Poker Refugees in Costa Rica

July 30, 2012

The story of former pro surfer Kristin Wilson, who is originally from Florida but now resides in Costa Rica, has been circulating around the online poker community lately. This entrepreneur has created a somewhat ingenious business that assists poker pros with relocating to Costa Rica, a place where they can play online poker legally and continue making a living post-Black Friday. Wilson’s relocation service, which is located in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, is called Poker Refugees, and thus the poker players that use her service are also referred to as poker refugees, and there’s about 150 US poker players who now reside in Costa Rica for the sole reason of playing online poker.

Other industries that are illegal in the US are also deemed acceptable in Costa Rica, for instance, stem-cell treatments. Therefore, the small Central American nation has become a key destination for medical tourism. Costa Rica has found a niche as a country that can when the US says cannot.

Most of the poker refugees are in their 20s, so relocating isn’t too much of a hindrance, though many admit that they are unhappy about being forced to leave their homes in order to make a living in the industry they have chosen. Some who have children have even left their families behind and liken their lives to that of a corporate executive who has to travel for business, home on the weekends and holidays. Some on the other hand enjoy the oceanfront office with a beautiful view of the Pacific.

Wilson’s relocation service ensures that the players who relocate to Costa Rica have accommodations to ensure they don’t fall privy to the somewhat less-developed Costa Rica with a backup generator in case the power goes out and a back up Internet in case one loses connection. She says, “These guys play anywhere from four to 24 games at one time,” so if they lose signal or power, they could lose thousands of dollars very quickly.

Hopefully with all the advancements that are being made within the US on both intrastate and even federal levels, these poker refugees will be able to move home or stay in Costa Rica by choice, not as their only option to make a living playing online poker.


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