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.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Japanese convenience stores are great. Often you'll find things for sale there that you would never have expected.

The other night on the way home from work, I stopped by the Circle-K. In their tiny section of plastic models, most of which are priced around 300yen for impulse purchases, they had a 1/6 scale series of bazookas.

The series name is "Bazooka Meikan", where meikan translates to something like "directory". Maybe "catalog" would work too.

Me, I'd probably name the series "Great Bazookas Of History". But they didn't call me back for that series-naming job.

I bought one. I had to! It was only 500yen!

I got the M136 AT-4. Apparently it's an American model in use since 1985. I have to take their word for it, since I'm not up on my knowledge of world bazookas. Looks pretty cool, though. Going to take it to work today.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Monthly Update

My god, I made no posts in March? That's pretty sad.

Unfortunately I think updates will continue to be sparse. I'll try to flesh out some more details about the live public games in Tokyo as I get more time and information about them.

It's not going to be an easy task, though, since I've been finding out that there are more and more places holding tournaments in Tokyo, mostly bars and clubs. Both the JPPA and JPEA have apparently been talking and spreading poker interest, and there are games springing up all over the place, it seems. I really should have been paying more attention and talking more with some of the regulars to keep on top of these things.

It's a good sign, and very encouraging since I was really hoping that poker would take hold and build up a following in Japan. It's still very much in early days, but it does seem like the seed has budded and is sending out some tentative roots.

My personal life is busy and will be getting busier. I've also started a diet and workout program recently, and have begun studyin some books on stock trading and technical analysis, and plan to learn and study more about the stock markets in hopes of making some real money with it someday. As with poker, I have no plans to quit my day job anytime soon, but it would be nice to have an alternative to office life and working for the Man. Now I find I have another dozen or more live games going on in Tokyo, which I need to go check out for my Live Public Poker Games in Tokyo master list project I foolishly started. What's going to give?

Online poker, that's what. I cashed out my accounts. If I feel the irresistible urge to play, there's always play money. I told myself that if (when!) I make my weight and body fat goals, I'll reward myself by giving me an online bankroll again. Although phrased like that, it sounds more like rescinding a punishment. Whatever - stick or carrot, works for me.

Part of it is because I felt online poker sucking up free time, and because it's so easy to play it would expand to fill up whatever time gaps I had. But I sit and stare at a computer screen enough hours of my day already. Better to do something else, anything else with that time. Like hit the gym, or study market forces, or even read non-poker books.

The other part of it was because I was playing like crap and losing my money with stupid calls. I was in a rut online, and needed to do something to get out. So I quit.

I still love the live play, though, so at least once a week I want to get out and visit a live game somewhere in Tokyo. Maybe I'll ride my bike to each location and get some exercise in the process, even. Slowly I'll work on my Master List and get some good poker practice in as well.

No WSOP for me this year. Too much going on and I've been to Vegas too many times already. But next year I am all over it!

More to come. But don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Japan Poker Enterprise Association

The JPEA is a collection of several bars and clubs in the Tokyo area that are all running regular poker games on set nights. All games accrue points for the winners in a common league, culminating in the twice-yearly Vegas Cup tournament.

The JPEA is headed by "J.O.", whose true name is Takuo Serita. Which came as a surprise to me - I figured it must be short for Junnosuke Okada or something like that. I'd never heard his true name, though, since he's universally known by these familiar initials.

J.O. spent some time in the States and his English is excellent. He also worked as a dealer in Vegas and brought back an interest in poker when he returned to Japan. He owns two of the bars in the association - one called Corner Pocket, and my familar hangout Duke.

Both are bars and have the friendly atmosphere and gear for standard bar sports - billiard tables, dart machines, and pinball and foosball tables. J.O. also runs a business selling darts equipment and machines, and there are some serious darts players that visit Duke regularly.

Poker, however, has steadily grown in popularity and Friday nights are dominated by poker at Duke. J.O. has spread his knowledge and enthusiasm for the game to his patrons, and commands respect and a bit of fear as the local poker authority and expert. But most games are run with short rounds and quickly increasing blinds, favoring quick play and risk-taking, so while J.O. wins his share of the weekly games, on a given night anyone has a shot at the title.

