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Poker Mental Game & Planning

Guide to Playing Poker While Traveling or Abroad

10,740 Views on 15/3/16

So you want to take your poker game on the road? Learn how to be efficient while playing and either traveling or living in a new country abroad.

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When the US Department of Justice jumped into action on  April 15th 2011, a chain reaction began with the American section of the playing pool all of a sudden excluded from online poker, literally overnight.  What later became known as 'Black Friday' set in motion a mass exodus of poker players leaving their homeland to continue the grind in new pastures.

It wasn't just USA based players though. As word spread through the internet forums about how some guys were now living the dream, even those who could play poker undisturbed at home started to wonder about making the move themselves.

Whatever their preference, whether the sun drenched beaches of Thailand, or the trendy east European city of Budapest, one pattern was obvious. Players were moving to countries known for being a lot cheaper than where they had come from. Some of these players weren't even making enough to live on back in their homeland, but many couldn't resist the lure of professional poker in the sun.

I made the move to Thailand myself in 2011, after quitting my job the year before. Here I'm going to going over some points which you should bear in mind when leaving your home country to play poker full time.

Many of you will be saying how this is all common sense, but believe me, I've seen plenty of horror stories unfold  across Asia these last five years, more due to a lack of planning than anything else!

Travel Insurance

Never leave your country without at least some kind of minimal health insurance.

Those of us who have grown up in first world countries are probably a little prone to assuming that the rest of the world is just as safe. Particularly when travelling on the roads across most of Asia, the chance of being hurt compared to the USA or western Europe increases by a lot.

In Thailand, there is a group of motorbike taxis waiting by almost every street corner, and most of the time no crash helmet will be offered if you decide to use one. It's so easy to be blasé, but most of the time you will likely find that your insurance doesn't even cover you to be travelling on the back of a motorbike anyway.

Less than a month ago a young lady from the UK was seriously injured travelling this way and has saddled her family with £35,000 of debt due to not having any insurance for her trip. Do you really want the guilt of putting your family in that position?

A few years ago I met a young guy who had been knocked over in Bangkok, on a road with no pavements. He actually had insurance, but they refused to pay out as technically he was walking on a road.

It's so easy to be living the dream that quickly spirals into your worst nightmare. Keep a close watch on the situations you put yourself in.
Insurance for your belongings is a personal choice. You may want some protection for your grinding computer, but many will say if you can't easily afford a replacement then maybe you shouldn't be travelling just yet.

Poker Site Identity Verification

With so many choices of where to play your poker, people are chopping and changing more than ever before. Depending on where you live there are various hoops to jump through before your poker provider has satisfactorily confirmed who you are.

In most cases you will still be allowed to deposit and play, but when it comes to requesting a cash out, customer support will contact you explaining how they need a selection of various documents copying and sending in.

Okay, this isn't news, but would you be able to complete the process from the other side of the planet? I've seen more than one person fall foul of this. Being able to play without the need to withdraw funds isn't a luxury most poker players can afford. Make sure before you travel that the entire verification process is complete for every poker provider that you intend to play with.

Banking Abroad

How simple this is, depends on how much money you want to save, and how long you will be staying away from home for.

The easiest way to go about your business is to carry on withdrawing your winnings to your usual bank account, and then use your ATM card. Anybody will tell you though, that this is expensive. You can expect to lose between 5-10% of your money on poor exchange rates, plus charges at both ends for ATM usage.

Obviously this is far from ideal. It is far cheaper to open a bank account locally, and to then do international transfers for much larger amounts. But this may create other problems to think about. For a start, depending on your location of choice, you might not even be legally allowed to open a bank account as a tourist.

Some poker providers will insist that if you play away from home for a certain length of time, you must change your address to where you are currently located. Now you will find yourself unable to withdraw to your home bank account because the addresses don't match. Not an issue for everybody, but it will be a pain for some. It can be a bit of a nightmare getting yourself sorted.

Make sure to work out exactly where your cash flows will be directed, and do your research into local banking regulations. Knowing exactly where you stand before you move will save you some money, and also some heartache from problems you can't solve unless you return home.

I will add that an e-wallet such as Skrill can help with the movement of money when abroad, but just the same as with your poker accounts, make sure that you complete the identity verification process before you leave home. Also remember that when accessing e-wallets from certain countries, things might change. For example in Thailand, Skrill can not be used to deposit for the purpose of gambling.

Visa Issues

So you've finally decided you're going to up sticks and make the move. You've seen all the photos, and reviews of your destination. Have you bothered to check how long you can even stay there for?

Every country has it's own set of regulations dictating how long you can stick around as a foreigner. Usually, stays longer than a fortnight to a month require a visa. And of course, there is always a choice just to make things tricky.

Tourist visas are the usual option, but at some point you are going to find yourself refused when you apply for your next one. In many countries, such as Thailand, you can't even apply for a visa inside the country. This can be a sticking point for some people who wish to remain settled in their new home, and don't want to be forced to carry around half of their belongings to a neighbouring country, just to see if they will be granted another three month stay.

If you really don't like the sound of being unsettled every three or so months then maybe an education visa would be a better solution. They are normally more expensive, but at least you have the option of learning some of the local lingo, and staying longer before needing to leave.
For just about every country out there popular with tourists, there will be an expat forum online. Use the resources available to you to check and double check how the current visa laws are being enforced. If it's anything like Thailand, they could change every day!

Don't jump in feet first and fly to somewhere you fall in love with, only to find that you won't be able to stay there long term after all.

Final Thoughts

There's a lot to consider when leaving the comfort of home and I hope I've given you some idea of what to expect. There's more to travelling than booking your ticket and turning up at the airport.

The only other major point that springs to mind is general safety concerns. If you're not travelling alone it may be prudent to check out what people are saying. Not to be sexist, but a large part of the successful poker player demographic is young men in their early twenties. Some of these guys will be travelling with a young female companion, and common sense tells us that not every city in the world will be suitable. Simply put, some places see a lot more violent crime than others. Choose your new home carefully.

Finally, making sure that you're aware of any cultural sensitivities is always a good idea, particularly around religion. It can be easy to upset the locals with a simple misunderstanding that escalates quickly. Don't forget, you're not at home any more. You're a guest in somebody's country!

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Mark Patrickson

Mark Patrickson is a professional cash game player grinding stakes up to 100nl 6 Max NL Hold'em13 years experience of poker, across MTT SnG and cash, FL PL NL.Currently living in South East Asia and trying to make it back to mid-stakes befo ... Read More

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