15th April, also known as Black Friday changed the lives of many – this was the day when the FBI seized the domains of the biggest online poker rooms and one of the consequences is that Full Tilt Poker still remains closed. Perhaps those professional poker players were the most affected who made their living playing poker online. One day, they noticed that they can not log in to the sites, where they made their daily bread. Many of them felt that their country betrayed them and made them unemployed for no reason, so they had to leave the country to continue their chosen profession, or they had to choose another path.
Many top players in the world were affected and it was relatively easy for many of them to find another place to call their home base. Those who moved or set up a residency abroad and continued to play included the word’s perhaps most popular player Daniel Negreanu, high-stakes regular Phil Galfond, EPT-winner Kevin MacPhee, Gavin Hastings, Olivier “livb” Busquet, one of the best $5-$10 to $25-$50 no-limit hold’em cash games grinders around Andrew Brokos and one of the most creative online players Cole South. The most popular destination is Canada because of its closeness and the language.
In late July, WSOP champion Phil “OMGClayAiken” Galfond began his new life in Vancouver, Canada. He plays mainly high-stakes tables on PokerStars. Shortly after his relocation he tweeted he played happily and still loves the game.
Andrew “Foucault” Brokos also went to Canada where he strengthens team PokerStars Online. Brokos has been living nomadically in the U.S. for the 18 months prior to Black Friday, just travelling around the country playing online poker, so packing up and leaving the country was not too disruptive for him. Currently, he lives in the Canadian Rockies with his girlfriend.
Others, however, found it more difficult to find a place that they could call home and from which they could play poker. One of them is Dan “Jungelman12” Cates, who still has not found a new homeland. He was unable to enter Canada because he did not have a valid visa – to play poker as a living you need a working visa. The same in Europe so he has not yet found a European country that will accept him. Previously, he was considering Portugal, currently he lives in London, but he is still not certain that England will be the final destination. He applied for the Canadian visa in the meantime. Cates, who won $ 7.5 million between 2010 and 2011, wanted to relocate from Seattle to Vancouver.
Many others are also looking for a place from which they can play at the virtual green felt on a daily basis. The 26 years old WSOP bracelet winner Joe Ebanks from Ohio with total career earnings of almost $5,000,000 wants to continue his online poker career and will probably move to Canada, England or somewhere else in Europe where online poker is legal.
These players are not fleeing some kind of a despot country in order to protect their living, they are simply trying to get out of a country where at present they can no longer make their livelihood. Taking advantage of the situation, PocketFives Poker Forum created the Poker Refugees service. PocketFives founder, Cal Spears explained that he noticed that relocation and its challenges had become a hot topic on the forum. The cost of the Poker Refugees service is $1,000 per person. They will help with a range of services, including finding a place to live, making travel plans, visa acquisition, getting a local bank account and more.