Many of the regulars are long-time, experienced poker players, but the bar atmosphere also seems to encourage new players to join and begin learning the game. Many players seem to be office workers who have picked up the game from friends and coworkers who come to the weekly tournaments after work. Maybe this also explains the high ratio of female players - many nights approach a fifty-fifty split of players.

All of the JPEA locations have a regular weekly tournament night. Duke's is Friday night, Corner Pocket is Wednesday, Pleasure (in Roppongi) is Sunday, and Bar Jack (in Shibuya) is Tuesday. Duke, Corner Pocket, and Pleasure also have one extra game per month, Vegas Cup night, which earns extra points for the winner towards the Vegas Cup.

Based on the number of players in the game, the payout for the regular games is in the form of coins or coupons that are good for food and drink credit at the hosting bar. A regular game with around 25 players will usually pay out the top 4 or 5 places with these credit coupons. First place will often earn 3000 or 4000yen of credit, enough to pay their bar tab for the next tournament or two.

Players also accumulate points in the weekly and monthly games for the Vegas Cup tournament, held twice per year. Winning the weekly tournaments earns 5 points to the winner. The monthly Vegas Cup games earn more points -- two points per player in the tournament for the winner, and one point per player for second place. So if 30 players enter the tournament, the winner will earn 60 points, and the runner-up will earn 30 points.

Twice a year is the final Vegas Cup playoff game. Each point earned that "season" is cashed in for a chip in the final game. Occasional players who won a single weekly tournament then start with a tiny stack of five chips. Regular players and winners may have several hundred!

Winning the final Vegas Cup playoff earns the winner a trip for two to Las Vegas, typically covering airfare and several days stay at a mid-range hotel (e.g. Luxor or somewhere similar). Not bad at all! Second place earns a more budget-priced trip for two to Korea. (Hey, they have casinos there too!)

Duke's weekly Friday games normally consist of a limit holdem tournament beginning at 7:30pm, and a limit mixed game tournament at 9:30pm. The mixed game is usually T.T.O.S. - two rounds of Texas Holdem, one round of Omaha hi-lo, and one round of Stud Eight or Better. Games are structured to finish in about two hours each, so blinds increase quickly. Both games switch to no-limit holdem when they reach the final table, which speeds eliminations.

Duke's monthly Vegas Cup game runs on the fourth Saturday of the month. The first tournament is again limit holdem, beginning at 7pm. The second tournament is a full HORSE rotation game beginning at 9pm. (Yeah, let's play Razz, baby!)

Duke also replaces the second tournament on the last Friday of the month with a freeroll no-limit holdem tournament open to all players who have taken first or second place in any of the weekly tournaments that month.

Duke's games have a 500yen buyin, with no rebuys available. The bar also charges a 700yen fee to cover the dealers who run the games. These game fees at all of the JPEA locations are added to your bar bill and so are usually charged separately from the tournament buyin, so be aware of the fees or you may get a surprise at the end of the night when it's time to settle your bill. (Credit coupons can also not usually be used to cover the game charges.)

More details about the other locations will be added later.

The Japan Poker Player's Association

The Japan Poker Player's Association is headed by Hiroshi Shimamura, who also answers to his handle "Bluejay" and writes a blog describing his poker happenings, his play in the WSOP and other poker tournaments, and other events. Bluejay is friends with many in the poker industry, including Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher of Card Player Magazine, who make yearly trips to the JPPA to compete in the Japan Poker Cup, a local tournament. Professional player Tony G is also a friend of the JPPA and has been known to drop in unexpectedly for a game.

The JPPA's card room is near Okachimachi station, between Akihabara and Ueno on the Yamanote train line. (Click here for a map, care of Google Maps Japan.) It's a long but somewhat narrow room, fitting up to five poker tables. Poker photos, posters, and articles from Japanese newspapers and magazines adorn the walls. A large TV and entertainment center at one end often plays ESPN episodes of the World Series of Poker or other tv shows, or doubles as a tournament timer display during the larger tournaments. A soft drink machine provides free refreshment for players, and chilled beers and snacks are freely available for a few hundred yen more.

