Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Which Country Should You Move to for Online Poker?

"Where should I move for online poker?" Inquiring minds want to know, and chances are you are one of them. Where to move for online poker is probably the question we receive the most here at Poker Refugees. When you have questions, we have answers, so let's get to it!

Where to go for online poker? There are 2 main elements to answering this question:

1) The various online poker destinations available (all have their pros and cons)

2) You! - Who you are and what you want

Since we've already covered some of the possible destinations in detail, which you can read about here: The Best Countries to Play Online Poker From (developed countries), Best developing countries to play from (3rd world places) and here: The Worst Countries to Play Online Poker From - let's focus on #2, that being you.

Here are the main things to evaluate when deciding where to move or travel to:

  • Your "why" & Goals: When deciding to take action and do anything in life, whether it's trying to lose weight, start exercising, floss daily or yes - become a poker refugee - you need to establish why you are doing it. If your goal is to lose weight - is it to avert a health crisis, feel better or get more hot dates? If your goal is to travel abroad for online poker, is your why to play on PokerStars because you miss international sites? Make heaps of money? See the world? Have fun? Go on sabbatical? Only you can answer this question. Establish why you want to go, then we can move to the next step. Clarifying your why is the best way to stay motivated and achieve your goal of moving abroad - or any goal, for that matter. As our boy Frederick Nietzsche once said, 'He who has a why can endure any how.' There you have it. Moving on...
  • Budget: How much money you have saved up and your expected monthly cost of living can quickly narrow down your options. If budget is not a factor, then the world is your oyster and you can comfortably live in lofty places like Amsterdam, London, Toronto, Vancouver or Hong Kong. If you're on the shoestring grind, then developing countries like Mexico, Ecuador or some of the small border towns in Canada might be your best (or only) options. 
  • Timeline: Related to budgeting, the the time of year you move and the length of time you stay directly affect the cost-of-living in a given destination. Long term rentals are significantly cheaper than short term rentals. Living somewhere in the off season can be 50% less than it is in high season. Going to Canada in the summer can cost twice as much as going in the winter. Conversely, going to Central America or the Caribbean in the winter can cost double or triple what it costs in the off season. If you are looking to save money, a trick to this is just thinking about what a snowbird might do, then do the opposite. 
  • Timeframe: On a similar note, how long you want to stay abroad for is restricted by visa regulations. You can stay in most countries for either 30, 90 or 180 days. Some countries allow you to renew your passport stamp by leaving and coming back in, while others have limits per 180 days or per calendar year. Read: You may have to stay out for 90 or 180 days before coming back in. If you are American and planning to move permanently offshore, you may want to discard most countries in the Caribbean (which limit you to 30 days per entry) or the EU Schengen zone (which limit you to 90 days per 180 days). Alternatively, if you are already an EU citizen, you can move pretty freely within the EU. 
If you are from the Middle East, Russia, Latin America, Indonesia or another area which typically requires a visa in addition to a passport in order to enter, then you may be further affected by restrictions. For example, US citizens can enter Costa Rica for 90 days then re-enter the next day, while Russian citizens can enter for only 30 days then re-apply for another visa. 
  • Timezone: What types of games do you play - tournaments or cash? When it comes to online poker, timezones matter, especially if you are grinding MTTs. Tournament players might want to stay between North America and Europe while avoiding Thailand and Australasia in general (unless you are okay with being nocturnal). 
  • Climate: Are you looking to post up on a tropical beach or at a ski resort? Do you want to live in a temperate climate year-round? What time of year will you be moving and for how long? Which hemisphere will you be going to? All of these are good questions to ask yourself before choosing a destination. If you want to avoid winter, then Europe in September is a bad idea. If the idea of sweating it out on a beach with a $500/month A/C bill is not your cup of tea, then maybe a cold, rainy or snowy destination is perfectly fine with you. Likewise, if you plan on spending most of your time indoors grinding away with UberEATS or Postmates hooking it up 24/7, then maybe climate isn't a factor at all. 
  • Lifestyle: This part is the most fun! It was your personal decision to make this move, so you get to design your new life! Do you want to be around other people and socialize or is your goal to hibernate at home and play 10-15 hours of poker a day? Do you want to be able to walk out your front door and access amenities, nightlife and a pick-up game of volleyball or are you driving across the border alone simply to focus on your game without any distractions? Are you looking to make friends and meet a bunch of girls? Do you prefer peace/quiet/nature or bustling city life? What type of work/life balance do you envision for yourself? What level of adventure (or security)? There's a big difference between living in a poker micro hub like Playa del Carmen, a big city in the western world or a small border town. Think about what you want your day to be like when you wake up, then we can help you design the rest in a place that best fits your ideal expectations. 
Poker Players hanging out on a beach in Mexico
  • Culture & Language: Ideally, when you move abroad, it should be to a place where you will feel comfortable long-term, and that means integrating with the local community. If English is your first language, it's helpful to think of your comfort level living somewhere where everyone speaks Spanish, for instance. Then there are other countries like the Netherlands where most locals speak English in addition to Dutch. If you're American and trying to avoid culture shock at all costs, then Canada could be a good option. If you're already set up as a European at home but just want a change in lifestyle, you may be seeking out a new cultural experience as the main reason for your move. Whatever your situation, take a moment to consider how far out of your comfort zone you want to go. The same thing goes for food and other aspects of local culture. Whether it's your first time applying for a passport or you're filling up your second one, this is always something to think about. 
Are fish tacos and cerveza part of your plan?
  • Other considerations: Maybe there are some other specific reasons for your move such as taxes, regulations, family or a partner. Make a list of any other things prompting this move to weigh in addition to the above list. 
Email Poker Refugees ^

