Best Places to Play Online Poker from: Part 2, Developing Countries Edition

Welcome back! In our last installment, you learned about our top picks for the best countries in the developed world to play online poker from. Our top 5 were: Australia, Vancouver, Canada, UK & Malta (with Hong Kong/Macau as a runner up to this list). 
Today, hold onto your hoodies as we delve into the jungles, the tropics and the 3rd world with our list of: 
The Best Developing Countries to Play Online Poker from: 
Medellín: City of Spring – Photo: Kristin Wilson
5) Colombia: We’re going to start off with this trendy online poker destination (Medellín) because Colombia overall is pretty cool. While you could live in the capital of Bogotá or tourism hotspot Cartagena, most poker players are posting up in Medellín. Some of the reasons why are: 
Medellín Metro – Photo: Kristin Wilson
  • It’s really not that dangerous: Medellín especially has shed its former kidnapping/drug war image. It’s quite mellow these days and violence is much more isolated than in the past. 
  • Medellín is known as the city of eternal springtime. Read: the weather is good
  • It’s a pretty small yet urban city with good public transportation, including an underground metro and sky cable cars 
  • Cost of living and rent are both low
  • Arguably some of the most beautiful women in the world are from Medellín
  • Arepas are delicious
  • There’s a strong party scene
  • Cons: It’s pretty impossible to open a bank account, it’s a bit isolated compared to other Latin American destinations and you may want (ahem, need) to learn to speak Spanish
Line up of shots in El Poblado District of Medellín – Photo: Kristin Wilson
4) Panama: A good place to go if you already have a bank account in another country. Why play online poker from Panama
Msaucepoker doing his thing – Photo: Kristin Wilson
Miami Living in Panama – Photo: Kristin W.
  • Low cost of living pretty much anywhere in the country 
  • New (and dirt cheap) metro system
  • International and domestic airports throughout the country
  • Caribbean and Pacific coasts: take your pick
  • Decent infrastructure thanks to the Americans and the Canal Zone
  • Low price on electronics thanks to the Americans and the Canal Zone (imports)
  • Diverse climates: live in Panama City (urban living), Coronado (beach), Bocas del Toro (island), or Boquete (coffee plantations, mountains, volcanos and valleys)
  • Fast track to residency program for citizens of Panama-friendly countries (most western nations)
  • Panama City has everything you could ever need/want – it’s a metropolis
  • 6-month renewable travel visa
  • Access to Skrill & Neteller
  • Dollarized economy
  • People speak a fair amount of English
  • Cons: Limited selection of Internet Service Providers (sigh), banking system on lock down, limited back up internet options and it’s pretty hot everywhere except Boquete (Can you take the heat?)
Avenida Balboa/Cinta Costera Panama – Photo: Kristin Wilson

Check out this interview with a real players who moved to Panama for online poker: 

  • Adam Ross: 

#3: ¡México!

Mexican border – Photo: Kristin Wilson
3) Mexico: You can really live almost anywhere in Mexico (sans any drug war capitals perhaps), but most poker players tend to congregate in Rosarito or Playa del Carmen, with Cabo a distant 3rd place. Rosarito/Tijuana makes sense because it’s right over the border from California, but there’s not too much more to offer. It’s a great place to go if you want to eat, sleep, play poker and stare at the ocean from behind your monitor. 
Mexico, real life Corona commercial – Photo: Kristin Wilson
On the other hand, everyone loves Playa del Carmen – it’s hard not to. Here are the pros and cons to playing online poker in Mexico in general & Playa specifically: 
  • It’s huge: pick where you want to live
  • Close to the US/short flights from most of the country
  • Access to Skrill & Neteller
    • Cancun is the biggest airport in Latin America – many direct flights from Europe
    • Tropical weather and white sand beaches
    • Significant spring break style party scene 
      Beach party – yay! Poker players in Playa
    • It’s convenient; no car needed: You can walk from one end of town to the other in about 30 min or less
    • Everything seems to be open 24/7
    • Plethora of food options
    • At least 100 poker players living here at any given time: instant group of poker friends
    • Casinos in Cancun, live sports betting at local bars
    • The cost of living is low if you have a low standard of living
    • There are delivery services for online poker players (food and pretty much anything else)
    • Many local establishments have employees who speak English
      Rosarito, Baja views – Photo: Kristin Wilson
  • Cons: it gets ridiculously hot and/or rainy at times, the rental rates are completely inflated (especially in high season) and let’s face it: the internet is pretty bad. You will be maxing out at speeds of 5-10MB, back up internet (cell network) gets easily saturated, especially during music festivals, and there is always someone on Skype or 2+2 complaining/asking anyone else is having internet problems (on a daily basis). Did we mention most bank accounts and poker transactions must be done in Pesos? 
  • Possible future ‘con’: Online gaming legislation is on the table and it doesn’t look pretty. Time will tell if this has an effect on online poker pros. 
Check out these interviews with real players who moved to Mexico for online poker: 

