The Best Guide For Finding and Living in Poker Houses
Participating in poker houses are some of the best parts about being a poker professional. What other jobs allow you to travel the world, hanging with your friends, and playing a game that you love for a living? Poker houses are something that every poker professional should consider at least once in their career, both for improving at poker as well as life and relationships growth. This article is about finding a poker house and some of the planning details associated with it.
There are a few prerequisites that you should have before you consider living in a poker house. Like any other situation, there are exceptions to the rule, but these are all necessary before you live in a poker house.
Be a Professional Poker Player– This one should be obvious. Poker houses are most useful for professional poker players who are looking to learn and study with like minded players. Playing and studying full time (in addition to having flexibility with your schedule) is essential in any poker house setting.
Be Reputable– While you do not have to have the reputation of Phil Galfond in order to have trust in the poker community, it is important that you at least have a few poker friends that can vouch for your honesty and trustworthiness. This goes a long way when you are traveling and in the presence of poker accounts with thousands of dollars in them.
Have Savings and Be a Winner– As a professional poker player, you should have enough savings for a few months living expenses. This is even more true when you are traveling and in a poker house. Furthermore, you should be winning in the games that you currently play and aspire to move up in stakes.
While poker houses are less popular than they were 5 years ago, there are still thriving poker communities and dozens of poker players in select cities and areas.
Why a Poker House?
Poker houses and living with other poker players is a very fun and potentially life changing experience. Being with close poker friends who share similar values and understand the poker lifestyle can provide an immense sense of community for yourself. Traveling the world and living in exotic locations and learning poker strategy is an opportunity that you may not have with any other profession at any other time in your life. Here are a few obvious benefits:
Traveling- Seeing new cultures and ways of life is very rewarding and can be an exciting adventure. It is something that is hard to explain unless you have done it yourself.
Study Partners- People always say that the best way to learn a new language is full immersion and living in an environment where you are forced to speak the language you want to learn all the time. The same can be said for poker learning- when you are with other poker players and you have similar interests and dedication, it is very easy to learn and talk poker all day long. In old poker houses, we did routine sweat sessions, hand history review, and poker theory discussions all day long. There was no better environment for learning than that one and hearing different perspectives from very good players accelerated my game greatly.
Friends- Professional poker is a very lonely profession and it can be hard to find friends that can understand the ups and downs of professional poker. Poker houses are very good for making connections and friendships that can last a lifetime. Living with other poker players will allow you to make a lasting friendship- you will eat together, study poker together, socialize together, and more. Furthermore, you will truly have companions who can relate to downswings and run hot situations and gambling for a living.
Community/Connections- You will truly get to know someone and trust them in financial situations when you live together (you will gamble together, you’ll split and pay for bills, and grow to trust them). You will be able to see how trustworthy and hard working your companions are, their skills, work ethic, and how they deal with stress. This knowledge can help you in the future with potential future business deals and opportunities. The poker community is a fairly small community relatively and it is important to have other known guys vouch for you in trades or business deals.
myself and tufat and Rubert at the PCA 2008
Building Your Poker House
Okay, so you want to live in a poker house. What is the next step?
The next step is finding some fits for your poker house. Some of the most important things that you should look for in a future roommate is:
1) Trustworthiness – You want your roommate to be an honorable and professional member of the poker community, with a good reputation and someone who will not steal money. Not only do you want this person to make responsible financial decisions, but you also want to trust them implicitly. Your roommates will be in close proximity of poker and bank accounts as well.
2) Likeable qualities and common interests- Like any roommate, you are *probably* going to be friends with the people that you live with and you should seek desirable qualities from these people. You should want your roommate to be someone that you can get along with and someone that has common interests other than just poker.
3) Good poker player-This is not an essential part of a roommate, but rooming with poker players that play the same game as you and is of equal skill can be highly beneficial.
4) Full time player- Rooming with full time players will allow you to relate and understand the full time poker lifestyle. It is often motivating to play with other full time players and study and work as hard as they do. Generally, people put in more hands and hours as well.
What is the ideal number for a poker house? That answer varies. Are you organizing a house of players that are already familiar with each other? Are these poker players strangers and not known in the community? It is important to try to have a solid, cohesive group for a poker house. Oftentimes, the group dynamic can change heavily with certain personality types. Having at least one good poker friend in the house is a smart move and be cautious when deciding who and how many people you decide to room with.
The ideal number for a poker house ranges from 2 people to 7 people, with 4 probably being the ideal number. Relationships often change when going from a friend-to-roommate transition, so make sure you are prepared for this change in dynamic.
me and one of my first poker buddies John in Vegas
There are poker houses all across the world, with the most popular ones residing in Western Europe, Southeast Asia, and North America (Las Vegas and Canada). There are many considerations for where you should have a poker house. Some of these considerations are:
-Cost of living (Asia, Eastern Europe, or South America)
-Poker regulation (Western Europe or Canada)
-Amenities and quality of life (Western Europe and North America)
-Live poker (Macau or North America)
The most popular poker communities reside in Thailand, Southeast Asia and North America. Be sure to do adequate research for your first poker house. I would recommend Thailand for its cheap costs, large poker community, availability for international poker sites, and extracurricular activities.
