Friday, July 01, 2011

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ten Years

From an article on Sheldon Adelson in the LV Review Journal:

"Our view is that many Asian markets are underpenetrated, but there really isn't nothing on the front burner," [Macquarie Capital gaming analyst] Simkins said. "We've been hearing about Japan for what, 10 years? There has been discussion about South Korea and increased chatter coming from Vietnam, but these things have a long gestation period."

Yeah, tell me about it. Still no other news. Maybe Japan will allow casinos before I die, maybe not.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sega Network Casino Club

It was a couple of weeks ago at this point, but I needed a weekend poker fix so I warned my wife I'd be gone Sunday afternoon and evening and tried to sign up for the Sunday afternoon games at Bar Jack in Shibuya. Unfortunately I hadn't counted on the game being as popular as it has become. It was Saturday morning when I tried to reserve a spot, but all 30 seats had been taken. Yikes.

Instead I decided to visit at least one of the computerized options in Shibuya. I wrote a long time back about the PokerPro table they installed at the Sega Gigo game center on their top, casino-gaming floor. They were location testing it then and I had assumed when it was taken out that we would not see it again, but apparently I was wrong. From what I have read on the web, it's back and they apparently do some type of regular tournaments on it. Interesting. I still need to try that again.

But I also wanted to try out one of the new Sega Casino Net game consoles they now have installed in their game centers. Players can log in and play casino games against the house, or other players connected to Sega's nationwide network. Celica-san noted in her blog a while back that they had started a version of 7 Card Stud which had some funky rules, but was interesting for the novelty if nothing else. But more recently they released Version 2 of the game system and network, and added Texas Holdem as an available game.

I found that one of the other game centers in Shibuya was listed on their web page as running a location-test of the new game system, so I paid them a visit. In the basement floor with all the other medal games (slots, video poker, high-tech Sigma Derby type horse racing simulations, etc.) I found four of the consoles, sitting unoccupied early Sunday afternoon. I spent 2000 yen (about $20) to buy about 250 of the metal tokens used in the gaming machines, including the poker consoles. Get lucky on the slots or poker and you can win a lot of tokens... but they can't be cashed out or changed for anything. They do have an automated token bank system, where you can register your fingerprint and a PIN number and then store your remaining medals for withdrawl again the next time you visit.

I also splurged 300yen for the personal Players Card which you can register on the Sega gaming system with your name and appearance, and which stores your playing statistics so all that data will appear the next time you log in. I selected a White Boy character, and was pleasantly surprised when I started playing that my character would verbalize "Raise!" or "Call!" or "Fold!" in decent English pronunciation. There was a Black Dude you can select as well, and the rest were Japanese characters who spoke with Japanese accents.

So... to the tables! The game offered Holdem tournaments, which I did not try, and cash games. So I tried the beginner-level cash games, with a 30-credit ante. Each token you fed into the machine earned you 7 credits, so there was a LOT of feeding tokens into the machine. I fed in enough tokens to get 120 credits or so and sat down at the virtual table.

The first thing it did was access the Sega network to look for other players from the four corners of Japan who were there to play Holdem. A few seconds later it reported back that it couldn't find anyone, so started up my table with two CPU opponents. Huh.

The ante was 30 credits, presumably for each player, yet the pot started out at 45. Yikes, hell of a rake here. Each player receives their two cards. First to act can check, bet 10, bet 20, or bet the max of 30. 30 credits is the most that can be bet any round, so if anyone bets the max of 30 the other players can't reraise, they can only call. If someone bets 10, the next player can raise to a total of 30 but no more. The original player can then call for 20 more.

Another wrinkle - the first player to act can check, but if he does the second player cannot. He must raise or fold. This is pretty damn frustrating, since you end up betting crap you'd rather just check with. On the other hand, if you are first to act with a good hand you can just check, secure that you can ALWAYS check-raise.

