Iori Yogo Finishes 3rd at WSOP, Hopes for Live Poker in Japan

Iori Yogo2
Iori Yogo is the first Japanese player to cash at this year's World Series of Poker.

Japan's Iori Yogo snagged the second-biggest score of his career tonight in Las Vegas but looks forward to a time when he can play live poker in his home country.

Yogo took 3rd out of 1,128 players in the $1,000 Pot-Limit Omaha event, earning more than $79k. It was the first cash of the summer by a Japanese player.

This was Yogo's second WSOP final table and it moved him into fourth-place on Japan's all-time money list.

Yogo has earned almost half a million dollars playing live poker and since the game isn't regulated in Japan, all of those results have come on foreign soil.

“Ultimately it would be really great if we could overcome that legal obstacle,” said Yogo.

Yogo says Japan's poker community is growing, even though you don't see very many Japanese players at the World Series of Poker.

“There are a lot of players now,” said Yogo. “But Japan and US are not really close, so not that many people come out.”

Naoya Kihara
Yogo came close to joining Naoya Kihara as the only Japanese player to win a WSOP bracelet.
 

But Yogo says it's common to see more and more Japanese grinders at live poker tours like the APPT and APT in the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan to Regulate Casinos, Why Not Poker?

And while Japan is moving forward with casino gambling regulation, it's unclear whether that will include live poker.

“Japan is trying to pass a bill legalizing casinos but that does not necessarily result in having a poker room in the casino.

“There might be a casino but there won’t be a poker room. I want an environment where domestically Japanese people can play poker.”

In 2012 Naoya Kihara became the first Japanese player to win a WSOP bracelet, and he's since gotten a sponsorship with PokerStars to help promote poker in Japan.

Yogo said that although the impact of Kihara's bracelet win was limited because of poker's legal position in Japan, it did have an effect.

While Japan waits for legal live poker they're making do with playing online, even though it falls into a legal grey area.

“There a lot are people who are playing online poker, and nobody has had a problem with it. But it’s almost a little too much to say it’s totally alright,” explained Yogo.

“The issue has never really been addressed.”

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