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Ex-pro finds travel freedom from online poker set

Kristin Wilson: Image courtesy Poker Refugees



Surf Culture

Find a geographical anomaly where surfing & poker cross paths

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 20 January, 2016 - Kristin Wilson left the United States for Costa Rica to pursue (along with the surf) a livelihood of professional poker. A Florida native, she travelled the world as a professional surfer in the early 2000s, but never made the elite tour. Wanting to travel and live abroad, she landed in Central America. Wilson had lived in Costa Rica before, during her surfing days, and knew the culture and language.

She took a degree with her, from the University of Central Florida in International Business and an MBA with her in 2005. After her studies she found a hole in the market for someone, with her specific skills and knowledge of the country to help poker players relocate. Wilson founded a company called Poker Refugees.

Poker players from the United States had been forced out because of the legality of online poker in their country. Their only option to play was to leave. Costa Rica has always been popular with Americans specifically, and swiftly became a magnet for online players. Online Poker players can make large sums of money, and people whose main source of income was poker needed a legal place to relocate to. 

Kristin provides complete logistics in the transition process. By definition, unlike the athletic and healthy surfer, poker players are lazy. They sit at a desk well into the night and they rarely enter that place we love – outdoors. 

Lazy people with a lot of money, Kristin decided to take advantage and help those players who do not have the discipline to plan a move, but the money to pay for it. 

She helps people to retire, relocate and start businesses in foreign countries from her base in Costa Rica. Though mainly based in the area she has relocated people as far as Europe, with Malta being particularly popular. 

She deals with everything outside of the poker; accommodation, finances, logistics. This allows these night walkers to simply get on a plane and start dealing hands upon arrival. 

Her get go attitude and early mornings hitting the sets helped her in assisting the ‘Pokerites’. She has even set up 3 real estate businesses for clients since she began. Her success has not been without consequences however, and as poker took over her life, her board was gathering dust. Dealing with nocturnal people does not lend itself to surfing. 

Why Are They Leaving Their Homeland?

Despite it being the land of the free, a group of people found out the true reality of America, when their beloved poker was removed from the internet. Dubbed “Black Friday,” players in Nevada on April 15th, 2011, found sites suddenly shutting and when the biggest of them all, ‘Pokerstars’ disappeared, they knew that it was over. Wilson seized her opportunity and has helped over 500 people relocate to poker friendly lands since. 

The situation has been changing recently in America and in 2013 three states made it legal for online poker to take place, albeit with some rules. Players have to be over 21 and in a state where the online poker site is hosted from. New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada, the three states in question, will most likely be followed by others, and a loosening of regulation. 

The online poker industry is simply too valuable, a prediction of an $2.2 billion valuation, means that it cannot stay away from capitalism’s home of America for too much longer. 

Wilson doesn’t seem to mind that her business has an expiration date however, she has stated that when the time comes she will move on, and hopefully for all of us at surfer’s village, she will take her hard earned cash, pick up her surfboard, and hit the waves again.  

Kristin Wilson, Poker, Poker Refuge, Gambling, Costa Rica, Travel, Blogs, Central America
Joshua Mason

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