The Season 21 Grand Final of the Japan Open Poker Tour (JOPT) took place in January and set a new attendance record for the JOPT. Some 1,128 players had bought in by the time late registration slammed shut, blowing the previous record of 818 entries, set by last season’s JOPT Grand Final, out of the water.
Tournaments part of the JOPT Grand Final’s schedule came with combined prize pools of ¥100 million ($865,200) with a cool ¥15 million ($129,700) paid out by the main event alone. Players flocked to the Takeshiba Port Hall to compete in the JOPT Grand Final not only for the substantial prize money offered but because the Main Event champion also receives a sponsorship package, opening the door to a professional poker career.
GGPoker sponsors the JOPT so many JOPT champions have used GGPoker’s connection with the World Series of Poker (WSOP) to use their sponsorship prize in WSOP events, fulfilling their poker dreams in the process. Players can qualify for JOPT events in venues across Japan or online at GGPoker.
This year’s biggest champion was Masao Araki who defeated Maaku Tanaka heads-up to secure the title, the winner’s trophy, and the offer of a sponsorship contract worth ¥4,500,000 ($38,950). There may have been a case of beginner’s luck in the case of Araki because he revealed in a post-tournament interview that he only started playing poker one month ago. Luck or not, Araki gets to call himself a JOPT champion and will represent the tour with his sponsorship package.
It was not only the Season 21 JOPT Grand Final Main Event that drew in a massive crowd because the series as a whole was a roaring success. More than 6,000 players battled it out at the poker tables across the scheduled events, and the fields were frequented by some Japanese celebrities.
Popular manga artists Antony Matenro and Yashiro Azuki were in attendance. As were YouTubers “Pyokotan” and Usatani Paisen, GGPoker Ambassador “Nanachara” a backgammon specialist Akiko Yazawa who won the Las Vegas Open Championship two years in a row.
The next JOPT event is scheduled for April 28 through May 5. Again, it takes place at the Tokyo Takeshiba Port Hall and sees several new tournaments added to the side events schedule. These include a “Knockout Legends” tournament and a “Colossus” which takes inspiration from the WSOP event bearing the same name.
Of course, all eyes will be on the Main Event. It has the potential to beat the attendance record set for the Season 21 Grand Final because in addition to Day 1s taking place in Tokyo, players can enter a Day 1 in both Osaka and Nagoya. The Japanese poker community cannot wait for the next leg of the JOPT to begin.