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Poker Tournament Trail -- Yosh Nakano

Nakano Talks About Helping Out Charities and Spreading Mixed Games with the IPPA


Yosh NakanoYosh Nakano is involved with the poker world in a number of ways. First and foremost, he has been a respected high-stakes cash game player for 25 years, and he is the high-limit host at the Bicycle Casino. Nakano has recorded a number of cashes in live tournaments, as well, and he was the champion of the 2007 Intercontinental Poker Championship on CBS.

Nakano’s current interests include helping out with charity benefits that poker is involved with and adding mixed-game poker tournaments to the calendar with the International Poker Player’s Association Tour (he is the founder). The IPPA is scheduled to host its first events in 2010.

Card Player caught up with Nakano in Los Angeles and he talked about his current interests in poker.

Ryan Lucchesi: How important is it for poker to stay involved with charities?

Yosh Nakano: I think it is very important. Poker itself is a very self-serving endeavor. You’re in an arena wherein the idea is to beat your opponent and take their money. I think most poker players feel good about being involved in a situation where they are going to be helping out different charities.

RL: How important is it for many players to be involved in the process, like your friends Jerry Buss and Maria Ho, so that a community of giving back is established?

YN: It is important. All of those people who you named are good friends of mine, and they are always involved in supporting different charities on their own. In fact, the Lakers Youth Foundation is one of the biggest charities in the L.A. area.

RL: Tell me about your role as founder of the IPPA and its cause to bring more mixed-game events back into the poker schedule?

YN: I think that before the World Poker Tour and Internet poker started, there wasn’t much no-limit hold’em. I think no-limit has run a very good course, and I think now it is time to take poker to the next level with mixed games, especially with an event like H.O.R.S.E. that is pretty well-branded now. Most tournament series have a H.O.R.S.E. event, so everyone knows what H.O.R.S.E. is now. Any time you combine two separate groups of players, which in this case is H.O.R.S.E. and no-limit hold’em players, you improve the action. Poker can only benefit by creating a new arena.

The idea of the International Poker Player’s Association Tour is to develop something for the poker player that is good for them. For a $1,700 buy-in in a qualifying event, a person can now have an opportunity to win $5 million in our tour championship, and all he has to do is beat 12 players. Those 12 players are going to be good players, but in order to be a champion, you should have to beat good players.

RL: The younger players are really starting to adopt some of the mixed games as they become more popular. Do you think the IPPA will foster that trend?

YN: I think without a doubt it will increase the action, meaning that players who are strictly no-limit hold’em players will start playing more H.O.R.S.E. games and limit games, and that will be better for poker as a whole.

RL: What game other than of no-limit hold’em do you think transfers to a general audience best for television?

YN: Most poker games can transfer pretty well; what you need are expert analysts. You have to have world-class players who are doing that analysis. They can explain to the viewers what thought processes should be going through a player’s mind. There is not one way to play poker. All of the top players, none of them play the same, and they’re all top players.