So the first round of betting finishes, and the flop is dealt, and there is another round of betting with the same funky rules as the first. Then the remaining two cards are dealt to the board together. Nope, no betting round after the turn, you go straight to the river. Then one more betting round... again with a max bet of 30 credits total!

I wasn't clear on what this would do to your playing strategy, but with three players and small bets I was rarely folding and as I continued to play, "rarely" turned to "never". I suspect the action in the game is not completely random. Straight and flush draws at the flop almost always came in on the river. Top pair top kicker or two pair would win only rarely, it seemed. Yes folks, let me be the first to say it...

Sega online poker is rigged.

As I played, one or two human players connected, but it wasn't really any different than playing against the CPU players. You called anything to see the flop. If you have a big draw you bet big. If you have a big pair or two pair, you bet with a fatalistic air, pretty sure you will never see those credits again. If you have absolute crap, you call, because apparently someone somewhere thinks it is a more interesting game if absolute crap wins almost as often as the made hands and draws.

I played for an hour and a half or so, getting the hang of how the game seemed to need to be played, and then feeding in the tokens one after the other. Towards the end I realized I might have just been on a slot machine. There was no sense of poker play, no feel that you needed to play skillfully to do well. Instead, you plug your money in and see if you win. It was a definite disappointment.

I had rebought for another 2000yen when my first credits ran out, but got to a break-even rhythm on the thing towards the end. I had also stepped away for a while to play on a different medal game, one of the ones with the moving trays stacked with tokens on the bottom that you try to drop new tokens onto in a way that pushed more of them off the trays and down into your hopper. I'm actually pretty good at these things now, so I turned my 200 tokens into about 500 or so before returning to the poker machine. It helps that the tokens are worthless so game center operators can set the payouts to be very generous.

I deposited my 400-ish remaining tokens into the automated bank, but I am not sure when or if I will be back to pull them out and try again. I still need to try the tournaments, I suppose, and maybe the gameplay is different in some of the higher-stakes games, but I am not terribly fired up to find out

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Japan Casino Update

Time to clean out some of the links that have been piling up about casino gambling in Japan.

Casino Shares Spike on False Japan Rumor

Shares of Las Vegas Sands and Wynn shoot up on a rumor that Japan is about to legalize casino gambling. No one seems to know where the rumor comes from. In the end, it sounds like someone on an LVS conference call mentioned the then-upcoming Japanese election as possible progress on the casino gaming front in Japan. Except he got the date of the election wrong - July 24 instead of July 29. So on the 24th, it looks like someone spread a rumor about legalizing gambling to push up stock prices. Nice.

Wynn, Okada Pact May Thrive When Japan Allows Casinos

Steve Wynn turned to (Aruze Corp. Chairman) Kazuo Okada when the gambling magnate needed cash to fund his namesake Las Vegas casino in 2000. Now, Okada could be the ace up Wynn's sleeve in the Japanese businessman's home market.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party lost control of the country's upper house in an election on July 29. That could slow down the passage of legislation because of political uncertainly, the 64-year-old Okada said. The LDP and its coalition partner still control the more-powerful lower house with a two-thirds majority and can override the upper house in cases of disagreement.

Not only did they get the date of the election wrong, they also messed up on which way it would go. The Democratic Party of Japan grabbed a lot of seats and wrecked the LDP majority of the upper house. The casino gambling proposition isn't strictly an LDP project as far as I know, but the unexpected DPJ win does throw a lot of uncertainty into things. They were hoping to pass this legislation by July 2008 - now the last I heard they're hoping maybe by the end of 2008.

Goddamn, all I want is casinos in Japan. Do I really have to start paying attention to Japanese politics just to get it?

Wynn, Aruze to Push Japan Casino Potential at Seminar

Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Aruze Corp. will promote the potential of casinos in Japan at a Sept. 11 seminar, as the companies seek to open the gambling market of the world's second-biggest economy.

Ronald Kramer, president of the Las Vegas-based casino company founded by billionaire Steve Wynn, will speak at the Tokyo seminar with Aruze Chief Executive Officer Kunihiko Yogo, according to a statement faxed from Tokyo-based Aruze to Bloomberg News.

