The three most talked-about online poker markets these days are the U.S., China and India. And this is for good reason too given that these three countries together contain over 2.9 billion people. But if there’s one promising market that often gets left behind in these discussions, it is Japan.
WSOP champion Naoya Kihara recently brought this topic up in a recent interview. Kihara, who’s the only gold bracelet winner in Japanese poker history, spoke with PokerListings about the implications of widespread poker in his country
“People love to play games and gambling in Japan,” Kihara said. “So I’m pretty sure the poker market grows huge if the poker is legalized in Japan.”
Unfortunately, there are some misconceptions in the Land of the Rising Sun when it comes to poker, which Kihara hit upon in the interview. “When somebody doesn’t know the poker, their image of poker is just gambling,” he said. “The image of poker in Japan is still 5 card draw, single change and no more betting rounds.”
Kihara went on to describe how Japan’s version of 5 card draw is a simplified game that’s basically all luck. So his mission is to let his countrymen know what “real” poker is like with regard to the large skill element involved. Kihara added that if he can get people to like Texas Hold’em and some of the other skill-based games, then attitudes towards poker could change.
He may have a lot of work on his hands, though, because certain Japanese politicians are still trying to get casino resorts legalized in the island nation. Once this happens, perhaps poker could start showing up in the casinos and become more accepted.
Such acceptance (and legalization) would mean a nation of 127.6 million people being eligible to play online poker. Moreover, Japan has one of the world’s top economies, so this adds even more significance to the matter.