Worst Countries to Play Online Poker From, Part 3 of a series

We’ve told you the best places to play online poker in both developed and developing countries. Well, what about the worst places or countries to maybe avoid? No one has made that list yet!

So, other than the United States of America (arguably and tragically, currently the worst place to go to play online poker) where should you not go to play online poker? We’ve come up with the following list – part subjective, part objective, and probably all controversial for your reading pleasure.

Some things are just too good to be true – Photo: Kristin Wilson
1) Most of Central America: Besides Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico, most of the other countries in Central America would be (how do we say this) less-than-ideal. The electricity in Nicaragua goes out multiple times per day, every day. Honduras has the highest crime rate in the hemisphere (El Salvador and Guatemala aren’t far behind). Belize is known for having the most expensive and slowest internet in the region, although it’s certainly improving a bit each year. It’s not that playing online poker from these places is impossible, but it’s probably not optimal. We know that poker players are always looking to make the optimal decision in every spot with all the information available.
Caribbean Blues
2) The Caribbean: Sadly, the Caribbean is a better place to take a cruise or a honeymoon than to play online poker from. Then Caribbean is a haven for hosting offshore online gaming companies, but is still not the most practical choice for online gambling itself. Why, you may ask? 1) It’s expensive. If the cost of living is super high, your ROI will be lower, end of story. 2) The internet isn’t that good. Not only is it slow and expensive, but many times Caribbean islands may route through nearby countries with a different ip. Sometimes even a US ip! PokerStars doesn’t like that. 3) The visa regulations aren’t known for being particularly generous. The average passport stamp is for 1 month around here. It’s kind of annoying to move around that often, unless you live on a yacht, in which case, carry on. 
Beautiful and cold Russia
3) Russia: Russia is the only place on any of these lists that we actually haven’t been to, but Russian poker players are constantly contacting us for help moving out of Russia. So, it doesn’t seem like the best place to be. We are under the impression that online gambling has been banned multiple times over the years and ip’s have been blocked out of nowhere on more than one occasion. Yet another sinister-sounding bill with possible threats to the future of online poker was proposed in late 2014 (#478806-6). Bottom line – regulation is sketchy. It’s really cold there. Sochi wasn’t exactly a hit with foreign visitors. It’s not a country known for great achievements in human rights and freedom, either. There are probably better places out there for the most part. 

Night market time – Photo: Kristin Wilson
4) China: The Chinese love gambling – poker included. We know this. But outside of Macau, gambling is illegal in China. The extent of enforcement varies and at the moment, PokerStars is accessible, but it still seems like an unnecessary risk to play from there unless you have a specific reason for doing so. Depositing and withdrawing from sites can be difficult or expensive at best. “In a sweep from June to December last year, Chinese police arrested over 1,000 people involved in an online gambling network that operated over 200 illegal websites using Thai servers (Blouin News).” That’s no fun. Everyone also heard about the shenanigans in April 2015 with the APPT Nanjing Millions event shut down as local authorities declared that the event “criminal and illegal”. Yikes. We’ve heard enough.

Europe’s best airline – Photo: Kristin Wilson

5) Most of Europe: No! Say it ain’t so! We love Europe. To visit, that is. Word on the street however, is that it’s not the best place to live and play poker SOMETIMES, in some countries or depending on which country you’re from. We’ll break it down a bit below.  
Wish you were here – French Riviera – Photo: Kristin Wilson
  • France: Darnit, we love a good baguette with cheese and a glass of wine, but France is known for having a segregated player pool. Pokerstars.fr and other local French sites are limited to this player pool. The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to be based in France in order to play on said sites if you have an EU bank account to deposit and withdraw from, and to verify yourself with. Word on the street is that the games are a bit softer as well. The bad news is, rake and taxes are high, so many French players move out of France. The cost of living is also high, which adds to the rake, tax and other expenses for locals. 
Wishing we could grind from gorgeous Cannes – Photo: Kristin Wilson 
  • Other countries with barriers to entry so-to-speak: 
    • Spain: Another segregated player pool closed to the Spanish market
We love Barcelona – Photo: Kristin Wilson
    Come for the football, not the online poker – Photo: Kristin
    • Italy: Segregated Italian player pool; proof of residency is needed
Save the grana padano for vacation – Photo: Kristin Wilson
    • Greece: Recent changes in legislation, rake and taxes caused many Greek player to migrate over to Malta in 2014-2015
Good-bye Greece, Hello Malta (Photo: Kristin)
    • Netherlands: Taxes are high for those banking and playing poker in Holland. Many Dutch players are known to have moved to the Dominican Republic, Curacao, Mexico and other countries in order to change their tax domicile. That being said, we can’t deny that Amsterdam is a great place to live while passing through, however. 
Eh, we can still visit – Photo: Kristin Wilson
    • Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Hungary, others: While these countries are open to international sites (and are really nice places to live – ranking high up on the global standard of living indices), high taxes have, er, inspired many local players to move to neighboring EU countries in order to legally change their tax domicile. 

Take a break from poker for Oktoberfest – Photo: Kristin 
    6) Anywhere that online poker is blatantly illegal: China aside, Singapore, most of the Middle East & Africa and a few other countries in between come to mind. We’re out for that. PokerStars & FTP withdrew from an extra 30 markets in 2014. Most of the places on this list, you probably don’t want to go to anyway (let alone live there). Syria was one of them. Neteller and Skrill have a list of non-serviced countries that are also hints to some of the lesser desirable places to play: https://member.neteller.com/document/show?selectedDocument=11

    aw, shucks
    So that is that. Are you saying to yourself, “why so negative, Poker Refugees?” Do you want to know what are the BEST places to play online poker from? Check our out lists here and here
    To speak with the experts at Poker Refugees about your next move, visit:

    Comments 4

    1. That is true; we left it out purposely as the intent of the article was to point out the worst countries to move to (from the US) to play online poker. But you are correct that we should have noted it even though it's understood that you can't play from the US and most Americans hold this perspective. We may update the blog to reflect that anyway!

      1. Post

        Hi Steve, most of our clients love SE Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines. It depends on your lifestyle, budget and goals! How soon would you like to move?

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