I assume this seminar happened but so far I haven't seen any news about it. Maybe there wasn't anything newsworthy about it? I'll try to find out.

The last I heard was that if the legislation passes we may see casinos here open in 2012. But if the legislation isn't pushed through soon, I could see that being pushed back a year or two. Crap, I could be retired by the time they open up Wynn Japan.

I gotta get to Seoul one of these days. Walker Hill ain't exactly the Venetian, but it's a lot closer than Vegas.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Loser or Outsider?

Call me Ponyboy, but maybe I'm not as much of a loser as I thought.

The Loser's Cup was a great success. With a good chunk of the regular players off in Tinian, there was concern that we would not gather enough players to hold a reasonably-sized tournament. I wasn't planning on going, actually, but Dosa-ken worked his nanpa (pick-up) magic on me and lured me in. We actually had about 35 players attend, which is a pretty decent turnout.

As planned, the levels were long at 25 minutes -- our normal Friday night games are usually 10 minute levels, or sometimes 7 minutes. And with deep stacks of 5000 chips, there was a lot of play. We started at 5:30pm and I don't think the first bustout was for at least an hour, if not an hour and a half.

I did pretty well, taking third place. I made the final table with fewer chips than I would have liked, after pushing with JJ and getting called by a smaller stack's AQ. Flop was safe but a Q came on the turn and I lost about half or 2/3 of my stack, and had to rebuild. Still, I had a great time and felt I played well, so what more can you ask for?

I also scored some coin, worth a few thousand yen of credit at the bar, and 10 more Vegas Cup points, pushing me to 20 points this season. Wow! 5 more points than last season! I might last all of 30 minutes at the Vegas Cup final. I only had 39 points at the start when I won the Vegas Cup a year ago, but I doubt I will get so lucky a second time. (I will try, of course.)

Everyone had such a good time there was immediately talk of doing it again, so Psyka-san has scheduled the next event, now rechristened the "Outsider's Cup". We'll be playing on Saturday, November 10, from 1:30pm this time. Levels are still 25 minutes but this time the starting stacks will be 7500 chips, again starting at 25/50 blinds. Wow, even more deep stack play.

If you're interested in a deep-stack no limit holdem tournament, come on down. You don't even have to be a loser this time. We promise not to bust you quickly.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Let's play, losers!

I haven't had much time to play poker recently, even online poker, because of the new mouth to feed in the family. But I'm headed out to Duke tomorrow night for the "EJPC Loser's Cup!"

If you've been following along, you may have noticed that Everest Poker ran the Everest Poker Japan Cup, collecting 30 Japanese over the last few months to fly out to Tinian for a free poker tournament with a $20,000 prize. The winners fly out tomorrow morning for sun, scuba, gamble, and poker.

We losers.... don't.

This rubbed some of us pathetic failures the wrong way, so Psyka-san spearheaded a Loser's Tournament for those of us left behind. Tomorrow night at Duke, starting from 5:30pm, we battle it out to determine the king of the losers. The head failure. The least deficient. The almost-good-enough (but not quite).

You there, are you a loser? Sure you are, you don't have your bags packed for sunny Tinian, do you? I didn't think so. Come on out to Duke tomorrow night and prove it. Unlike most of the weekly tournaments, we're playing with deep stacks of 5000 chips and 25 minute levels, so there will be a lot of play.

If you're interested in attending, let me know or show up at Duke by 5pm or so to be certain of getting signed up in time.

There's even a second-chance tournament tomorrow night at 9:30 as well, just in case you... you know, demonstrate your not-winning abilities by that time in the main event.

Maybe you're not a loser and you have better things to do. But I don't believe you.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Japan Poker League - Pokerstars

The Japan Poker League is now running a free online tournament at Pokerstars every Sunday night at 9pm JST. Winners of the online tournaments earn points in the Japan Poker League.

