Poker Dispatches: Wales, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Nerd Country

Kiev, Ukraine

It’s a big poker world out there, and each week we try to track down as many stories as we can from the outer reaches in Poker Dispatches.

This week we’re featuring reports from Wales, Costa Rica, Ukraine and the land of Magic: The Gathering, otherwise known as “Nerd Country.”

1. Wales – Poker Making Its Way Out From the Shadows

Off the top of your head: Name three famous poker players from Wales. 

John Tabatabai
This guy's one of the three.

Two? One?

Blogger Byron Kalies at asks the same question and looks at why people still talk about poker with a bit of hesitation in Wales - despite the fact there’s a former world champion in their midst and at least three very successful current pros from there.

An excerpt:

“I guess there are still the connections with smoke filled rooms, guns, knives, drugs and sleaze. No doubt you can still find that if you look hard enough.

“However it's the advent of technology and online poker that has changed this dodgy, seedy pastime into one where there are more people in Europe (and) the U.K. playing poker than playing golf.  

“It's moved on a great deal from those smoke-filled, dimly-lit back rooms of Doyle Brunson's day and Wales has players who may one day reach the ultimate in poker as the winner of the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas.”

See the full blog (and the names of the three pros) here. 

2. Costa Rica – Don’t Have to Live-a Like a Refugee

Phil Galfond’s done it. Olivier Busquet has done it. Justin Bonomo and David Sands now have too.

Poker Refugees will help you move here.

Brian Hastings, Shane Schleger and more pros are on the verge of doing it.

“It” meaning move out of the United States to continue playing poker online for a living.

Players considering it but a bit overwhelmed by making it happen now have some help available - particularly if they're considering Panama, Costa Rica or Canada.

Poker Refugees is a new service started by Kristin Wilson, an MBA grad living in Costa Rica who has helped people relocate, retire and start businesses in Central America over the last six years.

The service helps American poker players relocate with a variety of services from tips for setting up a local bank account to finding a rental property to complimentary airport pickup.

Her specialties are Panama, CR and Canada, but Poker Refugees can also help poker players relocate to "other poker-friendly nations like Argentina, Australia, Bali, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Spain, Thailand, and the United Kingdom." 

More about it here.

3. Ukraine - In Ukraine, Poker Plays You

With four bracelets at this summer’s WSOP and a member of the November Nine in Anton Makievskyi, poker is so hot right now in the Ukraine.

Anton Makievskyi
Makievskyi: Good for poker in the Ukraine.

So is the summer weather apparently, according to the Vostok Report, and the capital city, Kiev, when it comes to hosting live poker events.

Among the recent events to hit town are a $150k Betfair Live tournament, a Russian Poker Tour $777k guaranteed event and a $1 million PokerStars guaranteed as part of the Russian Poker Series.

All of this despite a “tricky” legal climate for poker in the Ukraine.

An excerpt:

"The legal situation for gambling in Ukraine is tricky. Despite the overall ban on gambling since July 2009, poker tournaments are allowed as tournament poker is recognized as a sport.

"Hotels and former casino operators are using poker tournaments to cater for gambling loving public.

"Although cash games would be considered gambling and should have been prohibited, clubs have found legal schemes around the law and hand out cash game chips against the deposit.

“The scheme is working.  At least for now." More here.

4.  “Welcome to Nerd Country”

Lots of former Magic: The Gathering players have made a very good living in poker over the last five or six years.

David WIlliams
Nerd Country's Chris Moneymaker.

No less than two-time WSOP bracelet winners Brock "t_soprano" Parker and Eric Froehlich, in fact, plus several dominant young cash-game and tournament pros including Justin Bonomo, Noah Boeken, Isaac Haxton, Scott Seiver, Jeff Garza and Adam Levy.

In honor of the recent inducting of Shuhei Nakamura, Anton Jonsson and Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz into the M:TG Hall of Fame, we found this piece in the Sabotage Times by Matthew Weiner (a reprint of an old pokerplayer uk article, but still.)

Weiner looks at the first wave of M:TG players that moved into poker and highlights David Williams' runner-up finish in the 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event.

He also foreshadowed a lot of impending success for M:TG players, making bold statements like:

"Magic allows kids to refine the skills of poker long before they can get into a casino. They may look like geeks but they come to the poker table like bionic men."


“You may never have heard of the cult game, but since its invention in 1993 it has captured the attention of six million players in over 75 countries and currently outsells Monopoly and Scrabble combined.

“Oh, and did I mention it’s also the breeding ground for the next generation of poker superstars?

“Despite looking like the bastard child of Dungeons and Dragons and Top Trumps, MTG plays more like a cross between poker and chess.

“Boasting an instruction manual over 60 pages and with more than 6000 different cards in circulation it’s widely accepted that if you can master MTG then a simple game like Texas Hold ‘Em is a cinch."

Turns out Weiner was right.

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