Several members act as regular dealers for the games, and some of them have attended professional dealers school here in Japan, I believe. They are quick, competent, and friendly, and keep the games running smoothly. They also carefully track the games as each player is eliminated, posting results on the JPPA's web page and calculating point totals and bounties.

Most of the players have a regular handle that they use in both the games and on the JPPA website. To be honest, I know most players by their handle only. Almost all of the players are solid poker players, competent and with a love for the game.

The JPPA runs mostly tournaments, though usually a live game will open up after enough players are knocked out of a tournament to start a table. The live games are not played for cash - you can buy a rack of chips for 500yen, then the number of chips you have at the end of the evening is marked and carries over to following weeks. Big live-game winners at the end of a season can win some sort of prize, though I will have to update the details later.

The current games that the JPPA runs are:

Monday: Live Day -- no tournaments, all live games. Generally limit and no-limit holdem, though it depends on what people feel like playing. Starts from 6pm, buy-in is 500yen for a rack of 100 chips.

Tuesday: STEPS tournament. NL holdem, starts at 7pm. 1000 yen buyin for 2000 chips, with two rebuys possible for players who bust in the first 6 rounds. Winners accumulate points towards the World Poker Japan tournament at twice the standard rate.

Wednesday: Ocean's Gaming Cup. NL holdem, starts at 7pm. 1500yen buyin, winner receives a choice of a 2GB Apple ipod nano, or a Nintendo DS Lite. Sponsored by Ocean's Gaming, so players must sign up for an account with Ocean's Gaming to participate.

Thursay: PokerStars Carribean Adventure. NL holdem, starts at 7pm. 1500yen buyin, winners earn points towards a Nov 23, 2007 playoff game. The top 70 point winners may enter the playoff game, and the winner receives an entry package for the PokerStars Carribean Adventure tournament in the Bahamas, including airfare, hotel, and an entry into the main event. Players must sign up for PokerStars to participate.

Friday: Everest Cup tournament. NL Holdem, starts at 7pm. 1000yen buyin. Winner receives choice of a 4GB Apple ipod nano, or a Sony PSP. Sponsored by Everest Poker, so players must sign up for an account with Everest to participate.

Saturday: Saturday schedules vary, but generally follow the below pattern:

1st and 3rd Saturday of the month: Straddle Cup games. Winners earn points towards a yearly Straddle Cup playoff game, which 16 players can compete in. The winner of the playoff game receives either a paid entry into a $1500 WSOP event, or a $1500 travel package. Second place wins a 30,000yen travel package.

Starting at 1pm is a Straddle Cup Mini game, which has a 1500yen buyin. This game is limit holdem on the first Saturday, and on the third Saturday is a different game every month (Omaha, Razz, Stud Hi-Lo, Pot Limit Crazy Pineapple, etc.)

At 5:30pm is the Straddle Cup Main Event, a NL Holdem tournament with a 2500 yen buyin.

2nd and 4th Saturday of the month: HOPS and JUMPS tournaments. Similar to the STEPS tournaments, these games earn winners points towards the World Poker Japan tournament. HOPS games are cheaper games with a 1500yen buyin. Usually there is a 7 Stud game at 6pm and an Omaha Hi-Lo game at 8:30pm. HOPS games earn winners points at the standard rate. JUMPS games begin at 2pm, and are limit holdem with a 5000yen buyin and 40 minute levels. Because of the bigger buyin and longer rounds, JUMPS tournaments earn points for the winners at 4 times the standard rate.

Sundays: Usually there are no games on Sundays, but there are exceptions. Sometimes there are additional Straddle Cup games on Sundays, either quarterly finals games or bounties games for extra points.

The weekday games are fairly regular, but the Saturday games are harder to keep track of. Checking the schedule on the JPPA web page regularly is the best way to keep track of which weekend games are coming up.

