EPT 11 London: Daichi Tominaga, last of the EPT dreamers
"I love poker."
Those three little words are one of the first sentences to come out of the mouth of Daichi Tominaga, a 24-year-old poker professional from Tokyo when we sit down for a chat on Day 1B of the EPT11 London Main Event. It's a refreshing attitude that you don't always hear on this tour, one full of grizzled veterans on a business trip. "The EPT is my dream, when I was working I always watched the EPT shows on YouTube, I watched every episode there's no poker on TV in Japan," he tells the PokerStars Blog.
Cynics could perhaps point to the fact that Tominaga hasn't had time to fall out of love with poker yet. "I quit my job at an IT HR Company three months ago, to play poker professionally," he says whilst smiling. "I've been playing poker for three years, but I started studying poker seriously a year ago," he continues.
In that year he's had some very good results, a final table in the Macau Poker Cup in August was good for just over $10,000. But his most memorable moment in poker came a month earlier in July in Cambodia. He might be the only player in the field to claim that (anyone seen Sam Razavi?). "After quitting my job I looked for tournaments to play and I found APT and Macau Poker Tour and then I went to Cambodia to play in the Asian Poker Tour," he explains. He, and 25 others entered the $2,300 High Roller and Tominaga bested them all, including Razavi. ""It's my proudest moment in poker, I was very excited. It was a tough field. There was a Singaporean pro (Feng Zhao, who finished fourth), he's a very good player." The $24,000 winners' cheque was a timely boost to a newly turned pro.
And Cambodia was an important stepping stone for Tominaga for a completely different reason. "In the beginning I would travel to tournaments on my own, but at the tournament in Cambodia I met many Japanese players and then after that tournament I now travel with some of them."
There are no casinos in Tokyo though and the poker scene is somewhat more nascent than other countries, but like many others, Tominaga's interest in poker started with a love of card games in general. "When I was a student at university, I went to my friends house often and a group of us we played a little poker and a Japanese card game."
In the days of one on one coaching, training sites and Skype Chat Groups, Tominaga, after becoming more interested in poker, cut his poker teeth in a more old school way. "I learnt by reading books like The Theory of Poker and Raiser's Edge by ElkY," he tells the PokerStars Blog.
But the way he started to make money in this game is very modern. "I made my bankroll by playing hyper-turbo sit and gos up to the $500 and $1,000 levels. But they have big swings so now I've stopped playing them and I'm playing only tournaments and live cash because I have to make money."
He's one of many players to make the pilgrimage to Macau for months at a time. "After London I will go to Macau to play the APPT and cash games," he states.
For now though the poker pro, who was born in Wales but moved back to Japan aged four, has the biggest tournament of his life to deal with. "I'm feeling money pressure, this is the biggest tournament in my life. On my left I have a famous pro (Gaelle Baumann). It's hard to play post-flop if she calls."
That may be, but Tominaga made life tough for many players earlier in the week when he finished 32nd in the UKIPT Main Event here in London. "UKIPT is definitely less serious than EPT," he says. "I'm feeling serious now, EPT is tough. Having a good run in UKIPT made me confident but EPT is much more tough."
A short time after this interview was conducted Tominaga busted out, but you sense that this focused young man's dreams will turn into reality sooner, rather than later.
Follow the action from the EPT London Main Event this week on the PokerStars. You can also watch live coverage on the EPT Live webcast between October 14-18 on PokerStars.tv.