Disclaimer: This article provides tips based on personal experiences for online poker players from the United States who wish to move to a foreign country to play poker online for real money. It does not include professional advice. Please seek out professional assistance for all matters pertaining to legal, financial and tax implications related to living as an ex-patriot in a foreign country.
The mariachi band serenades a couple with tunes of cheatin’ lovers and broken hearts. The scent of crispy pork bits mixed with onion and cilantro fills the air. And, for the first time in years, you — a United States citizen — are able to open up a game at your favorite mainstream online poker site and compete for real money.
Although the first generation of ex-pat American online poker players landed in Tequila Land shortly after Black Friday, the sluggish advancement of legal online poker initiatives in the U.S. ensures that a steady stream of hopefuls will continue to migrate south in pursuit of the online poker dream.
As an American ex-pat who has lived in Mexico for nearly two decades, I am in a unique position to relay my experiences with those who may want to experiment with living in another country and playing online poker for a living. Following are some things you need to know.
Temporary Visa Or Permanent Residency?
If you’re seriously considering moving to Mexico to play online poker professionally, then the first choice you must make is whether to dip your toe into the water or dive straight into a new adventure.
By far, the option that gives U.S. poker players the most flexibility is visiting Mexico (or any other foreign country) through a temporary Visa. Grab a couple of travel bags — think Global Poker League San Francisco Rush Manager Faraz Jaka — fill out your temporary permit on the flight over, and play on your favorite poker site as soon as you land.
Not over committing to a major change in your life is essential for poker players who want to try out real money games in a different environment. With a Mexico Tourist Visa in hand, an American can spend anywhere from a few days to a few months playing everything from Spin & Gos to the Sunday Million.
Although a quick Google search may tell you otherwise, there are four nerve centers in the country of Mexico where Internet access and 24 hour service is to be had: Mexico City, Guadalajara, Cancun and Monterrey (close to the Texas border). Choosing one of these destinations will make your online poker life much easier, as combining professional online poker play with countryside trekking will inevitably result in inferior Internet connection capabilities.
If your dream remains alive after a short respite in Mexico, you can then contemplate whether a more permanent move is in order. Legally residing in Mexico as a U.S. citizen requires either an FM3 (visitor) or FM2 (resident) permit, which in turn requires legal assistance (or you can just start a family like I did).
Cost Of Living In Mexico
There is a lot of misinformation related to Mexico Cost of Living on the Internet. While it is true that basic needs such as housing, transportation and food in Mexico can be had for a fraction of the cost compared to the United States, it is amazingly easy to spend more money on these necessities than you would in the States. On top of that, goods such as electronics, vehicles, and just about all luxury items are more costly.
If your lifestyle includes a hefty dose of easy living, contemporary shelter and a diet of American style food, plan to spend at least as much as you would in the U.S. for these amenities. For those of us who can make do on local cuisine and modest accommodations, a dollar is likely to stretch much farther than it would in Anytown, USA.
Online Poker Earnings And Taxes
From what I understand, you are liable to your home country for income that is generated while living abroad (please consult a professional for adequate advice on this). Even though I stopped playing online poker professionally in late 2007, the work I do within the poker industry still involves yearly W2 forms, filing taxes and everything else that goes along with being a service provider based in a foreign country.
Soliciting the services of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) can be indispensable for anyone considering even a temporary move to Mexico to play real money online poker.
In my specific case, the translation and ESL teaching I do locally requires a separate permit along with monthly tax filing here in Mexico. Please keep in mind that you will need a special permit that allows you to have “actividades lucrativas” (lucrative activities) if you want to experiment with teaching classes or doing any other type of work that originates in Mexico.
Internet Connection Speeds
When it comes to general Internet connectivity in a foreign country, Mexico is no South Korea. The maximum speed allotment for a non-business client with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Mexico is 100 MBPS Download and 4 MBPS Upload. In other words, Mexico is not the ideal location for a live streaming online poker talent.
If live streaming is part of your overall business plan, then you will need to shell out a considerable amount of funds monthly for a premium plan that will rarely (if ever) reach the maximum advertised download and upload speeds.
If you are a United States citizen who is planning on moving to Mexico to play online poker for a living, feel free to contact me any time with questions. You can do this by leaving a comment below or via my social media accounts.
However, please do not contact me with questions related to legal, financial or tax planning — as I am not qualified to provide any advice on those topics.