Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Best Countries to Play Online Poker: Part 1, Developed Countries Edition

Really, what are the best places to play online poker from? 

Mobile Office - Photo: Kristin Wilson

So you want to play online poker - good call (no pun intended). Now what? 

Well, first, you need some money saved up. 

Then, you have to decide where to move. 

Online poker players, sports bettors and all sorts of “digital nomads” have been traipsing the globe since laptops became a thing. But - we all know that this question of where to live became much more important (for ‘Mericans at least) after a day we like to refer to as “Black Friday”. And we all know why.  

Moving on: But what if you aren’t American? Maybe you are from Europe or Bangladesh or South Africa. Maybe gaming legislation doesn’t affect you. Maybe you don’t have to move, maybe you just want to. And that’s okay. You're welcome here too. 

Here at Poker Refugees, we happen to help online poker players move around the world for a living, so we are pretty good at it. We know a thing or two about the pros and cons of where to live and why (especially from the perspective of an online gambler). Our founder, Kristin, has been living abroad for half of her life and has been to more than 35 different countries. We spend day in and day out helping hundreds of poker players migrate around the globe. We spend our free time researching countries or living in them. We are veritable experts on this topic. 

Now - "where to live" is a loaded question to answer because everyone is different and there is no one-size-fits all answer. But there are a few favorites that tend to work for most players at least once. 

We are going to split this list into 2 parts because you can’t really compare apples to oranges, right? Someone who fantasizes about living in the heart of London in a Kensington loft might not feel as strongly about, say, living in a Mexican fishing village on less than <$1k per month. So, we have: 

-Best developed countries for online poker (part I)
-Best developing countries for online poker (part II) - coming soon
-Bonus: Worst countries for online poker (part III) - coming soon 

(Note on methodology: These countries were chosen based on a super secret, non-scientific algorithm involving location, infrastructure, safety, cost of living, convenience, and most of all, our opinion.)

Best developed countries to play online poker from: 

Sydney Harbour Bridge - Photo: Kristin Wilson

5) Australia: If time zones aren’t an issue for you, come on down unda, mate! Australia is pretty rad and has many of the things an online poker player could be looking for: 
  • 6 month+ travel visas
  • Amazing weather
  • Diverse selection of cities/climates to choose from
  • Casinos and live poker events
  • Close proximity to other APPT events in Asia
  • Open banking infrastrucure
  • Pretty good internet (not the best but certainly manageable)
  • Amenities galore
  • World class restaurants
  • International flight hub
  • Surfing and water sports
  • Lovely Aussie people
  • English-speaking country
  • Cons: It's pretty expensive to live here, but that's because everyone wants to live here. Another bummer, it's kind of far from everywhere except New Zealand and a few South Pacific islands. The shortest direct flight to LAX is 15 hours or so.
Just another sunset in Australia - Photo: Kristin Wilson
Next up: 


Hello, Vancouver
4) Vancouver, Canada: Overall, Canada is marked with somewhat of a scarlet letter these days, which is: no Neteller or Skrill access (wah! ^insert crying emoticon face). Bummer, we know. There is also the issue of online gambling being a grey area and rumors of Amaya pulling Stars/FTP out of dear 'oh Canada land. So far, that hasn’t happened, but it would surely be devastating if it did. In the meantime, we can’t deny the wonders of living in Vancouver overall as a global destination: 
  • Extremely high standard of living
  • High internet speeds/reliable infrastructure
  • Amazing food options
  • Easy public transportation
  • Good international flight schedules
  • Casinos
  • Stanley Park, nature, hiking, boating
  • Whistler (enough said) 
  • Close proximity to the US 
  • Stay up to 180 days per year (most Western passport holders)
  • English speaking
  • Diverse population - you won't be the only expat around
  • It’s just awesome
  • Cons: High cost of living, limited deposit/withdrawal methods for non Canadians, forex fees and gloomy weather (most of the time)
Vancouver is ridiculously picturesque


