The Asian Poker Tour is planning to make its first ever stop in Japan next year, as APT Tokyo will be held from Feb. 1 to Feb. 11 at the Casino Stadium Tokyo. But don’t expect to see any millionaires made during these tournaments, as players will be competing for future tournament entries rather than cash.
The first ever tour stop in Japan will award top finishers with entries into tournaments that are part of the APT Philippines series, which takes place during Japan’s Golden Week at the end of April and the start of May.
Winners to Receive APT Philippines Packages
Essentially, that turns the series into a progression of satellite tournaments, with the APT Tokyo Main Event awarding to a direct entry into three tournaments at APT Philippines: the Main Event, as well as the Championships Event and the High Rollers tournament. The next three finishers will also earn smaller packages that include an APT Philippines Main Event seat, while winners of other tournaments in Tokyo will win various mixes of entries to events in the Philippines stop.
The move makes the APT the latest entrant into what is becoming an increasingly active Japanese poker scene. Last month, the World Poker Tour held its second ever event in Japan, with Shingo Endo winning the WPT Japan Main Event to earn $13,000 in WPT Passport credit he could use at other WPT events worldwide.
The idea of these major poker tournament series coming to Japan only to give away the equivalent of store credit might seem strange, if it weren’t for where Japan’s gaming industry is headed. The country recently passed legislation that will allow for up to three integrated resorts to be built, with officials hoping that the first casinos could be opened by 2025.
Poker’s Sun Rising in Japan?
When those casinos launch, it’s likely that they will include poker rooms. The Japanese government initially didn’t include poker in the list of approved games for their resorts, but changed their minds after the success of the first WPT event in the country earlier this year. With the Japanese gambling market expected to be worth as much as $2 billion per year, the country could easily become a host for major poker tournaments, especially if events like the ones happening now help foster a culture for the game in the country.
Having a foothold in Japan would also be key for the APT. The tour has been running events since 2008, and Japan is easily the largest Asian market that it has yet to penetrate. The 2018 season saw events take place in Vietnam, the Philippines, Macau, and Korea.
The future of the APT in Macau is up in the air, however. A Chinese ban on social, free money online poker games – as well as a ban on promoting poker on social media platforms – had a negative impact on Macau’s poker industry. While the tour initially hoped to hold its scheduled events in Macau this year, the APT Finale Macau was ultimately moved to Manila.