I just looked it up on Pokerstars - the description in the tournament lobby reads, "This series is an eight-month competition where players with the most points compete for a PokerStars Caribbean Adventure package."

Which is true, but not the whole story. The online tournaments are one way to win points. The other way is to win points in the near-daily live games around Tokyo. Every 6 weeks or so is a new "heat" where the leaders have a playoff game to win more points, and at the end of the 8-month season the point leaders will have a final playoff game for the PCA package.

I've seen some referrals to my web page from folks looking for "japan poker league pokerstars password". If you're not in Japan, don't bother - even if you get into the game, you'll win points you can't use for a tournament you can't attend to try to win a PCA package they won't award to a non-Japan Poker League player. Which would include airline tickets from Japan, which would not be much good to you anyhow.

If you are in Japan and are interested, visit the Japan Poker League's home page, where they describe (in Japanese) the tournament series, the live game schedules, and how to apply to get the online password for the Pokerstars games.

If you're in Japan and interested but can't read Japanese, leave me a comment and I should be able to check on the exact process and help get you going.

It doesn't get old

I need to go visit Akihabara again on a Sunday with nice weather. Maybe this girl will be there again.

Okay, okay, there's no real point to this post other than a little cheesecake shot. That and to get me posting again. So hopefully it will work.

Friday, June 29, 2007

How to get to Duke

Here's a link to a Google Map showing how to get to Duke.

I'll be playing there tonight, as it happens.

Quick directions - go to Bakurocho station on the JR lines. Also Bakurocho-yama station on the Toei Shinjuku subway line and Higashi-Nihonbashi station on the Toei Asakusa line all connect at that station.

Go to exit A2. Exit and turn right down that side street. Pass a Daily Yamazaki convenience store on the left side, then the next building on the left will have a stairway down to the B1 floor with signs up for Duke and the other restaurants in the building. Down the stairs, turn left, the door to Duke is right in front of you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Everest Poker Japan Cup

Okay, what's been up with Tokyo poker recently?

I haven't been out to the JPPA for a while, so I am not up to date on their events. I have to get to out some of their games again and show my face, let them know I'm alive, and see what they're up to.

Over the last couple of months, Everest Poker (which I have written about before) has been running the Everest Poker Japan Cup. This is a series of live and online tournaments for players who live in Japan. The winner of each tournament wins a trip to the Tinian Dynasty Resort and Casino and entry there into a $20,000 prize pool live poker tournament in early September.

In all, 30 players will win seats into the tournament, so it's been nothing to shake a stick at. Although Everest is an online site, of course, they have also been supportive of live poker venues in Japan. They've sponsored the Everest Cup games at the JPPA on Friday nights for what seems like years now (I still use the ipod nano I won in one of the Everest Cup games daily, though its battery is getting worn down and not holding as much of a charge as it used to). And this time around they are working with the JPEA to hold their live tournaments in several pubs in Tokyo and Osaka.

Of those 30 seats, 15 are given out to winners of the live tournaments, which began in late April. There have been two or three tournaments each month, spread around the different poker venues, and they will continue through September. The tournaments are free, though the venues may charge a player's fee for the user of their space, which is usually 1000yen or so. The first tournament kicked off at Duke, which was overflowing with excited Japanese poker players trying to cinch their spot in Tinian right out of the gate. I saw a lot of players I had never seen before - I don't know if they are primarily online players who came out to play live for the extra shots at winning a seat, or if they just play at other locations around town.

J.O. brought his A-game and took down that first tournament, and so now he kicks back and relaxes, smoking his cuban cigars, as everyone else scratches and claws to win one of the steadily dwindling seats remaining.

Ten seats are also given out to winners of online tournaments, which take place about twice per month. These tournaments are only open to Japan residents, but we always seem to get someone from Germany who comes into the observer chat to ask what the tournament is and if he can join. I usually end up as translator. ^^ I don't speak German, of course, but the guy can usually speak and understand English better than Japanese.

