by Paul 'Dr. Pauly' McGuire
Since Black Friday, Americans who considered themselves professional online poker players have been unemployed. One minute online pros like “durrrr” and “OMGClayAiken” were revered as gods among men in the poker universe, and the next, they were considered criminals—enemies of the state.
The DOJ’s crackdown on PokerStars, Ultimate Bet, Absolute Poker, and Full Tilt Poker altered the entire poker landscape. Amateur players were forced to find a new hobby, but an estimated 52,000 US-based players who earned a living in the confines of their own home, had their primary source of income shut off by the government.
Online poker allowed professionals to live anywhere they wanted, but after Black Friday, they were forced to move to poker-centric cities like Las Vegas or Los Angeles if they wanted to play full time. Otherwise, they’d have to make frequent trips to other gambling towns like Atlantic City, Tunica, or to Native American casinos.
Not every online pro had a successful transition to the brick and mortar scene. The biggest downside to playing live poker is the lack of game selection and the substantially lower number of hands per hour—never mind dealer tokes, the rake, and time lost while commuting. One of the best (and most profitable) aspects of online poker is the ability to play as many tables as you could handle—which catered to SNG specialists, MTT grinders, and cash game gurus. Live poker forces you to play one hand at a time and that’s it. As a result, win rates plummeted.
In the wake of Black Friday many online pros faced the stark possibility of being forced to find new careers. Online poker gave many confused young adults an alternative route to achieving the American dream, while offering a viable opportunity for middle-aged Americans to support their families in sluggish economy and horrendous job market.
It was only a matter of time before online players made the difficult decision to flee America and move overseas in order to pursue their passion and earn a living. Shortly before the WSOP began, a steady flow of players headed to Canada to set up residences in Vancouver and Toronto. A sizable group of exiles also flocked to Costa Rica, which has been an epicenter for online gaming over the last two decades.
Moving to a new country is not as easy as you think, which is why relocation service companies have sprouted over the last few months. If you’re going to move to South America or Southeast Asia, you might need a “fixer” to help you get settled in. Be aware that life can be problematic as a newcomer to Central and South America. The locals are notorious for ripping off gringos, which is why you need to minimize your risk and find someone who is familiar with local customs.
Canada seems to be a popular choice for online poker exiles. Canadians speak English, so it’s much easier for an American to assimilate into the Great White North due to the lack of a language barrier. Plus, if you’re a TV junkie, you get pretty much the same stations on Canadian cable. But more importantly, if you get homesick, all you’re not very far from American soil. Just a quick jaunt over the border and you’re home.
It might take a couple more years before legislation is passed and Americans can play online poker in the confines of their own homes without worrying about governmental interference. But before you decide to make the plunge and migrate to Canada or Costa Rica for the sole purpose of playing online poker, do your own due diligence by consulting with an attorney, tax expert, and immigration specialist. You want to make sure you have all your bases covered before you make a triumphant return to the online poker tables.