Have you asked yourself all these questions and now ready to make the move? Contact Poker Refugees for help with all the details and logistics. We got this!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Major Changes to Skrill & Neteller

There have been a lot of changes to Paysafe brands Skrill and Neteller in recent months - none of them particularly good news for professional online poker players and sports bettors :(

What are the changes? A summary -

September 2016: Increased Fees all around

On both Skrill and Neteller the player-to-player (p2p) fees for non-VIP clients increased from 1% to 1.9% capped at $10 per transfer. In previous years (pre-Neteller acquisition of Skrill), p2p transfers were free. VIP fees vary by level

Non-VIP forex fees went from 2.99% to 3.99%. VIP fees vary by your level of qualification.

Sending money between Skrill and Neteller went from 1.9% to 3% (ouch).

What to do?

November 2016: Net+ and Skrill Pre-Paid Mastercards discontinued for everywhere except Europe

This one really hurts. For years, Poker Refugees players have gotten used to being able to use a pre-paid debit card linked to their e-wallet account to make purchases or withdraw money virtually anywhere in the world. That perk came to a screeching halt in November, when Paysafe announced that they were revoking pre-paid cards for all non-SEPA countries. A legal compliance decision, no doubt.

Their statement: "We regret to inform you that as of November 25, 2016, we will no longer offer the Skrill Prepaid MasterCard® in your country,” the letter stated. “You will not be able to use your card but your Skrill Account remains fully functional and your balance is unaffected. You can withdraw funds from your Skrill Account to your bank account or send money to any other Skrill user or online business accepting Skrill."

Are you affected? Over 100 countries were affected. Here is a list of countries where residents retain use of their card (if your country is not listed, you are unfortunately out of luck):

SEPA consists of 34 countries at the moment, with 28 being EU member states. The full list includes:

Czech Republic
San Marino

United Kingdom

If your address is registered pretty much anywhere else in the world (Australia, Costa Rica, Mexico, etc), your card has been revoked and will no longer work.

What to do? 

  • Contact Poker Refugees to relocate again and update your address to an EU country. We can also provide you with a list of alternative ways to access your money (ewallet alternatives, wire transfers, etc). 

November 2016: Wire transfers in USD no más

Say it ain't so! To top off more bad news in 2016, Paysafe abruptly announced that they would no longer be processing wire withdrawals in USD! <insert crying emoji here>

What does this mean for you? You can't withdraw from Skrill to your bank account in USD anymore. It is more expensive as well, with forex fees involved. This was always the case with Neteller (since at least 2007), but now that Neteller owns Skrill, it's the same for both brands.

What to do?

  • Deposit as much as possible to hit VIP levels and lower your fee base. 
  • Brace yourself for the extra processing fees 
  • Contact Poker Refugees for possible alternatives (vary by the sites you play on and deposit/withdrawal options). 
  • Hope things get better in 2017
  • Continue progressing through the various stages of grief while getting used to the new normal