Also, players who participate in the live tournaments also get invitations to an online Second Chance tournament, about once per month, giving out another 5 seats. These have had smaller fields, like 40 or 50 players from the last one I was in, but they're still tough.

Anyone picked up on the fact I haven't won a spot yet?

I've been able to play in the first four or so live tournaments, but after that it's become harder. Now they are restricting entry into the EPJC tournaments to those players who have taken 1st or 2nd in one of the regular tournament games at that venue - so to play in the monthly EPJC game at Corner Pocket, let's say, you have to have one at least one of the weekly or so games at Corner Pocket that month. It's a shrewd move, since it encourages the players to come regularly instead of just once per month for the EPJC game. Unfortunately I haven't been able to attend the games regularly, so haven't won a spot in the EPJC games. Most of the remaining EPJC live tournaments are on Saturdays and Sundays, and I have non-poker commitments on the weekends so can't attend.

Still, I can't complain too much, since it's basically a $20,000 freeroll for poker players in Japan, including foreign players. I'd love to win a seat, since I think it will be a blast to head en masse to Tinian with a bunch of the other Japanese poker players and lie on the beach, eat too much, drink too much, and maybe even have a poker tournament in there. But if I can't win a spot, I might just tag along for the fun of it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Time for an update

Casino gambling in Japan is still making progress towards legalization.
Here's the first article I saw that stated it clearly.

Hell, let me quote the entire article:

Japan to legalise casino industry - 29/05/07

The Japanese government plans to legalise casino gambling next year and is currently drafting the legislation. Seiko Noda of the ruling Liberal Democratic said that they hoped to pass the bill by the end of the next ordinary Diet session in June 2008.

The party is hoping that casinos will boost tourism, as it has in Macau, and increase tax revenues.

That's what I wanted to hear!

Several other articles I have seen have also stated essentially the same thing. I wonder why it will apparently take up to a year to draft and then pass the legislation - it strikes me like a husband making plans for a getaway trip with his buddies and not telling his wife about it until the last minute, "waiting for the right time". The wife in this case is probably both the Japanese public, whose reaction to this announcement will be hard to predict, and the pachinko industry, which should be easier. Smaller-scale pachinko operators will probably hate the idea, since it threatens to steal their customers. The equipment companies can probably re-tool to service the slots and other gambling machines in the casinos, and so could see it as a new opportunity to make a pile of money.

I will be curious to see if they adapt any of the medal games you see in Japanese game centers to straight gambling machines for currency in the casinos. Some are straight slot machines, others are maddeningly addictive coin-launching, spinning, shooting devices with Rube Goldberg spinning wheels and contraptions that can suck you in for hours at a time. I'd think these would be pretty easy to port over, though they might have to tweak the payouts a bit, since I think many medal games are set to pay out liberally, since even if you win more medals than you put in, you can't use them for anything but... more medal games.

One reason for the legislation taking so long to draft is probably location of the casinos. Last I heard they were planning to limit the casinos to up to three main locations, and several areas have pushed for them, including Tokyo, Osaka, Okinawa, and Miyazaki-ken. The government will probably have to consider carefully where to permit the new casinos, considering they plan to use them to increase tourism, jobs, and revenue, but also have to be careful of increased crime and violence in those areas.

If they open the new casinos in Okinawa instead of Tokyo, I'll shoot myself. Who the hell wants to fly all the way down there to go gamble? Might as well just fly to Seoul at that point - closer, cheaper, and better food. (No, I don't like goya.) Obviously I'm hoping for something near Tokyo. The Odaiba area would be perfect, in my humble opinion.

More details about the plan are available at this article:

In particular, casinos are seen as a way to revitalise local economies, which have not enjoyed the economic recovery seen recently in large urban centres. Leading casino operators, including Las Vegas Sands and Genting of Malaysia, had told the LDP there was "tremendous potential, because Japan could attract interest from north China and Russia, where there has been huge [economic] growth", she said.

"There is definitely enough demand for casinos," says Aaron Fisher, analyst at CLSA in Tokyo. Tokyo, in particular, has a large population within a two-hour radius earning a lot of money. "Definitely the returns [could be] huge," he says.