The HOPS, STEPS, and JUMPS tournaments earn winner points to the yearly World Poker Japan tournament. Any player with at least 60 points earned during the year can enter the playoff tournaments - more points also earn players more chips to play with. The winner of the tournament receives a $10,000 entry into the World Series of Poker Main Event or a World Poker Tour $10,000 event.

Public Poker Games in Tokyo

There are an increasing number of public poker games in Tokyo. Gambling is illegal in Japan, however, so public poker games cannot be for money. Instead, most games are for points that can be collected for prizes, or for credit coupons at the pub holding the game.

These games are run by Japanese groups, and are attended mostly by Japanese players (with the occasional foreigner). Foreigners who would like to participate should be prepared for mostly Japanese language when joining and playing the games, although most Japanese will try to accomodate an English speaker as best they can according to their own English abilities.

There are probably a number of regular home games played in the English-speaking community in Tokyo. Unfortunately I don't have any information to pass on about those games.

There are two main groups in Tokyo (that I know of) that host poker games open to the public. The first is the Japan Poker Player's Association, currently based at a dedicated card room near the Ueno district of Tokyo. The second is the Japan Poker Enterprise Association, a group of pubs and restaurants that hold tournaments in a common league.

A new group called the Japan Poker League has also started holding tournaments in bars and clubs across Tokyo.

Click here for the entry on the Japan Poker Player's Association.

Click here for the entry on the Japan Poker Enterprise Association.

Click here for the entry on the Japan Poker League.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Oh, hey there!

How you been? Long time, eh?

Oh yeah, I went to Vegas! Yeah, it was pretty cool.

The Vegas Cup win ended up paying for most, but not all, of the trip. I had to cover around $300 of the balance, but still, I had my flight and ten days hotel paid for. Strip hotels were showing as crazy expensive the first night I was planning to stay -- $400 for weekend nights at the Luxor? Are you kidding me? So I stayed at the Orleans, since I was renting a car anyhow. Turns out it was because I was arriving on the Saturday of the long Martin Luther King day weekend.

The flight was... trying. I guess I've been lucky so far, since despite all the horror stories I have heard I have never been sat next to a family with a screaming kid. Until now. The kid must have been around three, wouldn't sit still, screamed his brains out when he didn't get what he wanted, climbed all over his parents (and me a couple of times) and didn't sleep more than 30 minutes during the 10 hour overnight flight. Good god. They had seated me in Economy Plus although I had regular tickets. I think it must have been an unspoken apology for seating me next to the terror. My noise-cancelling headphones worked out pretty well, though, plugging my ears and shutting out a lot of his bawling along with the engine noise, so I was actually able to watch the movies and doze off.

The Orleans was nice, very spacious. I thought about trying The $20 Trick on check-in and bribe the front desk person for an upgrade, but decided against it since they'd probably not want to tie up one of their suites for ten full days for a mere $20. The standard room was plenty nice for the likes of me - wireless internet and a relaxing area with a sofa, easy chair, and coffee table, even.

I got a rental car since I had to make it out to the training center for my class, and it makes a huge difference in Vegas if you're there for more than a weekend. It was also so damn comforting to have a care and just drive. It didn't matter where, it was relaxing just to drive around and see the strip malls in the outlying areas. America. I don't miss it as such, but it is warm and familiar to come back to now and then. My first meal in Vegas was at In-N-Out Burger. Oh yeah, baby! I'm back! I had a number 1. Damn straight with onions!

I meant to try out Fatburger this trip, after hearing folks rave about it, but never got to it. The only one I know is on the Strip, and since I had a car I was not walking the Strip at all, so me and Fatburger were never at the right place at the right time.

My training class went... well enough. Class started at 8:00am, so I didn't stay out late gambling on school nights. Well... maybe once or twice. But with lingering jetlag, too little sleep, and after-lunch drowsiness, it was damn hard to stay awake in my class in the afternoon. So after the first day or two I kept my nights dull and picked up a sampling of energy drinks at Albertsons that I would crack open after lunch. I started taking a 30 minute nap in my car during lunch, which helped my focus a lot.

