“Poker Refugee” Service Helps Players Relocate

August 23rd, 2011 Poker

The massive crackdown on online poker sites last April, now dubbed “Black Friday” by poker circles, have left American players without their favorite pastime, and for many, a significant source of income. Indeed, those who have been making their living from online poker for the last few years have been forced to relocate.

The likes of Kevin MacPhee, Phil Galfond, and Olivier Busquet–elite players who have earned well over seven figures–were among the first to establish residency outside their native U.S. Several others have announced they are soon to follow, heading for Costa Rica, Malta, Panama, and neighboring Mexico and Canada.

The exodus is becoming so widespread that PocketFives, one of the sites that pioneered the online poker boom, has started offering a service to make moving easier for these “poker refugees.” Their goal is to help professional players get settled outside the U.S. and resume playing online. The site lost about 10% of its players after Black Friday.

The relocation service is currently limited to three countries (Canada, Costa Rica, and Panama), and each location has limitations. For example, one can only stay in Costa Rica as a tourist for 90 days, then leave the country for three days before renewing his visa. To make things easier, PocketFives helps clients get in touch with other poker players in the area, set up bank accounts and hire accountants, and generally plan and coordinate the move.

All this comes at a price, of course. The full relocation package costs $1,000 for a single person, $750 for those willing to live with roommates, and $1,500 for those moving their entire families.

Cal Spears, co-founder of the site, believes that at least a few hundred players have already made the move, and more are considering it. His time made sure to launch the service not long after the World Series of Poker tournament, which left a lot of pro players wondering what to do next. It’s a serious question for the grinders who treat online poker almost like a full-time job, and indeed earn most of their living from it.

Packing up and moving isn’t easy, even for the wealthiest of players. It’s definitely not a move for the casual or even semi-serious player. But the new rules make it hard for the considerable majority who have put in hours and worked to get where they are. Until things change, according to experts, setting up camp elsewhere may be their best bet.


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