APPT9 Seoul Day 2: Japan starting to blossom

Japan has never been traditionally renowned for taking to the felt, but this week, Korea's neighbour to the East is proving to be a poker powerhouse at APPT Seoul.

At the end of Day 1B last night, the top four finishers were from Japan, and six of the biggest top ten stacks belonged to Japanese players at the beginning of Day 2 this afternoon.

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Japan's Mount Fuji

Leading the way was Takahiro Nakai. With only one previous live cash, Nakai is looking to add to that here this week. He has around 160,000 in chips as we get further into Day 2, and looks like he should make a deep run.

Hirotoshi Nakabo is another from Japan doing well in Seoul. He started today third in chips and is still in contention with 95,200 to play with. Nakabo has a host of cashes in Macau to his name, and took down the 2012 ACOP NLHE Six Handed Championship for $39,301.

Before sitting down for the Team Event last night with partner and Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand ElkY Grospellier, Japan local Tsuneaki 'Buddha' Takeda explained that poker is beginning to boom in his homeland. "Poker in Japan is growing huge" he said.

Takeda went on to speculate as to why we may be seeing an influx of players in Seoul this week. He explained that there is no local casino in Japan, but there are poker clubs. While they can't play for cash, the establishments can offer satellites to bigger events overseas. With Korea existing as a nearby neighbour, it makes sense that a lot of Japanese have made the trip here for the APPT.

"PokerStars are going in Japan also" Takeda said, which could account for the growing player numbers. The site launched the Japan Autumn Festival in October, offering freerolls with great prizes in a bid to build the local poker community. PokerStars also have Japanese players Team PokerStars Pro Kosei Ichinose and Team PokerStars Pro Online Naoya Kihara on their roster. It seems like all these factors have contributed to a Japanese contingent out in force here in Seoul.

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Team PokerStars Pro Kosei Ichinose at APPT Seoul

With only 44 left in the Main Event there are still a strong group of Japanese players among the field. We'll be following the action closely to see if one of them can claim victory here at the APPT.

Brad Kain
@PokerStars in Asia Pacific Poker Tour