There were only five other students in my class - three worked for an IT firm that supports the gaming industry. Two worked for the department of defense. Vegas IT support in microcosm?

I ate my lunches at fast food joints that don't exist in Tokyo. Quizno's (they have some here, actually, but they are getting harder and harder to find), Carl's Jr. (I had to order the Western Double Bacon Cheeseburger; I think I'm still digesting it), Arby's, and Taco Bell (I had some crunchy semi-pizza thing I had never heard of before).

Yep, I was in Vegas, with top-class restaurants on every corner, and I was happiest at the fast food joints. Sue me.

I did have the Spicy Santa Fe Rolls at the Grand Lux Cafe in Venetian, that Chise and I fell in love with. Yeah, it's an appetizer, but they're damn good and enough to fill you up if you don't have an American-sized stomach.

My room at the Orleans had a decent view of the strip, but the night view was often washed out by the glare from the spotlights shining up on the building from below. They also drew the eye downward, directly to Seamless, the gentleman's club right across the street. Seamless. What kind of a name for a strip club is "Seamless"? What does it mean? Do the women have no ass-cracks or something? Or worse, no... no, don't say it! Don't think it! I kept picturing blank, smooth women like mannequins. Ug! No, I didn't go inside, who wants to go to a strip club full of mannequins?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


You know what happens when you make a blog post about how you're running good, and feel like you're playing well?

That's right, you know.

Current online poker bankroll: $1577.36

I figured I'd hit a correction soon. I was running lucky before and starting to play a bit more on autopilot, probably reinforcing bad habits. Just as well, I will pull back and review, reread my books, and get ready for live poker in Vegas from Saturday.

I watched The Cincinnati Kid again over the weekend. The story is a lot more interesting now than it was when I first saw it when getting into poker 1.5 years ago.

Also rereading The Theory of Poker again, too. Also a lot of items are making more sense. Many of the examples from Stud and Razz I had skipped over the first time or two, but now that I am a bit more familiar with the games now, I am reading them closely and making sure I follow what he is saying. Not sure if it has affected my game yet, but it shouldn't hurt.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


It must have been the mixed games on Friday night - today I felt like playing some cards, but not really so much holdem. I'm not cut out to be a professional poker player - many times I don't feel much like playing, and if I play anyhow (for lack of anything better to do, or to work towards clearing a bonus, etc.) I play very poorly and lose money doing stupid shit I know enough not to do.

So I have my goal to earn enough for a new laptop, but while I'd love to get it quickly, I'm not going to hurry myself. The longer it takes, the cheaper the thing will get, anyhow.

So I fired up Full Tilt and tried one of the new Mixed Game cash tables. Lowest limit was .25/.50, which was perfect. I just wanted to have a good time and get my fix. Played for about an hour and made $2. I had a ball. I just wish I had more opportunities to play Razz live.

I mentioned Cardrunners before - I signed up with them about a month ago. I felt my game was stale and not going anywhere. I decided I needed to try something different to give myself a kick in the ass. Cardrunners sounded interesting - I figured that I had enough books, but some people would learn better from videos, and I might be one of those people. So I gave it a try.

It has been a real eye-opener. So many books I have read have emphasized the importance of position. "Position, position, position." "No other factor in NL Holdem is as important as position." That kind of thing. I must have read similar statements in a dozen different places, and I thought I understood it.

I hadn't.

Granted, the players in the videos tend towards the Loose Agressive type of player, but I was still shocked at some of the hands they played in position, and how easily they managed it. It didn't always work out for them, but the vast majority of their hands they were in full control of the action.

So I have been trying to apply what I've been seeing, and so far it has worked out very well. I've only played about 2500 hands or so since I signed up, but I'm showing a win rate of about 10 big bets per 100 hands, which is pretty reasonable. More importantly, my decisions come so much easier. If I'm in there with a marginal hand, I have position on my opponents 95% of the time. If I'm out of position, I usually have a strong hand to begin with and don't have to worry as much about where I stand.

