Monday, 29 July 2013

Poker Refugees Player Interview – 

Dan Smallidge

Poker Name/types of games you play: Heads up Pot Limit Omaha

How many years have you played online poker? 7.5 years as my primary source of income 9 total years

Which sites do you play on the most? Stars and Full Tilt - Before Black Friday Absolute - Before the UIGEA Paradise

You first moved to Costa Rica through Poker Refugees in 2011 where you lived in a beachfront condo with 2 roommates we matched you with from elsewhere around the United States (Adam Ross who we also interviewed for the Poker Refugees blog & Gino Levrini). How was your experience living abroad for the first time?

It was a much easier transition than I imagined [with Poker Refugees].  It helped a lot that I spoke some Spanish, but really having 30 other poker players in Jaco was the reason it was so easy to adjust.

You've since traveled quite a bit; what are some countries where you've played online poker? Costa Rica, Guatemala, Malta, Mexico, S. Korea

How was it moving a second time (or third or fourth time) once your poker “foundation” was set back in 2011?

I think the hardest part of the process would have been the initial unlocking of your account.  After that moving around was easy.  Costa Rica, Malta, and Mexico were all really cool places to live because of the poker communities there.  It really makes a big difference having other grinders to talk to / hang out with.

What are some of the highlights of living the life of a poker expatriate abroad?

Meeting my current girlfriend in Costa Rica. 

Dan & his girlfriend travel in Panama
Meeting tons of other poker players - I can't emphasize this enough.  I was never very involved in the poker community while playing in the states and I only knew a few other poker players from my area, but moving abroad I have met so many other really good players and made a lot of really good friends.

Looks like Dan is enjoying life these days!

In Costa Rica I went ziplining, went to several volcanoes / national parks / waterfalls, and went whitewater rafting. I also learned to surf in Costa Rica.

Exploring Costa Rica
In Guatemala I visited some Mayan ruins and hiked up an active volcano.

Hiking Mayan ruins in Guatemala's rainforests

Has your perspective on “home” changed or are you still waiting for poker to become legalized in the US to move back?

I wouldn't say my perspective on "home" has changed.  I'd still like to return to the US once poker is legalized and regulated, but I would definitely say my perspective on living abroad has changed.  It wasn't nearly as scary or difficult as I originally thought it would be.

Watching a baseball game in SKorea!
You met a girlfriend in Costa Rica; do you guys still have a long distance relationship and what advice would you give to players with significant others at home? 

We are actually both in Korea now, but I was on my own in Malta for three months while I was waiting for her to jump through all sorts of hoops in order to get an English teaching position in Korea.  Skype made it easy for me to see her and talk to her every day, but obviously you still miss the physical intimacy.

What is a normal day-in-the-life like for you?

Since I play HU cash I have a lot of freedom with my schedule.  I tend to play a lot of short sessions and take a lot of breaks.  In my free time I like to play sports, hang out with my friends and girlfriend, read, and play video games.  It's been pretty easy to make friends and find activities to keep me busy everywhere I've been. 

Where to next? I'm currently in Korea [and staying for the time being].  My girlfriend has a job teaching English here.  This has definitely taken me the farthest out of my comfort zone, since I don't speak any Korean, but it's actually pretty easy to get by.  Unfortunately, there isn't much of a poker community here.

Poker Refugees wishes you the best Dan; good luck in both online poker and life with your significant other!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Player Interview: Gus Voelzel: Playa del Carmen, Mexico

You may have heard about Playa del Carmen, Mexico before, and that's because it's awesome. Playa del Carmen could possibly be one of the most ideal and convenient places for poker players to live south of the border. Why? Think 75 poker players living within 10 blocks of each other, a 24/7 partying beach lifestyle, and delivery of any food you want at any hour. Even if you're looking for a quiet, tropical abode, 'Playa' (as it's affectionately called) has something for everyone. 

Not only is Playa a magnetic place for US players who move for a month and stay for a year, but there are also players from many countries throughout Europe and other areas of Mexico who are drawn to the sunny weather, beach culture and amenities. 

Long-time poker local and online cash player, Gus Voelzel, spares a few minutes to sing the praises of this tropical poker paradise and tell us about his experience about what life is really like, and how living there has changed his. 

