WSOP Champions Naoya Kihara Leads Japan’s Poker Boom

3 weeks ago
WSOP Champions Naoya Kihara Leads Japan’s Poker Boom
19 Mar

It was in 2012 that Nayoa Kihara became the first Japanese poker player to win a World Series of Poker bracelet. That’s one of the many reasons why Japan is surely on the verge of a poker boom.

Since winning his own bracelet, Kihara has been signed to a sponsorship deal with PokerStars and has become the premier player when it comes to poker in Japan. Although live casino gambling, even poker, is still illegal in the country, Kihara thinks that it might soon change. And When you’re registered at an online casino, then you’re able to play plenty of games. This is incredible since you can choose from all the games that are available and just play any you like. Maybe you can visit and try something new like Texas Hold’em which is a poker variant highly popular since it’s the most known worldwide. Of course, there are other games you can play such as Pachinko, for example.

He stated that the government knows that are able to make plenty of money from casinos, and when they legalize it, poker is going to get incredibly huge in Japan. Of course, this is completely true.

Kihara is on the front line of poker world, a role that was thrust upon him due to his success in Las Vegas.

Along with over than half a million dollar that he was able to won at the WSOP, Kihara also gained a lot of attention from the media in Japan. And he has used that popularity as a way to educate people about what poker is really about.

Kihara said that, for now, people in Japan think that poker is just about gambling and nothing else, so when he is on the television, he wants to explain it better. Poker is a game and everyone can use it for gambling, but the way he plays it it’s as an investment business. Poker is a skill game and that’s what he’s trying to tell people in Japan.

But, obviously, luck vs skill debate isn’t what most interests the media in the country.

He also said that after he won his bracelet many Japanese media contacted him, and over five newspapers and more than five magazines wrote about him. Everybody asks him about what he’s going to do with the money he won. Well, poker players surely know that what they win it’s just the bankroll and that they’ll use it for the next tournaments. However, those who don’t play the game think that it’s so much money that he must be buying a car or something like that.

He has been playing bigger games and many more tournaments and that has made himself a bit more popular in Japanese poker.

While the poker community in the country is still small it’s definitely growing, thanks to celebrities such as Kihara as well the country’s first poker forum.

Kihara said that in Japan the online poker community isn’t big but there’s a poker forum, which is helping grow the community.

Poker is taking off in the country

Although casino gambling is still illegal in Japan, there has been found a way to play in the slot machine-like game Pachinko. This industry is estimated to be $380 billion. However, those who play Pachinko won’t make money directly, but will instead win tokens or prizes that can be taken to another location or redeemed for cash.

Kihara also said that there’s something in Japan that’s called “Amusement Poker” whereby players are able to compete in poker tournaments and, therefore, they’ll win prizes. Some of these tournaments will give you a free seat to the next poker event, or even a discount on food or beverages at the tournaments.

There are other events that give bigger awards such as seats to real-money tournaments in Macau. Kihara stated that the bigger the prize, the closer the event is to breaking the law. Winning seats to live events in Macau is in the gray area in Japan but the police say it’s completely fine as long it’s not too big.

The popularity of amusement poker points to a demand that’d be more than satisfied by legal casino games. Kihara said that 10 years ago there was almost no poker in Japan but even 5 or 6 years ago it started to get popular and more people started playing it.

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Writer and semi-retired poker pro from Edinburgh (UK).Read more


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