Poker in Japan: A Beginners Guide

poker japan

It’s taken a while for the stigma around poker and gambling to subside in Japan. After some time, we’re hopefully moving into a new era of relaxed rules around gambling. At present, most players wanting to play poker have to stick to private cash games and tournaments or games run by organized crime. That’s probably not what you want to read is it? Unfortunately that is the reality for live poker in Japan right now.

In this article I’m going to provide an overview on poker and gambling in general in Japan, what the laws say and how people gamble in Japan in 2023.  

Real money gambling in Japan

The issues around the legality of gambling are the real money wagering. To get around this, there are tournaments like the Japan Open Tour that rewards winners with packages to other events on the Asian continent. This has been a popular method to bypass the strict rules on gambling for real money.

Clearly, it’s the passing of money that Japanese authorities take issue with. They have strong stance that real money gambling is wrong. That’s why most games are private or ran underground by the mob. Finding Japanese online casinos is not an easy endeavour either, despite the introduction of the integrated resorts bill in 2018.

Online poker in Japan

As the live poker scene is currently treacherous, many poker enthusiasts from Japan simply turn to online poker instead. There are still issues around operators obtaining licenses in Japan which is why numerous offshore poker rooms that accept Japanese players. This means there is an untapped resource for poker platforms to take advantage. There are lots of eligible adults from a population of almost 126 million.

It’s worth noting that whilst offshore poker websites can cater to Japanese residents, there are still some challenges when it comes to getting money online and withdrawing it too. Apparently, many Japanese banks will refuse transactions that appear gambling themed. As such, it can be difficult for poker enthusiasts to move money around. However, with so many payment methods in 2023, including cryptocurrency, people are finding innovative ways to deposit and withdraw.

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Prosecuted for playing poker in Japan?

My research for this article didn’t find any players that have actually been prosecuted for playing poker in Japan. It appears the government isn’t interested in clamping down on individuals. This appears to be the case in lots of countries where gambling is prohibited. However, its important you recognize that there is always a risk, as strictly speaking, you shouldn’t be playing poker for real money in Japan.  

Learning poker

The laws prohibit real money gambling but there’s nothing preventing residents learning poker or other casino games. This means anyone wanting to travel can still put their skills to use. If you’re keen to develop your game for fun, check out some YouTube tutorials, download our poker cheat sheet or sign up to our training videos.

What does the future hold?

The laws being passed permitted gambling if fairness is applied (integrated resorts) gives us reason to be optimistic. However, that was over 7 years ago and there hasn’t been much change since. There seems to be an unspoken understanding between governments and individuals that gambling is ok provided you’re not open about it. In other words, as long as you’re not opening big poker clubs or setting up your own real money casino and promoting it around, you should be fine.

Governments are always slow to react and change perceptions on matters like gambling. So, it shouldn’t surprise us to see it take a long time for gambling laws to be relaxed further. In the meantime, make sure you do research before gambling for real money in Japan.

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