And it is fun to play as a LAG, after playing so long as a somewhat weak-tight TAG. It's been a kick in the pants, all right, and I'm looking at the game a lot differently now. In this respect, Cardrunners has been worth every penny. And if I can earn enough for a new notebook from it, even better.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Duke - 5 Jan 2007

I went to Duke last night for their first post-New Year's games. Since I'll be heading to Vegas soon I could use a bit more live practice. I thought Mike would be coming but his schedule didn't work out. Really gotta bring him around to the joint sometime.

I fiddled around outside the building for a bit with my mobile phone, trying to get the built-in GPS to give me or mail me the latitude and longitude of Duke's location for the "Pub Poker Games In Tokyo" information page I am planning. No dice, apparently the function on my new(ish) phone now requires a monthly subscription. Bastards, the GPS on my previous phone was free. Oh well, I'll dig the location up with Google Maps or something.

I showed up 30 minutes early for the 7:30 start of the first game, so ordered a Guinness and exchanged the traditional new year greetings with the other early arrivals. Shiono-san and Celica-san were swapping information about casinos in Seoul, since Shiono is planning a trip there next week. I asked about poker rooms, since I heard there wasn't much poker there yet, and Celica assured me there were rooms open there now, but the limits are pretty high, like the rooms in Tinian and the Phillipines. It sounds like $10/$20 is the most likely limit you'll find. Holy crap. Think I need a bigger bankroll and more confidence before I'll be playing in these asian casino poker games.

I busted out early from the first tournament, limit holdem. Played poorly with mediocre cards and a lot of missed flops. Ugh. My limit game needs a lot of work. (Like my no-limit game doesn't?) Played some chinese poker until the second game began at 9:30pm - this time mixed games, TTOS. Texas Holdem, Texas Holdem, Omaha hi-lo, and Seven-card Stud. Sometimes we'll have a proper HORSE game, but I think those tend to be on the once-monthly Saturday games. A shame, because the world needs more Razz.

I really like the mixed game nights now, although they made my head hurt the first few times. Now it's refreshing to switch to a new game and have to shift gears. Lately I seem to accumulate chips in Stud, probably because almost everyone is very hesitant in the Stud round. With fairly low chip stacks compared to the blinds, losing one hand of Stud can cripple you. I felt this pain early on when I raised with a pair of tens, one exposed, and got called by Min-san with a King showing. I thought he might just have high cards at that point, no pair. I fired on most of the later streets and he kept calling, as I received two fives and he two queens. My resolve that my two-pair was good faltered at the end, and I checked. He bet out, and I knew he had suckered me and had the King down. I paid the last bet to see it. Nice play.

I struggled on with my few remaining chips, and started to rally. I thought I was finished when we got to Omaha-hi and I got a free flop from the BB with 2-3-4-6, three hearts. The flop came A-2-7 rainbow, and I had to stare at it for a minute to confirm I had a made nut low. But there were a lot of limpers into the hand and somewhere in my poker travels I learned how much it sucks to be quartered, especially when you really thought you had a lock on half the pot. I checked and Saitoh-san, a previous Vegas Cup winner, bet. It was folded around to me. I called to the river, internally chanting "please don't get quartered, please don't get quartered," and heaved a sigh of relief as Saitoh-san flipped over a slightly worse low. He'd paired a medium card to take the high, so we split it and I could breathe again.

It came round to stud again, and I got into a hand with Psyka-san, who is a very good holdem player but doesn't seem to like Stud much. I don't remember the details, but I think I had a wired pair that made trips somewhere around fifth street. Blinds had been increasing all this time so Psyka called his last few chips with something like two pair, well concealed. Ouch. With his stack, though, I was back in the running.

When we got down to the final table, it switched to NL Holdem. This arrangement may piss players and viewers off at the World Series HORSE event, but it works well when you have to finish your small tournament in 2.5 hours so players can make the last train home. M's are small all around, so the remaining players take their shots and flame out quickly. I pushed all-in from early-mid position and J.O. called me with a slightly smaller stack, declaring with a smile he wanted to bust me. The smile disappeared as I flipped over my AK, and he showed his AQ. Mine held up, and it looks like our good-natured gunning for each other will continue.