Gus loves poker and Dr. Pepper

Name: Gus Voelzel

Years playing online poker: I first played online on Party Poker in 2004.
Types of games you play: Cash games (Full Ring & 6max), with some tournaments on Sundays
Current location: Playa del Carmen, Mexico 
How many months after Black Friday did you decide to move? 
It took me 9 months to move, not because I wasn't prepared to go much sooner, but I was in a relationship at the time and was holding out faint hopes that internet poker would be back in the US quickly, as has been successfully done in many European countries... [alas - we hear the US government doesn't move so fast]

What were the most challenging parts about getting set up in Playa when you first arrived?
The most challenging part of Playa is playing poker instead of going to the beach during the day and going out at night.  

Players hitting the beach instead of the poker tables

Gus & Friends Relaxing After a Long Session

Actually, undoubtedly, the biggest obstacle in Playa is finding a place to live, because the realtors, property management companies, and owners tend to do everything they can to keep their places empty instead of occupied. 

[Editor's Note: That's where Poker Refugees can come in handy - to act as the buffer and representative who can effortlessly relocate you to your Playa dream home sans realtor mierda (bullshit in English)]
When online poker comes back in the US, do you think you will want to move back immediately or has living abroad changed your perspective on “home”?
When online poker comes back in the States I won't be on the first plane back, but it won't take me long.  I'll probably finish out my lease here and arrange to get what I currently have online back to the US before I just jump ship and head back to Texas. As much as I enjoy living in Playa, Austin will always be home and I look forward to the day I can be back there again.

On any given day, where can you find poker players in Playa?
During the day they're either at the beach or at home grinding.  Most nights people will meet up for dinner or to watch a sporting event (Playa's a small town and we pretty much all live within 10 blocks of one another) followed by the inevitable night out on the town.

Party Life in Playa
What makes Playa such a great place for poker players to live? 

For a lot of these guys, it's their first time out of the US.  They don't speak Spanish for example.  But Playa, being a tourist town, caters to English speakers. There's a food delivery service that is English speaking, and there's a large poker community here, so life, in general, is as easy as it gets. 
The beach is obviously a bonus and as small as Playa is, our group is recognizable and accepted by the other locals.

What type of activities are there to do besides grind?
Fishing, snorkeling/SCUBA, various Mayan ruins, cenotes (ancient sinkholes you can snorkel and Scuba in), golf, paintball, beach volleyball, basketball

Snorkeling in Akumal Bay

What's the best club in town? 
Depends on the time of year, but the most popular are Mandala and Coco Maya.  There's Coco Bongo for the tourists, and Palazzo, Blue Parrot, Santanera & Reina Roja can all be good nights out.

Typical Day-in-the-Life

Approximately how many players call Playa home on average?

Counting the ones who are in Vegas right now and are coming back after the WSOP, I think there are 75 grinders here.  We've had another dozen or so who have come and gone.

How can poker players stay out of jail? (LOL!)
By staying out of trouble? It's pretty hard to go to jail here, as the police expect there to be drunken tourists walking the streets.  Don't get in fights, don't have a crazy girlfriend, & don't pee in the streets seem to be the best 3 pieces of advice re: staying out of jail.

How many Skype groups do you guys have down there, anyway? 
Too many.  Although at this point they've become necessary due to the sheer number of guys in the chat.  We used to have one all-encompassing group chat, but as our population exploded, we added an Activities Chat, a Food Chat, and a number of other specialized chats.

Any last words? 

Moving to Playa has be a very pleasant experience.  I really didn't know what to expect before coming, even though I was lucky enough to have a friend, Spencer Hudson, be the guinea pig and make the move first, so when I got down here I literally instantly was introduced to the poker community.  I've learned a lot not just about poker, but about people since I've been down here, and I'm glad I chose Playa as my poker destination as opposed to the other 6 places on my list. 

If you want to learn more about Playa del Carmen, check out this handy PokerNews guide here, and hit up Poker Refugees, of course, to snag a sweet beachfront grindhouse for yourself. Long-term studio rental prices can start at $400/month and high rollers can find oceanfront/ocean view condos for $2500-4000/month.