Today, Japan have taken another small step towards being recognised as a major poker playing nation. The popularity of poker in Japan has been on the rise, with Naoya Kihara winning the first ever bracelet for his country in 2012. Takahiro Nakai has now brought that tally up to 2, with victory in Event 57 the $1,000 NLH. He had to outlast a field of almost 2,500 players to accomplish this feat, in what was only the second WSOP event that he had ever played. With 1st prize money of just under $400,000 added to his bankroll, it is likely that he will now add a few extra events to his schedule too.
Second Bracelet for Japan
With increased poker interest in Japan, it's great to see young players from the country breaking through, and sponsorship deals have also begun to filter through. Yuiko Matsukawa (a professional model) and Kosei Ichinose have both been signed this year by Pokerstars, with Akira Ohyama having been signed by 888Poker.
Takahiro Nakai is not alone in making the money at the WSOP this year either. Naoya Kihara has a 19th (1.5k 2-7 Triple Draw), a 21st (1.5k 10 Games), and a 447th (1.5k NLH 50/50) place finish already in 2015, and Tetsuya Tsuchikawa has placed 268th in The Millionaire Maker, 130th, 88th and 62nd in 3 other NLHE events ($1.5k &1k) so far this year. Deep runs for Japanese players are good for the game, both in Japan, and globally. Winning bracelets is what the WSOP is all about though, and the efforts of Takahiro Nakai are certainly worthy of headline news. The GPI rankings now list two Japanese players in the Asia top 10, Tsuchikawa, and Kihara, and the successes of these players, and others from Japan, should continue to inspire new players to take up the game.