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.

1 comment:

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