Masato Yokosawa is in uncharted territory. The Japanese poker vlogger who has 779,000 subscribers on YouTube has reached Day 5 of the 2023 World Series of Poker Main Event and has been a part of this tournament field for over a week. Now he’s at a stage where the money and the prestige grow with every elimination, every level, and every day.
Yokosawa is used to cameras and bright lights, perhaps more so than most of his competition remaining in the WSOP Main Event field. He won the 2022 Global Poker Award for Fans’ Choice Poker Personality thanks to his loyal and engaged audience. And Yokosawa definitely has his subscribers in mind while he makes this career-best run in the WSOP Main Event, as he has cameras shooting him throughout the day, and on breaks, as he continues to produce videos throughout his time in this tournament.
Day 4 was a particularly exciting day for Yokosawa. His chip stack was at 514,000 when play began, and ballooned into the millions as the night went on. Yokosawa bagged over 2.1 million, putting him in a strong position moving forward.
“Being in the money in the Main Event for me, is very exciting,” said Yokosawa. “I’ve been playing tournaments for 10 years, but zero of them have been five days or six days long. I’m so excited, but also a little bit tired.”
Yokosawa took a pause and then smiled as he considered the possibilities ahead of him.
“I’m gonna play six more days, or seven more days.”
Yokosawa bagging up a strong stack after Day 4 of the WSOP Main Event was particularly impressive because, for most of the day, he had Chance Kornuth sitting on his direct left. By almost any measure, you could not hand-select a more difficult opponent in the world right now, but Yokosawa persevered and even managed to take a big pot off Kornuth just before the dinner break.
“He’s very aggressive,” said Yokosawa. “Three-bets, four-bets, five-bets – so many actions. You don’t want him sitting next to you. If he’s on your left, like he was against me, it’s going to be trouble. Especially when I have a stack of 3 or 4 million. You have to be very focused in every hand.”
After the last hand of Day 4 was dealt, and the chip bags were placed on the table, Yokosawa reached over and gave Kornuth a hug. As nice as their interactions were at the table all day, Yokosawa was quite relieved to be free of the challenge of playing against Kornuth.
“He’s one of the best live poker tournament players in the world,” said Yokosawa, “So I don’t want to play with him anymore in this tournament.”
Yokosawa is appreciative of the opportunity he currently finds himself in, but it’s not lost on him how far he has to travel to chase the honor he seeks in the game of poker. In his home country of Japan, that’s simply not an option with the way the laws are currently configured.
“They have a lot of play money poker rooms in Japan, which are called amusement poker rooms,” said Yokosawa. “They have something like 500 poker rooms like that in Japan. My wish is that they can organize tournaments legally, with cash prizes like tournaments in other parts of the world.
“I hope they will legalize tournaments in Japan. I think cash games would be too difficult to do, but tournaments could happen. I wish they would have WSOP Japan in Tokyo, or WPT Main Tour events.”
The WPT is set to travel to South Korea, with a series built around WPT Alpha8 One Drop at Landing Jeju Shinhwa World, which kicks off on July 21. There are multiple side events, but for Yokosawa, who won an event for $100,000 in Jeju in 2013, it falls one step short of his own requirements to attend a tournament.
“I actually don’t play much poker in Asia these days, to be honest,” Yokosawa. “Because I’m always trying to win a major tournament, and a title that carries honor, like a WSOP bracelet, EPT title, WPT, or something like that. If they organize an event, especially a WPT Main Tour stop in Asia, I will participate for sure.”
While he’s happy to consider a brighter future for poker in Japan and throughout Asia, Yokosawa is squarely focused on the current task at hand in the WSOP Main Event. There’s $12.1 million awaiting the champion, but Yokosawa has a greater motivation – he’s doing it for everyone who has followed his journey, and continues to do so.
Throughout the tournament, he’s received a consistent stream of support on social media from his subscribers and followers, and that positive energy has helped push Yokosawa to a place he hasn’t been before in his poker career.
“It’s everything for me,” said Yokosawa. “It’s the reason I play poker. If they don’t watch me, and they don’t care about me, I don’t think I could play poker anymore, especially tournaments. Like I said, I’m playing poker for honor, so if they don’t care about how I’m playing, how I’m running in these tournaments, I don’t think I want to play tournaments, because it’s just too painful for me.
“I just want to make videos for them as quickly as possible, and share my journey with everybody who enjoys my videos.”