Country Selection: How Poker Refugees Helps US Players Find New Homes Country Selection: How Poker Refugees Helps US Players Find New Homes

US poker players are looking for a new country to call home

One of the major consequences of Black Friday was the anger that brewed among the members of the online poker community. Some felt betrayed by their own country; others simply frustrated at no longer being employed.

Many might choose a different career path, but poker players are not known for following conventional wisdom. As a result, we have experienced an exodus of American citizens – including some of the most respected names in the poker world – willing to pack their bags and move to other countries where one can play poker online unrestricted.

Anticipating your opponent’s move on subsequent streets is an essential skill in poker. Anticipating the migration of US poker players after Black Friday is proving to be a wise business decision for Poker Refugees, a joint venture between and Real Estate specialist Kristin Wilson.

Kristen Wilson of Poker Refugees

Refugees aims to provide a complete relocation service, specifically tailored to the unique needs of the poker player. Though most special requests can be accommodated, the service is primarily offered in three countries: Canada, Costa Rica and Panama. These countries are considered to be the most popular destinations for American Poker players “for security and lifestyle reasons,” says Wilson.

“They’re American-friendly countries, that you can play poker in legally,” she tells us. “But, we have also been able to help people going to Japan and if people want to go to Chile, Argentina, or Thailand – I can help.”

The service costs $1k per person and includes a pre-relocation consultation, advice on travel arrangements and real estate services.

Wilson firmly asserts that the service is rather unique and there is no other relocation service that caters specifically to poker players. The needs of poker players are very different from than those of corporate employees and other individuals looking to relocate. Assistance is also provided in obtaining approval from poker sites to re-activate their accounts; Wilson has found that the main interest of these players is to be up and running on a legitimate poker site as soon as possible.

“The most important thing that we have been able to do is reduce the amount of time that it takes people to get set up.” Anticipating their clients’ needs, Wilson and her team aim to get clients settled in to their new home within a day or two of their arrival in the country – and back online playing poker as soon as possible.

With PokerStars being the predominant poker site of choice among those looking to relocate, Wilson has become an expert at compiling the documents needed for players to obtain relocation approval from PokerStars. “Literally they can have all their documents into PokerStars within 24-48 hours of getting here. I am able to anticipate everything that the clients need and I do a lot of the work before they even get here.”

Obtaining the correct documentation is a major hurdle when looking to relocate.

The relocation approval process for PokerStars is not to be taken lightly. “I know what is acceptable, what is not, and how to submit all the documents to prevent things from getting rejected,” Wilson says. Documents have been sent back because they were the wrong file type, incomplete or did not meet size requirements. “Every time you send stuff and it is rejected, it takes another day to get approved.”

Opening a bank account is one of the biggest hurdles that poker players face when relocating. Panama and Costa Rica experience a considerable amount of money laundering and drug trafficking; poker players with their frequent and sizable transactions tend to attract a lot of scrutiny. Detailed documentation is required to prove the source of funds is legitimate. Since the Poker Refugees team is well aware of these requirements, Wilson says they can handle these issues far better than any other relocation service.

Additional documentation required by PokerStars – like utility bills in your name – may be an afterthought to some, but obtaining one in the player’s name can be a challenge. In some countries, utility bills are only addressed to the property owners. Working with PokerStars, Wilson is able to assist players in obtaining suitable substitution documentation to satisfy PokerStars.

Kristen Wilson surveys new locations

Poker Refugees also has a network of professional partners including immigration attorneys and tax professionals that are familiar with the unique issues poker players encounter. These services can prove invaluable to poker players that need to adhere to the laws of a new country.

While the expected value of this service will vary, for most professional poker players looking to leave the US to continue pursuing their profession, the convenience provided by the service far outweighs the cost. Even if it only saves you one week of downtime, a $50k/year grinder will be about break even financially. Add in the peace of mind for knowing everything is taken care of and the +EV decision becomes clear.

For more information on the services offered by Poker Refugees or to set up a consultation, see