American poker players resorted to streaming across the Canadian border when changes in the law made some online gaming illegal.
The 2011 move hit professional poker players by stopping online gambling sites from paying out to winners if they are situated in the US. This means that they can play, but cannot collect their bounty if they are on US soil. Many sites immediately stopped them playing with “real” stakes.
The day the rules changed, known in poker-playing communities as “Black Friday”, the US government filed charges against the management of some of the world’s largest online poker sites. The allegations were of serious financial crimes, including money laundering and fraud.
The players that relocated were often young men
Those most affected initially were young men in their 20s who could relocate for what they considered their lucrative jobs. Companies were soon set up to help players get around the rules. One offered to organise a move to Canada for as little as $1,200. The country’s English-speaking culture and closeness to America easily made it a draw for those fleeing the new rules.
Other popular locations included Mexico , Central America and the Caribbean. Some years after that initial shock decision, there is still little hope of the rules being relaxed. This means many of these players remain overseas and wonder if they will ever be able to come home.
Members of this community are known to flock together, fending off the loneliness and social isolation of a career played out online. Some overseas hubs held 50 American poker hounds in a two-mile radius. Some have married and settled into local life. Their families are still supported by dollars won on online poker matches.
A wide range of people play online poker for their main income
The new arrivals to Canada and other warmer climes covered the full realm of those who make their daily living from playing cards. These are all the way from the “grinders” barely scraping by to those who have made millions. Many of the players that went to Canada resettled in Toronto or Vancouver to save their careers. Whistler was another popular location.
At the time, Canadian universities could not comment on whether American students were using education visas as a way to set-up a new life over the order. Ads on classified websites suggested people were coming for four to six months at a time to play. People looking for accommodation left ads stating that “an internet connection was essential.”
Staff from the companies that help these players flit overseas say multiple moves are now common. Their clientele will try out several different locations, all while financing their lifestyle with cash won online. In some ways, Black Friday has been positive for the community. It has certainly forced serious players to broaden their horizons.
Relocation companies for poker players are growing
The customer base for these companies is also reportedly growing as other countries also ban internet poker. Alongside the Americans that ran to looser jurisdictions now sit Poles, Israelis, Greeks, and Portuguese players.
Poker players will always be keen to gamble. Some of those that left the US for more lucrative climes feel like they won the jackpot. Others wonder if the wager was worth a life they left behind.