Ever since the Black Friday poker scandal US poker players have been legally unable to make real-money bets on online poker sites. But in Canada, online poker is legal and professional poker players who make a living off of the games they play have been migrating north of the border to keep their lifestyle alive. Players can make this transition using the Poker Refugees website, which for a $1,200 fee helps gamers relocate into Canada to keep playing their favourite game.
The Poker Refugees website was established after the US Justice Department banned any method of online gambling in the aftermath of the Black Friday scandal. Efforts to introduce legislation that would validate online poker sites as legal have proven unsuccessful, providing booming business for the Poker Refugees site. For many gamers online poker is a lifestyle, a means to make a living – gamers are willing to pick up and leave their homes if it means they can continue honing their skills.
Julie Wilson runs the Poker Refugees website, and says most players grudgingly choose to relocate after the US government removed the means for gamers to keep their careers going. She says Canada is by far the most popular relocation destination.
“The main reasons are because it’s English-speaking and its proximity to the U.S. It’s less of a culture shock for players to cross the border into Canada than into Mexico, Central America or the Caribbean.”
Wilson says her clients tend to be young men with superb math skills, who often apply for student visas to stay in Canada. As a result Windsor is a very popular relocation destination both due to the university and its proximity to the US border – Wilson says the major urban centres of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver are also popular destinations.
Skilled poker players can earn thousands of dollars a month from their winnings, and Wilson says this justifies their decisions to relocate.
“They’re making at least what they could in a normal job and work the hours they want.”