Here is a list of viable places to have a poker house (in no order). These places all have good online poker options, high quality of life in terms of modern conveniences, large poker communities, and good extracurricular opportunities.
- Las Vegas, Nevada (USA)
- Vancouver, BC (Canada)
- San Diego, CA (USA)
- Los Angeles, CA (USA)
- Montreal, Canada
- Toronto, Canda
Central and South America
- Tijuana and Rosarito (Mexico)
- Playa Del Carmen (Mexico)
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Rio De Janiero, Brazil
- Medellin (Colombia)
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam
- Manila, Philippines
- Cebu, Philippines
- Taipei, Taiwan
- Hong Kong, Hong Kong
- Bali, Indonesia
- Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Myself and Clayton, Roger Mainfield, Fionnmac, Asa, JP OSU, Unknown Soldier, and a few others
All of the above options are excellent candidates for poker houses for a variety of reasons. The overall poker community is strongest in Southeast Asia and you will have no problem finding friends there.
It is generally better to commit to a less amount of time for poker houses. Many poker players like to shift around and move frequently. When exploring a new area, it is advisable that you stay 1-2 weeks in an area and then decide if you want to stay at that location for a longer duration.
After you participate in the poker house, your roommates will often branch out and move around. Some of them will travel together, others will go back home, and so on. Be sure to do adequate research on the place that you are going to stay at. Different countries have different visa laws and places like Thailand allow you to stay for 1 month before you have to go on a VISA run (google and research this and the process). Other countries, like Brazil, require a tourist visa that you have to pay for before entering the country (as a U.S. citizen).
Events are good times to plan around. The World Series of Poker lasts a little more than a month (early June-early July) and events such as these are great times to plan poker houses.
Process for Housing
Finding and renting a poker house in a foreign country can be very sketchy and difficult. Many landlords in other countries take advantage of Western professionals and scams are prevalent. Many countries use an agent system, where you can contact an agent that will help you set up housing. Be careful and do as much research as you can. Check VISA policies and also traveling information for your country.
1) Check forums and ask some questions about housing in different threads (2+2 is good for this).
2) Check airbnb/VRBO/craigslist/other housing options online.
3) Talk to realtor/landlord/agent about the house and price via email/phone. If you have help and have friends/connections in the area, this can be a big help.
4) Go to the city and check out the housing. Be on high alert and make sure that everything seems kosher and normal. If you suspect any scams, I highly recommend you abandon your deal and do temporary housing somewhere in the city. Again, doing your research should help in this regard.
Check the resources section of this article on where you should find some help in housing.
Myself and GazzyB123, bbissick, Jae, and another guy
My first true poker house was in 2008, where I stayed in a Vegas poker house for 6 weeks in the summer. We played poker all day and all night long, grinding both tons of hands online and live. I had the opportunity to learn from players that were much better than me and also forged friendships that would last 10 years later to this day.
After that, I stayed in Vegas houses for the next several summers, generally with the same core group of guys. We all got much better and had a great time in our down time. I know of several other groups who meet in Vegas each year for the WSOP and also have houses in Bangkok and Playa Del Carmen.
While poker houses are less prevalent than they were 10 years ago, they still exist today. Poker houses are being replaced by cryptocurrency houses, where several traders will get together in more affordable countries.
Notes and Tidbits:
These are some notes for you to read before you go.
-Make sure that you have health insurance when traveling. You can get international health insurance plans or your current policy may have international benefits.
-Research SIM cards and how you can use your phone in international situations. This is greatly helpful when traveling in a new country.
-While traveling, try to take advantage of bank or e-wallet opportunities. Open a skrill account if you are not in the U.S.A. or Canada. If the country you are in has lax bank policies, open a bank account and use it when traveling abroad. Having more options will always help.
-Even if you know all of your poker house mates, be on guard 24/7. Do not leave your computer unlocked, do not have any available passwords, and do not leave money laying around idly.
-Take advantage of your poker roommates as much as you can. Learn poker from them, buy and sell action, and make connections.
-Take in as much culture as you can when in a foreign country! Eat the food, learn the language, and enjoy the freedom that online poker gives you.
Craigslist Toronto: https://toronto.craigslist.ca/
Canada Craigslist: https://www.kijiji.ca/
Poker Refugees: http://www.pokerrefugees.com/
U.S. Travel VISA information: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel.html
Travel Section on 2+2, a place to meet others and ask questions: https://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/92/travel/
Las Vegas Lifestyle: https://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/108/las-vegas-lifestyle/
Top photo credit: Felipe Valduga/ Flickr