3) Budapest, Hungary: Random, right? We bet you didn’t see this coming. Hungary is located in eastern Europe and it’s a delightful place to live because: 
  • Low cost of living compared to most of Western Europe
  • Wide selection of affordable rental properties
  • Decent infrastructure and internet speeds
  • Small city with a town-like feel
  • Great food
  • Beautiful women
  • Small but strong poker community
  • Part of the EU Schengen area
  • Central location to the rest of Europe (for when you win those EPT packages)
  • Relatively foreigner-friendly banking options
  • Cons: Regulation has been on the table in recent years and there have been some changes and questions on legality. So far, nothing much has changed from the players’ perspective but that can change at any time. Get it while it lasts. PS: Hungarian is a super difficult language to learn. 
Interview with a real player who moved to Budapest for online poker: 
  • Tyler Phillips: http://blog.pokerrefugees.com/2013/10/player-interview-tyler-phillips.html 



2) UK: Everyone knows this is a given since it’s actually one of the only countries (if not the only?) that explicitly doesn’t tax online or live gambling winnings. Players from near and far relocate to UK for this very reason. If you can afford the cost of living, it’s a great place to be. Some of the reasons for this are…
  • Gambling of all types is expressly legal, yay
  • Airports: London is within striking distance of quite a few international airports which means cheap flights and plenty of options to fit your schedule. Heathrow is one of the busiest hubs in the world. Get in or out whenever you want. 
  • 1st world living: Great Britain has long been one of the world’s superpowers. Whatever you want, you can find it here.
  • Internet: Not the best in the world but certainly good enough for online poker. Reasonably priced. 
  • Tourist Visas are available for up to 6 months for most western nations’ citizens, and it’s not part of the Schengen area (90-day limits).
  • Restaurants that give NYC a run for their money
  • Culture: Never get bored
  • It's relatively safe around these parts
  • EPT London, casinos
  • Multi-currency bank accounts
  • You can get a PokerStars debit card! <3
    Love at first sight
  • Isle of Man/PokerStars HQ are just up the road (hang a left at the Irish Sea) 
  • EU Citizens can stay as long as they want (aka permanently)
  • Cons: (1) It’s so expensive to live here that it could actually cancel out a significant amount of those tax savings (2) The weather is not known to be the best



Next up, our winner! 




1) Malta: Yes, Malta, the island nation that very few people (besides poker players) could probably find on a map. This Mediterranean gem is also a gambler’s paradise. Poker is not tax-free but the good news is that taxes can be low and online gaming is explicitly regulated and legal (halle-freakin-lujah). 


Where is Malta again?

So why is Malta the winner on our list? 
  • Online poker is legal
  • Internet is fast and cheap
  • Access to all forms of payment processing, e-wallets, depositing and withdrawing
  • Generally low cost of living compared to the rest of Europe 
  • Mild climate
  • They also speak English here (thank you British Empire?)
  • No car needed if you live in St Julians or Sliema
  • Sea views and beaches
  • Pubs on every corner
  • Good food and restaurant options
  • Portomaso Casino & EPT Malta
  • PokerStars has an office here (as do 200 other gambling companies)
  • Cons: It’s super small, there’s not too much to do outside of poker and partying (compared other EU countries), there are less international flights compared to the bigger airports in Europe, 90-day max Schengen visa for Americans, and despite open regulation, it’s ironically a huge pain to open a bank account
Video Interview with a real player who moved to Malta for online poker: 
  • Alextoon1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJNAO_8o8NM
  • Blog Interview with Dan Smallidge, Malta: http://blog.pokerrefugees.com/2013/07/poker-refugees-player-interview-dan.html 
St. Julians skyline - Kristin Wilson photo



Runner Up: Hong Kong/Macau - 
City of Lights & Dreams - Photo: Kristin Wilson

HK is not the cheapest place to live, but if you want to be in the Asia-Pacific region, play online, live in the lap of luxury and get a piece of those high stakes live cash games that Macau is known for, Hong Kong could be the place for you.

  
Welcome to the pit. Macau/o - Photo: Kristin Wilson



Did we miss anything? 

Are any of these your favorite/least favorite destinations? 

Do you disagree with us? 

Sound off in the comments below! 

Do you want to move to one of these destinations? Email info@pokerrefugees.com or visit http://www.pokerrefugees.com/contact