Unfortunately this sounds like they are thinking of opening these casinos outside the Tokyo area to try to spread the wealth around. Ugh. Two hours by bullet train covers a lot of area, and bullet train tickets add up. When I was snowboarding, train tickets to get up to Niigata or Nagano could run 10,000-20,000yen for a round trip. Arriving at the casino already stuck for $100 will make it hard to show a profit.

Still. Cheaper than Vegas.

Monday, April 23, 2007

More good signs

Found another couple of encouraging news articles recently on Japan opening up to casino gambling. Here's an AFP Article I found in a couple of places, but this seems to be the last place that has it still up.

The world's top casino operators are jockeying for a take in a vast but untapped market as Japan moves closer to an overhaul of its strict gambling laws to lure rich Asian tourists and boost its economy.

Japan would be a latecomer to a gambling boom across the region, which is looking to Las Vegas-style super casinos to entice more tourists, with two huge complexes springing up in Singapore to take on the Chinese enclave of Macau.


Almost half of the lower house of parliament -- including some opposition lawmakers -- supports the general idea of legalising casinos, said Toru Mihara, adviser to the LDP's casino study group.

"If we can create legal structures within one or two years to come, maybe in 2012 casinos in Japan will start to operate," he told AFP in an interview.

2012? That's five years from now! I mean, I'll take it, but I was hoping for something sooner. Can't you guys, you know, pass the law and then set up some converted warehouse casino for us degenerate gamblers for a year or two while they build the Wynn Tokyo? We're not that picky.

This article, however, paints a brighter picture.

Driven by fiercer regulation and a consumer credit crunch that has directly hit pachinko’s heaviest players, key segments of the industry are expected to contract by as much as 50 per cent over the next two years. Industry experts forecast that about a third of Japan’s 15,000 pachinko parlours — deafeningly loud, smoke-filled caverns where customers lose themselves for hours — may close.

But the imminent pachinko crisis will “vastly accelerate” plans by the Japanese Government to legalise casinos, one of the industry’s leading figures told The Times. To compete with Macau and other Asian cities where casino gaming is set for astronomic growth, Tokyo and other big Japanese cities may have their first Las Vegas-style casinos within three years.

Three years! Now we're talking!

I don't play pachinko, I don't get pachinko, so I don't know the market. But I doubt that hard core pachinko players are just going to up and quit the game because some of the big jackpot machines are outlawed. Likewise, pachinko operators and game manufacturers aren't going to just go, "oh well, guess we can't make those machines anymore. We'll go back to the old lower-payout machines and lose our customers." People can be very creative when they're trying to find a new way to separate you from your money. I don't know what they'll do, but I'm sure they'll do something to keep pachinko players relatively happy and spending their idle hours firing ball bearings up and watching them drop, hoping to make some money off of it.

The guy who made the quote is the head of Aruze, and a partner with Steve Wynn, so he stands to make a ton of money opening a casino here and filling it with his gambling machines. So he's not the most unbiased observer of the market. But I'll still be happy to see him right.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Japan Casinos (Revisited)

Nearly a year ago, I posted about the Japanese government investigating opening casino-style gambling in Japan. What's up with that?

Hell if I know. I haven't heard squat.

The investigatory committee came back and presented their report which apparently said about what everyone knew it would. Casino gambling would bring in a lot of visitors and tax dollars, and also help supporting businesses. But there were concerns about rises in crime in those areas, as well as possible involvement of organized crime groups.

Since then? Nothing.

Well, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the Japanese government to make a quick decision. On this issue or any issue. There could also be serious opposition to casino gambling behind the scenes by those companies that could stand to lose business to casino gambling - pachinko parlors and race tracks. I don't know about the tracks, but everyone assumes the pachinko business is controlled by the yakuza, so they might not be too keen on seeing casinos opened up if they can't get a share.

