World Poker Tour Japan Event

World Poker Tour Announces New WPT Japan Event

The World Poker Tour today announced that it will be bringing the WPT brand to Japan this fall. Partnering with a local entity, the Japan Poker Union Corporation, the inaugural WPT® Japan will run for four days, in Tokyo, from November 23-26, 2017.

The new WPT Japan stop will feature four events, and, according to the WPT’s press announcement, qualifying for the four events “will take place at local poker clubs in the months leading up to the four-day championship festival in late November.” The announcement claimed that additional WPT Japan details are available at the WPT’s online home (wpt.com), but as of last check, said details about the stop had yet to be posted.

What’s perhaps most interesting about the WPT’s foray into this new country is that it appears to be a cashless transaction all the way around. While the release of schedule specifics may change the picture, the utter lack of information about entry costs suggests that such costs don’t exist in the traditiona sense — perhaps a legal allowance of sorts to Japanese gambling laws, though we’ll need to wait for clarification. For now, the WPT Japan events don’t appear to have entry fees attached to them, though satellite qualification routes mean that they’re not true freerolls, and the prizes to be awarded, while they have real value, appear to be prize packages to WPT events in other countries.

To reiterate, it doesn’t look like any cash will be associated with the playing of poker anywhere in the Japanese Islands, at least in connection with this WPT Japan debut.

Moving on to the obligatory thank-yous and how-do-you-dos from the folks involved. First, from the WPT’s in-country partner:

“The Japan Poker Union Corporation is very pleased to partner with the World Poker Tour on this brand new event, WPT Japan,” said Yabuuchi Nobuhiro, Japan Poker Union Corporation representative. “The World Poker Tour is the perfect brand to help launch a new chapter for poker in our country, and we look forward to hosting players from all over at WPT Japan and showcasing all that this great region has to offer.”

And, from the WPT:

“The World Poker Tour is honored to partner with the Japan Poker Union Corporation for this momentous occasion, not only the history of the World Poker Tour, but for our industry,” said Adam Pliska, CEO of the World Poker Tour. “Japan is a truly spectacular place, and the Japanese poker market is a flourishing one that deserves to be showcased on a global stage such as the World Poker Tour. Having spent a considerable amount of time in Japan, I strongly encourage poker players of all levels from around the world to come to Japan and experience first hand everything this beautiful region has to offer.”

Here’s the tip-off about the “no real money to be exchanged within Japanese borders” part. Read closely:

Prizes for all WPT Japan events will consist of packages to future WPT events. The WPT Japan Main Event winner will receive a package to both the Season XVII WPT Main Tour event in Beijing, plus another WPT event of their choice in the Asia-Pacific region. Additionally, WPT Japan tournaments will qualify players for the WPT Asia-Pacific Player of the Year leaderboard, which will award a $15,000 package to be used for any WPT Main Tour, WPTDeepStacks™, or WPT500™ events in the Asia-Pacific region.

As part of the $15,000 package earned by the WPT Asia-Pacific Player of the Year, complimentary accommodations and ground transportation for the events will be provided by the WPT. The WPT Asia-Pacific Player of the Year runner-up will receive a $3,500 buy-in to the Season XVII WPT Beijing Main Event, and third place will receive one WPTDeepStacks main event buy-in and one WPT500 buy-in for WPT events in the Asia-Pacific region.

No yen seem to be trading hands during this one.

The WPT Japan stop will award points toward the WPT Asia-Pacific Player of the Year points race for Season XVI. The Japanese stop joins the already completed WPT Beijing stop and another November mini-series, WPT India. Other WPT-AP stops will be added to the regional POY competition as well.

All this amounts to a missionary-style marketing push by the WPT in Japan, one of the things that the WPT couldn’t even have considered a few years back in the worst of its cash-strapped days. Getting poker in front of Japanese eyes appears to require a significant up-front investment, if this WPT Japan set-up is any indication. The real goal, of course, is to get both poker and the WPT brand some exposure in a new, populous, and affluent Asian market. Looked at from that perspective, some of this missionary marketing makes sense. As always, though, we’ll have to wait quite some time to see if it all pays off.

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