A lot has happened for me recently, and the biggest one is that I just got married!
As if that wasn't big enough news for one month, PokerListings just had their first ever "Spirit of Poker" Awards, and I was named Most Inspiring Player.
In all honesty, I was already happy to be amongst the last eight players in the nomination process and then to make it to the final three with Daniel Negreanu and Max Lykov as the other two.
Now, everybody knows how good Daniel is, and Max is an EPT Player of the Year. I'm really proud of my WSOP bracelet and a final table at LAPC, but my resume is not as long as those guys.
I looked for support from the biggest Japanese poker forum, backgammon forum, and Twitter, but realistically I figured Daniel or Max would get the award. Compared to the rest of the world, Japan's poker community is relatively small. Plus, I was already very honoured to be nominated.
So, when I was told that I won the award, I was really surprised.
A big big thank you to everyone who voted for me and supported me through the process. I will continue to represent Japan and try to inspire others to this wonderful game of poker!
There's an award ceremony in Malta on September 25, so I'll be going with my wife and making it part of our honeymoon.
After that's all done, I'll be getting ready for the ACOP (Asia Championship of Poker) in Macau which begins on October 18. It's at the new live PokerStars poker room at the City of Dreams. The ACOP is the flagship poker series for PokerStars in Asia and the one everyone wants to win. The main event is HK $100,000 (13k USD) and this year they've made the guarantee HK $20 million (2.6m USD).
Last year, the ACOP was my first tournament series as a sponsored player for PokerStars. I tried to play as many tournaments as I could - the Warm-up, Main Event and another 10 side events but couldn't get anything going.
Since then, I've had a lot of positive experiences, not only on the poker table but in my personal life as well. I feel like I've had a lot of growth as a person, and I think that will translate into better results as a poker player.
I'm going to be showing you a new and improved version of Naoya Kihara. Hopefully that means some good results at the ACOP!
See you soon in Macau!
Naoya Kihara is a member of Team PokerStars Online