I just hope that eventually (sooner would be better than later), someone will decide to actually press the issue forward. Maybe after the Macau casinos continue to rake in money hand over fist. Maybe after the Chinese government reports on the extra billions of dollars they've added to their budgets from the casinos. Eventually will someone look at this and say, "Hey... we should get in on this."

The casino companies are also continuing to lobby, hoping to expand even further into Asia. Japan has a strong economy and they can spend money with the best of them when they get in the mood. Macau is still a bit too far away for all but the most serious of gamblers - at that distance, you might as well spend an extra couple hours on the plane and just head to Vegas.

Las Vegas Sands is lobbying to open casinos in Japan, I found in this article.

Las Vegas Sands is lobbying to introduce casinos in Japan and is mulling a development along the Mediterranean Sea, he says. ``I'd like to do another Las Vegas in Europe,'' he says, adding that it needs to be in a warm climate. ``We'll look aggressively for opportunities.''

"He" is Sheldon Adelson, and if he's successful in getting Japan to open up to casino gambling, he'll be my new best friend. I'd love to visit the Venetian in Tokyo. I wonder if my point card would work?

The MGM would also not want to be left out, according to this article. (Unfortunately it's not dated and it could be pretty old.)

According the MGM, they are not looking to stop at just two casino projects, especially if Japan passes its pro-gambling legislation. The revenue which Macau generated from its casinos already surpassed that of Las Vegas and it is turning to the most desirable place in the world for building a casino.

What about Steve Wynn? If Sheldon's trying to get into Japan, I'd have thought he'd be jostling with him for the chance to get in there first. It doesn't seem so in this article.

Wynn also noted that he and Japanese gaming device maker Kazuo Okada had agreed that neither would sell his shares without written consent from the other, and that each would have the first right to buy shares if the other wants to sell.

Each owns about 24 percent of Wynn Resorts shares, and each will make about $147 million from a special $6 per share distribution the company announced last week.

I expect Wynn to use the distribution to increase his stake in the company and take the combined Wynn-Okada ownership stake above 50 percent.

Wynn also said he had recently been approached by Australian publishing and gaming executive James Packer about possible Asian development opportunities. When I asked Wynn whether those opportunities might be in Japan, Wynn had a ready answer.

"No, I already have the best possible partner in Japan," he said, referring, of course, to Okada.

Actually, on rereading that, it reads like Wynn would of course stick with his current partners in Japan for any new casino deals, instead of taking on a new partner from Australia. Makes sense.

Anyhow, I just hope they get on with it. Let the casino companies in and start building up Odaiba to be the Macau of Japan, or else decide that they're going to stick with the current anti-gambling stance. At least then I could relax about it. This waiting is killing me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Japan Poker League

Tokyo-ites now have a new place to play poker. Quite a few, in fact!

Recently a new group called the Japan Poker League has begun a series of public poker games, running in bars and clubs all over Tokyo. All the main areas are covered - Shibuya, Shinjuku, Roppongi, Ginza, even one joint up in Saitama and two down in Kanagawa.

Suddenly there's a huge number of games to play in. Looking at the April schedule, there are 3 or 4 games planned each week for the rest of the month. The May schedule doesn't seem to be fixed yet, but I expect it will be similar.

I believe the group is related to the JPPA - the web site seems to be running on similar software and there were several familiar faces from the JPPA at the JPL game I attended, including some of the dealers.

The League games also run on a point system. Winners of each game accrue points based on the number of entrants. A full league's season is broken down into several "heats" of about 1.5 months each. At the end of each heat is a Championship game, where each point earned is worth one starting chip. So frequent winning players will begin with larger stacks than occasional players.

At the end of the year is a final Playoff game, scheduled for Nov 25. Again, points gathered during the season will be converted to chips to be used in the final playoff tournament. The grand prize for the winner is, last I heard, a travel and entry package into the PokerStars Carribbean Adventure. Not bad at all!

