexton and I did the first WPT show at the Bellagio 20 years ago, and we were very uncertain of what to expect,” he says. “Two months later, it was a big hit.”
Sexton passed away in 2020, and the legendary WPT commentator, poker player, and ambassador became one of Van Patten’s best friends.
“I met Mike through poker at Binion’s Horseshoe in the 1990s, and he played in our Hollywood private poker cash games,” Van Patten says. “He came to my house during the holidays, and we played golf and had friendly sports betting and gambling competitions. Mike was a true gambler, but on the WPT stage, he was the greatest ambassador for poker. He could tell stories and explain the game, and talk and take over the broadcasts.”
“Mike was such an accomplished professional on and away from the table. I miss him dearly, and we had many laughs during and after long broadcast sessions when we would both be punch-drunk. He would be so proud of how the WPT has continued to grow and especially this fantastic first-ever WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas.”
— Vince Van Patten (@VinceVanP_WPT) December 6, 2022
Putting poker players first
Van Patten remains a major part of the WPT team. Part of his life on the poker road involves appearances at events, playing in meet-up games and special tournaments, chit-chatting with players, and taking selfies with fans.
Working with CEO Adam Pliska, anchor Lynn Gilmartin, commentator Tony Dunst and tournament director Matt Savage has been a real blessing, he adds.
“The WPT has always strived to cater to the poker players,” he says. “They put up the money and gamble. We want to recognize them and bring entertainment value while giving the players attention and recognition.
“Poker is a game of skill, and certainly there is luck involved. But let’s celebrate the game and common interests we share while meeting new people, catching up with old acquaintances and celebrating the accomplishments achieved.”
Pickleball is his latest passion
Poker hasn’t been the only competitive game Van Patten has been a part of. As a former professional tennis player, he once beat John McEnroe during a carpet match in Japan.
In 1982, he reached No. 26 in the world singles tennis rankings and also became a national champion in paddle tennis. It only seems fitting that the 65-year-old has now turned his passion outside of poker to pickleball.
“Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world,” he says. “It’s a social game, like poker, and easy to learn. I enjoy the competition and conditioning.”
Van Patten is even working on a screenplay involving pickleball with his brother. His film 7 Days to Vegas received some nice reviews from players in 2019.
But poker was first and foremost at the WPT World Championship over the last couple weeks. The event drew big praise from players and Van Patten’s voice will once again be a major part of the television broadcast.
Two decades later Van Patten still loves poker – and shows no signs of folding his cards anytime soon.