  • Shane Daniels, Playa:
  • Elena Stover, Playa:
  • Gus Voelzel, Playa:
  • Katie Stone, Rosarito:
  • Shaniac, Rosarito:
Getting close to the #1 spot!

#2 on our list is Thailand: 

Feed an elephant in Chiang Mai, Thailand
2) Thailand: This is a major exception to the rule because… Online poker isn’t actually legal in Thailand (and e-wallets are restricted), but while the sites themselves are still accessible, it’s a great place to be for an online poker player, for the time being
Tropical Thailand – Photo: Kristin Wilson
  • It’s cheap
  • It’s really cheap
  • Thai food is from there (need we say more?)
  • Surprisingly fast internet
  • Full moon parties
  • Diversity: City, beaches, mountains, islands – it’s all here (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and Phuket just to name a few destinations)
  • Huge online poker community: there is always a room in a poker house somewhere
  • Cheap international flights in and out of multiple airports
  • Cons: Online poker is technically illegal, drugs are super illegal (especially weed), it’s hard to get a long term travel visa, there is a dark side to Thailand (you can google that), tsunamis, don’t drink the water
Kristin works from the W Bangkok
Drumroll please….
Our winner is: Costa Rica!
Green Costa Rica – Photo: Kristin Wilson
1) Costa Rica: Oh the irony… While AP/UB and others were being ejected from Costa Rica in the Black Friday fallout (with the help of the OIJ and DOJ), poker players themselves were setting their sights on the land of pura vida. And for good reasons. So good in fact, that we can’t think of many reasons why NOT to move here. Here are some of the best things about Costa Rica as an online poker destination
Surf’s up! Poker Refugees founder, Kristin, catches a wave at Pavones

  • Direct 2-3 hour flights from the US 
    Typical afternoon in CR – Photo: Kristin Wilson
  • Low cost of living compared to the developed world
  • Internet – The internet all of a sudden got pretty good! Speeds up to 100MB are now available compared to 5-10MB in Playa del Carmen. That’s huge. 
  • Extensive rental market for short-term furnished rentals and vacation rentals
  • Westernized culture and amenities: every chain restaurant and brand recognizeable
  • Diversity: it’s hard to get bored since there are so many places to live and all of them with their unique flair 
  • One of the top ecotourism destinations in the world – enough said
  • Sun, sand, surf, beaches, mountains, valleys
  • No taxes on gambling winnings
  • Ranked as one of the “happiest countries in the world” many years in a row
  • The Central Valley boasts the “best climate in the world” – literally. No, we are serious. Best in the world. That’s a big claim, but it’s true. 
  • Beautiful women who love foreigners
  • Multiple international and domestic airports
  • Relatively straight forward and cheap path to permanent residency
  • Perpetual tourism is possible
  • Bank accounts in USD with online wire transfers
  • Access to Skrill & Neteller
  • Safety: Sure, Costa Rica is not perfect, but it’s generally considered one of the safer countries in Latin America and there is no national military
  • Locals are pushing for the legalization of Medical Marijuana (hey, it can’t hurt)
  • Cons: More expensive than other Central American nations and things move pretty slow around here (but that goes for all developing countries). Internet and infrastructure can be spotty in the remote beaches and mountains, so you can’t play poker from everywhere
Check out these interviews with real players who moved to Costa Rica for online poker: 
  • Wesley Clark, Jaco:
  • Anton Smolyanskiy, Tamarindo:
  • Mathieu Kuhne, Jaco:
  • Jason Thompson, Tamarindo:
  • Adam Geyer & Shannon Shorr, Escazu: 
  • Poker House, Tamarindo:

Costa Rica Luxury Home – Photo: Kristin Wilson
What do you think of our list? Did we miss anything? 

Are any of these your favorite/least favorite destinations? 

Do you disagree with us? 

Sound off in the comments below! 

Do you want to move to one of these destinations? Email or visit

Comments 2

  1. Hi, I am playing poker in medellin columbia but would like to move in a poker house in Costa Rica near the beach because of your great article:)Can you help me with some information?

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