I got down to heads-up with Saitoh-san, and hit a couple of lucky cards to stay in the game when I really should have been gone. Back and forth, back and forth, and I had a slight chip advantage into the last hand. In the small blind, I called with J-6, I think it was, and Saitoh-san pushed his remaining few chips. I knew he had a better hand, probably a king or ace, but it was only two more chips to play and I figured my cards would be live. He flipped over something like A-5. Yep, at least I called it right. The first card of the flop was my 6, and the third was a jack. He missed an unlikely flush at the end and I took the game. Whew!

Saitoh-san is a good player... hell, all these guys are good players. If I had to look around the bar to spot the sucker, I probably wouldn't be able to find one, and we know what that means. But I get lucky sometimes, and any win still feels good.

Tonight was the regular weekly game, so my first place finish earns me 5 points towards the season 4 Vegas Cup. Saitoh-san is already at 135 points, and eight or ten others are over a hundred. Somebody cue up the Rocky Balboa music for me? Thanks.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Stuff I have won or paid for from poker winnings:

Nintendo DS - around 20,000yen ($168)
iPod nano 4g - around 25,000yen ($210)
Dyson vacuum - 35,000yen ($294) [Costs more than this, but this is the amount of poker money I used for it]
Trip to Vegas - around $1700

Add in my current bankroll, and it starts to look like some real winnings. Unfortunately, only the Nintendo and Dyson are really covered by my online bankroll. The iPod and Vegas trip I won in the local pub games, which have entry fees I pay for out of pocket. Over the span of the last 1.5 years, those fees probably add up to about the value of what I won.

Still... looks good on paper, though!

The Prize

Okay, this is what I'm after. A new iBook... whoops, sorry! MacBook. That's going to take some getting used to. Currently the slightly faster model is a 2ghz Intel Core 2 Duo chip, which would make the thing a bit faster and more powerful than my current desktop.

Do you remember when laptops all cost around $3000? I do. Everything today seems cheap by comparison. Speaking of price...

I'll need to bump the memory up slightly to 2gigs, and the hard drive up to 120 gigs, to give enough resources to run Parallels on the thing and have a simultaneous Windows session running on the thing. This works wonderfully for me on my desktop machine, and this laptop will actually have a faster cpu so should have even less of a problem. Of course, if they came out with a Mac version of PokerTracker, maybe I wouldn't have to go to such lengths. Oh, and PokerAce HUD. And a Mac client for PokerStars. (Which they say will never happen.) And PokerPatterns would be nice. And a way to view the Windows-based DRM-protected videos from Cardrunners.

I said I would stop with the whining, right? Okay, all done.

Prices are pretty damn close between the US and Japanese Apple Store web sites, with the current exchange rate at something close to 119 yen/dollar. It's worth paying an extra $60 for a Japanese version to get the Japanese keyboard and to be able to get it serviced locally if something goes wrong.

Current online poker bankroll: $1657.91

If (when!) I get this up to $2000, I'll start looking at pulling out a grand for the new toy and pay for the balance with "real" money. Macworld is coming, which may bring lowered prices or new models. And if I continue to run well, I may press on until I can pay for the whole thing with poker money. I don't see myself as that patient, but I guess stranger things have happened.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


A year ago I figured I would work on limit holdem and build up my skills and bankroll to be playing regularly in the $2/$4 games online. It hasn't turned out that way at all.

Somewhere along the line I switched to no-limit and have had better results and enjoyed myself more. I can see the merits of getting better at limit, but no-limit is the current low-hanging fruit.

