Poker is played in every corner of the world and in one of those corners, poker players and poker fans are celebrating their countries first World Series of Poker gold bracelet winner.
Japan is one of those countries that bans live poker games, but that didn’t stop private school teacher Naoya Kihara; through a friend he found online poker and soon he was hooked. Naoya today is a poker pro in a country that seemed to completely ignore the global poker boom. He has entered a few tournaments and in 2010 cashed at the L.A. Poker Classic, and cashed in 634th place in the WSOP Main Event last year, and this year – with only his third cash – made history at the WSOP.
On June 18th, the 30 year old poker pro from Tokyo was one of 419 players taking their seats to play Event #34, the $5,000 Buy-In Six-Handed Pot-Limit Omaha.
After three days of surviving over 400 players from 25 different countries, Naoya made it to the final table - along with former November Niner Joseph Cheong and bracelet holders Davidi Kitai, and Jason DeWitt. His dream, one shared by his countrymen, was still alive but could Naoya be the first player from Japan to take home a WSOP title? If the amazing hot streak he was on lasted, the answer was a definite yes, even though Naoya said he is no good at PLO.
The match got to the heads-up stage when Naoya busted Daniel Hindin. He would go head to head with a formidable opponent; 10-time WSOP casher Chris DeMaci. Although both players started fairly even in chips, and Chris put up the fight of his life, the battle lasted only around 30 minutes.
Chris check raised the all-in with his on a flop. Kihara held for a pair of Jacks. When the board ran out , Chris missed his straight wrap draw and Japan had a new hero who was $512,029 richer with two pair.
It seemed almost like destiny that the land of the rising sun would finally strike gold at the WSOP. Congratulations to Japan’s first ever WSOP title winner Naoya Kihara!
Final Table Payouts:
|2nd||Chris De Maci||$316,308|
Naoya is very proud to be Japan’s newest poker ambassador. The country’s first gold bracelet winner hopes his new title will net him an online poker sponsorship. In the meantime, he plans to enter more events and promote poker in Japan and throughout Asia.