Few places can match the entertainment scenes in Japanese cities like Tokyo and Yokohama. That said, many poker aficionados are puzzled when they learn that poker is illegal in Japan. The law restricts person-to-person games with prize money as illegal. Particularly puzzling is the fact that it is legal to bet on races (bike, horse, dogs, etc.) in the Land of the Rising Sun. You can also play games like mahjong and pachinko for huge money prizes. These are termed as legal house-banked games of chance. So why is poker not legal?

Interestingly, poker tournaments happen in Japan despite the illegality of the game. The catch is that there is no prize money. The prize is couched in fancier language like ‘reward’ or ‘gift’ for the winner. This can reach up to $20,000 in a tournament. 

Poker in Japan is promoted by the Japan Poker Association. This is a non-profit organization whose aim is to encourage more people to develop an interest in poker. The organization also helps Japanese poker players participate in world poker events such as the World Series of Poker. 

Poker fans in Japan can also access online casinos that are registered in other countries. Bons Casino, for instance, is a newly launched online casino targeting Japanese players. Poker games in online casinos are not restricted, and Japanese players are free to enjoy their prize money.

Live Poker Laws in Japan

As mentioned, Japanese law disallows most forms of gambling except lottery, race betting, and pachinko. These legal games generate hundreds of billions of yen annually. But casinos and gaming venues with live poker or other person-to-person games are not legally recognized. 

Most people play poker games in private homes and underground casinos. The latter, in particular, can be risky as these underground casinos are often run by criminal gangs. You also risk running into trouble with the law with a prison fine of two years and a $100,000 fine. 

To play poker, you have to be in a game that avoids prize money. Poker games are played for rewards and gifts, which are mostly commodities and services. This happens for top events like the All Japan Poker Tournament and Japan Open Tour. 

The All Japan Poker Championship is held annually. Texas hold’em is the game played and there is no entry fee or winner’s prize. The reward is a seat in the World Series of Poker’s Main Event. Naoya Kihara won the 2012 event. The Japan Open Tour is also an annual event whose winners get a seat at APPT events around Asia.

Hendonmob Japan
Japan’s all-time tournament poker money list | Image credit: Hendonmob.com

Legalizing Casinos and Poker in Japan 

Casinos have recently become tolerated in Japan as a law was passed in 2016 to allow limited games in casinos. There are other laws in the pipeline that would allow freer forms of gambling including poker tournaments for prize money. 

The Japanese authorities say that even with relaxed laws, poker would be highly regulated. Friends and acquaintances cannot play on the same table. The dealer would choose who to sit at the table. The game must also guarantee fairness. It will be interesting to see what the law allows once legislation finally gets put through, but in the meanwhile poker fans in Japan need to exercise patience as they await change.

Online casinos are not illegal but they cannot actively advertise their prize money because that would be illegal. Most are registered outside Japan. 

Online Poker Games in Japan

Japan is one of the most networked places in the world. Good internet speeds have encouraged Japanese poker players to play on websites that are hosted outside Japan. Many Japanese enjoy poker because it is simple to learn and play well unlike games of chance like roulette. Japanese players participate in many qualifiers and satellite poker tournaments online. 

Bons Casino Poker Offers 

As mentioned, Bons casino is a newly launched online casino targeting Japanese players with an exciting variety of poker games. Some of the poker varieties on offer include:

  • American gold poker 
  • American poker V
  • Hold’em poker 
  • High hand hold’em poker 
  • Russian poker 
  • Casino hold’em poker 
  • Triple pocket hold’em poker gold series 
  • Cyberstud poker 

Players can practice for free before playing for real money. Bons Casino is open for registration for people from all over the world, including Japan of course. This casino has also made it easier for players to deposit and withdraw using a wide variety of means, including:

  • All major cards – visa, Mastercard, JCB, Discover, Amex, etc. 
  • Electronic wallets – Skrill, Neteller, Qiwi, Yandex, ecoPayz, Webmoney, etc.
  • Cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, ripple, etc. 

Bons casino is one of the few online casinos that accept deposits and allow cryptocurrency withdrawals. If you are looking for anonymity and privacy, this is a good option. 

So, to sum up, although playing live poker is difficult in Japan, you can still enjoy your favorite poker variety game online. You do not have to worry about finding a poker room and you are safe from breaking the law. Check out the offers on Bons casino and start playing. 

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