I'm still playing low limits though, so I have to work at improving my skills and moving up. In the shorter term, though, I've been longing for a new Mac notebook for a while. My current iBook is about 4-5 years old and starting to feel its age. It still works, though, for most things I do on a notebook, so I haven't been able to justify spending the money for a new one. I mean, yeah, the battery is old and getting to where it can't keep a charge anymore, and the power adapter cord is frayed at the connector and I've patched it up with electrical tape twice now to keep a good connection, but otherwise it's fine. Not cherry, you know, because I did manage to bust the LCD screen that time when I propped it up on a window ledge and then caught the power cable when vaccuuming and yanked it down, crashing the display into the corner of my kotatsu. Replacing the screen would have cost me about 90,000yen, but I found someone selling a replacement screen on Yahoo auctions (much more popular than eBay here) for 30,000yen, so I took a chance and cracked the thing open and replaced it myself. Never having worked on laptops before, it was a nightmare of figuring how to take the thing apart and keeping track of 17 different tiny screws and still having two left over when I got the thing back together. But it worked! And still does.

I was going somewhere with this, I know I was.

Right, the point was, it still works fine so replacing it is a luxury. But I'm liking the idea of funding small luxuries with poker winnings, so I get to buy something I otherwise would not have, and have motivation to keep playing and improving to win more. The Nintendo DS Lite I bought for C was with poker money. So was about half of the cash for the Dyson vacuum cleaner we bought for Christmas. (It was her idea, I swear.)

So my next goal is to build my bankroll to where I can pull out $1000 to dedicate to a new iBook without decimating it, then cover the rest from "real" money. Depending on how things go, maybe I'll keep going and pay for the whole thing with poker money. That would be nice, but maybe too optomistic.

The new iBook would run Windows, too, so I could play on PokerStars with it. That would be "paying for itself" on a new, subtle level.

Anyhow, let's see how this first goal goes and I'll set a new one after that.


Enough of that whiny crap.

I think a good first step will be a decent listing of the various pub-style poker games in Tokyo, with maps and other details. Should be useful content for someone who is actually looking for poker games in Japan.

Planning to go visit Duke on Friday for their weekly games, so I'll take a couple photos and write up how to get there, what games they play, etc. Hopefully I can fill out the list of other public games in Tokyo and keep a reference link to it on my main page.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Lemon juice

You know what is frustrating?

Writing about poker, Japan, and poker in Japan (granted, infrequently at times), then one day deciding to do a Google search for "japan poker blog" and not finding any links to your blog in the first 50 pages of results. Although I did find this link to Tokyo fashion picks for winter coats in the results.

I had slightly better results when searching for "tokyo poker blog". There was a link to me on page 25. Maybe if I work on my blog a bit more I can make it up higher in the rankings than this article on women being groped on the trains here.

Yeah, it does kind of sting.

Vegas trip

Short version: I'll be in Vegas from January 13 to 23. Yeah baby!

God, I am looking forward to this trip to Las Vegas.

Marisuke had warned me that the travel agency got the best prices around two months before a planned trip, so with a bit less than a month before my planned departure date, it could get expensive.

That sat like a cold rock in my stomach for a day or so while I tried to get the time off sorted. If it were so expensive that I'd have to drop a thousand or two of my own dollars in addition to what the Vegas Cup winnings covered, I couldn't justify the trip. I'd have to cancel again, and that would really push me over the edge into the "I hate my job, I hate my life" zone I've been skirting.

But when I called the travel agency, they quoted me a very reasonable price for the airline flight, about 69,000yen round trip on United. Aside: hey, you remember when the price quote for an airline flight was the total price and you didn't have to add in $200 of extra taxes and fuel fees? Ah, those were simpler times.

Still, it was not the 200,000yen last minute fare price I was dreading. Finally I was catching a break. One time, come on, one time!

I don't know what's going on in Vegas on Jan 13-14, but hotel rates on the Strip for those nights are crazy. $400 to stay at the Luxor on Jan 13? No thanks! I'm renting a car so I went with The Orleans instead, off the strip and a lot cheaper.

The full schedule and price came from the travel agency by registered mail two days later. It will be close, but I think my Vegas Cup winning should cover it completely. Yes!

My company is also going to cover the cost of my training class there, which wasn't a sure thing. I even got a 20% discount on the cost of the class when I called the training center to book, which may be a standard discount that everyone gets but it still felt nice. I must have been a good boy this year, because things are actually working out.

Damn, hope I didn't jinx things by saying that.