I went to check it out last Tuesday night. The Tuesday game was running in a bar in the dodgy Kabukicho area of Shinjuku, at an Irish bar called Pub Angel. I hurried there after work and barely made the 7pm start time. The bar was somewhat long and narrow, and two poker tables were wedged into one end. I paid my 2000yen entry fee, which included a free drink coupon, filled out the JPL registration form, and squeezed my way in. 17 players had signed up, so the two tables were pretty tight.

I recognized Shin-san, to my right, from the JPPA games, and saw a few other JPPA regulars as well. But many of the other players were new to me. Most were young, appearing about college-student age or recent graduates. This is a good sign - if poker takes hold with younger players who bring their friends in, it could really take off here. There were also several native English speakers there, who may also have been students themselves.

The games are set up to run quickly, since they need to finish in a couple hours. Blinds increased every ten minutes or so. Players could also rebuy for an additional 1000yen up to level 6 if they lost all their chips.

Frankly, I don't like the structure. Like a super-turbo tournament, everyone almost immediately became a small stack. With easy rebuys for the first hour too, it very quickly became a game of pushing in with marginal hands, calling with marginal hands, and rebuying if you busted. There was no post-flop play that I can recall after about the first 15 minutes. But since they appear to be targeting new players and beginners, this does keep the game simpler and perhaps more fun for those new to the game.

Given the crap-shoot nature of the game, players will have to attend often and regularly to try to accumulate their points for the main prize. At 2000yen (plus rebuys) a game, it could get expensive.

Links to the participating bars and clubs are included on the JPL web page. Here is a sample:

Pub Angel - Shinjuku
CoZmo's Cafe & Bar - Shibuya
Public House Briongloid - Yotsuya
Dogenzaka Cafe Lagoon - Shibuya
Lounge PHI - Ginza
alife - Roppongi
JB's Bar - Jinbocho
Cafe & Dining Bar BRIDGE - Iidabashi
Ale House - Ikebukuro
Diego Cafe - Shibuya

The schedule for each venue does not appear to be fixed. Check the JPL web page for a schedule of upcoming games and venues.

Monday, April 09, 2007

On The Rise

There was an amusing thread on the 2+2 forums a while back about prospects for poker's growth in Asia. There were some interesting comments about how likely it was for poker to catch on in Japan and other asian countries. One that stood out to me was a guy who wrote, "Whoa, you don't want Japanese guys to get into poker. Remember how you thought you were hot shit at Tekken until you went up against that 12 year old Japanese kid? Haven't you seen how the Japanese players have kicked butt at every online game they've got involved in? And you want them to take up poker? No thanks!"

He might have been overstating things. But I was pretty sure we'd see some strong Japanese players appear on the scene if the game started to get a following.

Maybe like Masa-san, Masaaki Kagawa, who bought into that $100,000 tourney at the Aussie Millions, fought it out with 17 high-stakes players like Negreanu, Ivey, and Lindgren, and took 3rd? Masa also hit several of the recent European Poker Tour events in Germany, making the money in at least one event and getting some attention, along with JPPA head Hiroshi Shimamura, from Pokerstars' tournament coverage.

Masa's getting tv time now - he might be Japan's first poker celebrity.

Today the excited news came around that another Japanese player, Moto-san, just took first place in the $1500 NLHE event at the Five Diamond at the Bellagio. Motoyuki Mabuchi scores for $274,950 with this win. Whoa.

(Unfortunately, as a foreigner Moto-san will probably see about half of that amount withheld for taxes by the Bellagio and the IRS. Hopefully he'll get a good chunk of that back but who knows how much paperwork he'll have to suffer through.)

I'm not sure if I've ever played with Moto-san at Duke or the JPPA. I'm pretty sure I have never played with Masa-san. He plays very high stakes, and I don't think the public for-points games at the JPPA would do it for him.

Still, it's a thrill to see some Japanese players making some big wins and gathering attention. There'll be a core of Japanese players at the WSOP this year, and more next year. The next Japanese player that ESPN features won't be an aging idol girl, barely knowing how to play, who got in as a publicity stunt.