Expat Poker Travel, Explained
Sean asks “I play online poker and have been able to generate about $3k per month steady for the last 2 months. Is online poker a viable digital nomad income? What sort of expat poker tips do you have for digital nomads?”.
While I’m not an authority online poker player, I can certainly help you out with some expat poker travel tips. In this article we’ll look at online poker as a ‘remote job’, and a wide range of travel tips from digital nomad poker players –what challenges they face, and how to overcome them.
Play Online Poker and Travel the World
I’ve met a number of digital nomads over the years who travel full time and play online poker as their main income source.
The advice they share with me is often the same as your average digital nomad –internet speed is everything, they’re particular about the gear they pack, and their criteria for where to live is understandably a little more rigid.
This article is a high level overview of what it’s like to be a digital nomad who plays poker for a living, warts and all.
Poker as a Remote “Job”
For many, the digital nomad lifestyle is all about finding work/life balance and making an income from more fulfilling hobbies or side hustle. For poker players like Federico “majagua69” Quevedo, online poker is a hobby-turned-career that fuels his travel and surfing habit.
Expats who play online poker for a living know it isn’t all roses and lambos, although it is an achievable goal.
The potential for online poker as a digital nomad income source is massive; a single win could potentially afford months of travel and the cost of living well. This is why it’s such an attractive option for good poker players who are looking to make online poker more than just a hobby.
Challenges of Poker Travel
Let’s get this out of the way so I don’t get accused of painting a one-sided picture –no, it’s not all laptops, beaches, and full moon party selfies.
There are a number of challenges that you’re going to have to mitigate if you’re going to be a traveling poker player.
It’s a job. Albeit, a really exciting one.
The biggest complaint I’ve heard from traveling online poker player expats is about time zones and tournaments. Playing online poker means playing with people from all over the world; in many cases that means playing during bedtime.
Time for Money
With risk comes reward; yes –you can certainly make enough money in a few days to live well for a number of months. However, if you’re playing frugally or not often enough, the money stops coming in as soon as you log off, and it takes time to become skilled enough to gage opportunities in gameplay.
Some high stakes poker players have reported that they’ve lost a fair sum of money when their internet chops. Imagine that.
This is a common problem for digital nomads that can often be corrected with the right gear. We wrote an article about how to speed up internet and make your connection more reliable.
It’s Too Good
Reverse sleeping patterns, tropical surroundings, big money, and a majority of waking hours at after hours nightclubs could make one’s beard turn grey.
A daily regimen, healthy diet, and taking proper time off from time to time are important to last over the long-term as a professional online poker player.
Most online poker players I met also had a digital nomad side hustle, like affiliate marketing, creating online courses, or PPC ad management as a safety –and they never bet more than they could afford to lose.
Travel Tips for Expat Poker Players & “Exiled Poker Refugees”
The reasons expat poker players prefer to live in the tropics isn’t quite exactly the same as your average digital nomad.
Rise of the Poker Refugee
Online poker players who are no longer allowed to play online poker in their home countries are often referred to online as “poker refugees”.. Loyal to the sport, they relocate to keep the bubbly flowing.
Basically, a poker refugee is a digital nomad. Same same but different.
Poker Travel Tips:
- Have redundancies; a second laptop and/or an extra battery if yours is removable, a backup mobile data hot spot, or other portable gear to speed up internet like an ethernet port dongle so you can hard line, or WiFi signal extenders, WiFi bridge, etc
- Evaluate photos of hotel and Airbnb rooms; a well-placed flat-screen TV makes a great second monitor and gives you a little more room to move around (and bring the right video cable)
- Ask for a room closest to the router, and if you’re booking in person, don’t be too proud to request that you check internet speeds before hand –when online, explore review sites and see if anyone has set any expectations
- Ask ahead about other possible annoyances, such as ongoing renovations, internet issues, etc.
- Do your best to not lose your shirt; emphasize proper bankroll management and take a cue from sports betting (which recently became legal in parts of the US).
3 Reasons Why Online Poker Players Travel
There are three key reasons why “exiled” online poker players relocate or travel full-time;
Americans are isolated from the global online poker community because online gambling is still not regulated in the US, with the exception of Nevada and New Jersey. This displaces both online poker sites themselves, as well as online poker players.
And of course, not every tourist hotspot location is ideal for online gambling. Countries like Australia, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and others take a hard line on online gambling.
Quality of Life
Pristine beaches, great weather, beautiful people, cheap beer, affordable accommodation –earning USD and spending pesos seems pretty attractive just about anyone.
Best Countries for Poker Travel, Vacations
Not every online poker player’s travel preferences are in countries where poker is legal, but here’s a few we found during our research that stood out. And it goes without saying that the internet is “poker-grade” at all of these locations.
Ireland is the best non-tropical country for poker vacations for those who want to gamble online and offline. Gambling is to Dublin what Mary Jane is to Amsterdam and there’s an active poker community.
Poker is legal in Ireland, and players don’t pay taxes (taxes are paid by the house –websites, too). My friends from Ireland say rent is affordable, the city is beautiful, and the pub atmosphere is second to none. Dublin is hands down the best place to go to on a poker vacation.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
So much awesome. Playa del Carmen is best known for white sandy beaches and a kickass party scene that runs around the clock.
The beaches are breathtaking, the beer is cheap, the party runs 24/7, and there’s a good chance you’ll never have to go home by yourself.
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Koh Phangan is a great destination, period. A couple points up on the internet connectivity risk scale, but nothing that can’t be mitigated with a good mobile data connection like AIS.
Great beaches, full moon parties for those into that sort of thing on one side of the island –and a spiritual paradise on the other. Having two speeds provides lifestyle diversity when you want it, it’s only a short scooter ride from one side of the island to another.
Koh Phangan isn’t the only place in the country that’s great for online poker –there’s Bangkok (central), Chiang Mai (northern Thailand), Koh Tao (popular tourist island), and Koh Lanta (very relaxed island).
Medellín is often called the next Chiang Mai in terms of its cost of living and quality of life –yet, that’s where the similarities end.
The culture of Medellín is vibrant and extroverted, the people are full of life, the food is amazing, and the rent is affordable (check out Airbnb in Medellín, you won’t be disappointed) –and this is why Medellín is a top poker travel destination.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
From what I’m told, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is not only poker heaven, it also possesses ll of the traits of every previously mentioned poker vacation spots.
Gran Canaria is sophisticated, beautiful, affordable, and theres a strong expat community.
No one knows if poker is right for them right off the cuff. It’s best to give it a shot, see where it takes you, and keep the bar low. You might surprise yourself.
Any thoughts on the subject? Where would you live, and why? Let us know in the comments.