Over the last few years, Japanese poker pro Tsugunari Toma has graced the poker tables in unique outfits and eye-catchy get-ups. He is often seen taking a selfie with his pile of chips everytime he dominates a game. He has always been a stand-out at the tables for his distinctive fashion style and warm persona, and this year, his performance at the European Poker Tour (EPT) has also gained huge attention.
Successful 2019
Since April 2019, Toma has been crushing the EPT tables, cashing in events in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and more recently in Prague. He has scored nine cashes so far this year at the EPT, totaling more than €800,000. His biggest victories took place this month in Prague where he won two titles in just one week.
Toma earlier captured the €10,200 No Limit Hold’em at EPT Prague for €135,220, and also took down the €10,300 NLH event this week, walking away with a massive €523,120 as top prize. Prior to that, he finished sixth in another €10,300 event for €37,870. According to his Hendon Mob profile, Toma’s total live earnings currently sit at $2,266,940, placing him at the top of the all-time money list in Japan.
All of these coincide with Toma’s main goal – to promote poker in his own country and erase the Japanese people’s negative attitude towards the game. If we try to look into Japan’s gambling landscape, we will understand the motivation and inspiration fuelling Toma to promote poker in Japan.
Gambling Landscape in Japan
Casino gambling in Japan was illegal for a long period of time until legislators approved gaming legislation in 2018. Lawmakers initially projected a casino launch in 2020 in a bid to attract tourists and visitors attending the 2020 Olympics. However, this is not going to happen as Japan is still working on its gaming regulations and has not issued any casino licenses. From the time the casino licenses are issued, it will take a minimum of 2 years for the first land based casino to open.
Given this existing scenario in his home country, Toma began playing poker via free games, where he learned the basic skills, strategies, and concepts involved in the game. He then started traveling to Macau in the hopes of competing against better players, therefore honing his skills in the process.
He managed to accumulate some cashes playing in Asia’s gambling epicenter in 2011 and 2012, while managing his own accounting and insurance companies in Japan. These businesses have been successful, providing him with adequate funds to continue his poker passion and take part in European high-roller tournaments since 2017.
Success in the European High Roller Scene
Toma had good results during his early attempts in the EPT, but his biggest break took place this year, with his latest victory bringing his total 2019 earnings to more than €1 million. This success is commendable given the fact that has not been very active on the live poker circuit for quite some as he needed to take care of his businesses back home.
Reflecting on his hugely successful year, Toma said poker and business work in a similar manner, as both require strong decision-making skills. With poker struggling to gain widespread acceptance in Japan, Toma wants to change things and promote poker as a mind sport. His multiple victories in the EPT will definitely help spread the popularity of poker in Japan.
Future Goals
Toma also aims to secure a high-profile sponsorship so he could better promote poker in Japan and educate the general public that poker is a mind sport that involves mental strength, strategies and a lot of practice.
Considering the current sponsorship landscape, it might take some time before Toma officially becomes a poker brand ambassador. In the meantime, Toma intends to improve his skills, learn new strategies, and continue to win. He believes it will play a vital role in improving the image of poker in Japan.

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