Looking down the list of WSOP bracelet winners, it isn't immediately obvious that Asian players are under represented. John Juanda is the only player who contributes multiple bracelets to the list of Asian bracelets won, with 5 for Indonesia. China, Thailand and Malaysia each have 1. Japan also has 1, due to the Pokerstars pro and rising star Naoya Kihara. He won a PLO 6 handed $5K event for over half a million dollars in 2012, and has had many other deep runs in major live events such as the WPT, PCA, and WSOP.
Why Are There Not More Asian WSOP Winners?
The current situation is that travel costs from Asia to Las Vegas are very high, poker popularity hasn't reached its full potential in Asia, and these factors are possibly holding back a tide of potential success at the WSOP. Furthermore, Holdem is the most popular form of poker in Asia even among top pros, and with larger fields and a higher average skill level compared to other forms of poker; it is harder to win a Holdem bracelet than ever before.
Vietnam: the greatest Asian nation at the WSOP?
Americans who were born in Vietnam before moving country due to historical events have seen a lot of success at the WSOP. Almost all of these players arrived in US at young age running away from the war. David Pham “The Dragon” for example arrived at the age of 17 in a boat carrying 145 people of which only 46 survived the journey. Due to the circumstances of their arrival they lost their Vietnamese nationality and are competing until now under the American flag. If all of the bracelets won by Vietnamese American players were attributed to Vietnam, then Vietnam would be 4th in the list for most bracelets won, behind Canada, England, and the USA. Several of these Vietnamese players have become legendary figures in the game, like Scotty Nguyen (5 bracelets) or Men 'the master' Nguyen (7 bracelets).
7 bracelets for Men "the Master" Nguyen
A Brighter Future to Come
There are many players who are regulars on the Asian poker circuit that work hard, and these players are growing in both the depth of their poker knowledge, the depth of their bankroll, and their aspirations to battle on the world stage and win WSOP bracelets. The number of Asian players entering WSOP events will undoubtedly rise in the coming years, and you can be sure that the number of bracelet winners will rise with it. With players like Iori Yogo and Naoya Kihara breaking through, it would be no surprise if Japan easily surpasses the 5 bracelets of Indonesia within the next decade. The future looks equally bright for Philippines, China and other Asian nations.