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5 Lessons That I Have Learned From Moving to Thailand as a Poker Player (Two Years Later)

5 Lessons That I have Learned From Moving to Thailand as a Poker Player (Two Years Later)

This isn't a travel blog but my post last year about what it is like to move to Thailand for poker players has quickly become one of the most popular in the history of this blog. Several people have contacted me since then who are moving here at least partly because of it or they were already coming here anyways. Online poker players continue to migrate around the world in large numbers and not just to Thailand although it is by far the most popular destination.

As I have now officially spent two years over here I thought that I could discuss a few of the lessons that I have learned for some of the newer guys planning the move. Here are the top 5 things that I have learned since coming to Thailand as a poker player.

1) Choose Your Poker Friends Wisely

Many people come over here because of the large amount of poker players that are already living here. As mentioned, it is easily the most concentrated group in the world. And we all know how much easier it is to talk with someone who "speaks your language" in this regard. Discussing poker with someone who doesn't at least play the game seriously as a part time income is almost always a waste of time. They don't understand the game. They think it is all luck etc.

However, unfortunately not everyone in the poker community here is of an upstanding character. A lot of poker players who come here are marginal winners at best and get caught up in the nightlife (I will get to that in a minute don't worry lol). They quickly become huge degens constantly looking for a stake or any other handouts or scams they can pull off on somebody else.

Choose your poker friends wisely and don't think that just because you both play this game that you have some sort of special bond or something. I have met some great people from the poker community here who are great influences on me and will be friends long after this. I have also met many who I thought that it was best just to avoid completely however. One of the easiest ways to separate the two is to find out how much time they spend on my next topic.

2) Thailand Nightlife

After Two Years What I Have Learned From Moving to Thailand as a Poker Player
Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand
(The most degenerate place on earth)

Ok, let's just call it "nightlife." It is no secret that this country has an enormous party scene and with that comes Thai girls and lots of them. Heck sometimes they aren't even girls! Whether it be in the clubs, the bars or even on the internet and massage parlors there are seemingly young, attractive women everywhere falling all over you. It is very easy to go down the path of getting caught up in that at first.

You need to remember that not everything is always as it appears. Many of these girls are "working" to some degree and you are either a short term or long term paycheck to them. You are not really an actual love interest (yes even if they tell you how much they love you 10 times a day). Of course there are always exceptions but with these types of women this is the norm.

After all (and this is a big shocker to many white guys who come over here and think of themselves as an Asian girl's dream) most Thai girls first choice in a partner is in fact a Thai guy for fairly obvious reasons. If they have gone down the "farang" (white foreigners) path now it is often because they are not that desirable to their number one choice anymore. And it is important to remember that as a white foreigner Thai people will always assume that you are rich. This is just the way it is.

Luckily for most of the poker players over here getting messed up badly with these types of women isn't too big of a problem. It is the old guys (50 years old+) who often believe that these girls are really in love with them and open up their heart and life savings in the process. A lot of the younger guys (which represents pretty much all the poker players) are actually playing the girls for the most part as they know the score before going in. Even so, many of them still wind up spending way too much time and money on them that could be much better spent grinding or doing literally anything else.

There are of course plenty of decent Thai girls out there if you actually want a real relationship. Just like in your home country they aren't found in bars, clubs or on the internet for the most part though. It takes time and effort to meet them. Often even more so here because the good ones usually speak little to no English at all. One of the easiest ways to spot the type of girl that you don't want a relationship with is the level of her English and how many farang "boyfriends" that she admits to having in the past.

If you want to mess around a bit and you know what to expect going in with these types of women then go ahead. But if you don't know then please do yourself a favor and read up a bit on the internet about Thai women before coming here and losing your mind with one. Play the game and you will be fine. But that takes knowing what the game is first. Like nearly everything else in life has a huge amount of information on this topic.

3) Travel Around the Country First!

After Two Years What I Have Learned From Moving to Thailand as a Poker Player
วัดพระธาตุดอยสุเทพ Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Chiang Mai, Thailand

So many poker players who come here often head straight to their "grindhouse" with some people who they only know through the internet to live in an isolated little bubble. This is dumb on so many levels. I am going to get into the grindhouses in a moment but let me first say this about Thailand. This is a large country with massive differences from region to region. It is really silly not to explore them all first before deciding which one that you want to live in.

Most poker players here live in one of three places: Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket. These places are all extremely different and it is up to each individual person to decide which one is best for them. Do you like the big city or a small one? Are you in love with the idea of living near the beach or can you make due without one? What sort of budget do you have? Do you want to live in a touristy area with inflated prices but more Western type conveniences or can you live among the locals? You can't answer these questions without first going and having a look at all of these places first. And I truly mean that. You have to see it for yourself. No amount of watching Youtube videos or reading about it on the internet can replicate the real thing.

My advice is always to set aside enough money to just be a complete tourist for your first month here. Honestly, this is one of the most amazing places on earth for the quality of experiences that you can have anyways. You can go visit ridiculous temples on the top of a mountain, go to some of the best beaches in the world, party on one with 20k other people, ride elephants and zipline through jungles, explore a mega city like Bangkok, chill out with some tigers in the north, check out world class diving and rock climbing in the south. And on and on and on.

Be a tourist when you get here and just have fun! Head straight to Khao San Road in Bangkok (backpacker capital of the world) and meet up with some backpackers who are going your way. Go with them and have the time of your life. Or don't take my advice and head straight to your room in somebody's grindhouse and miss the boat on what this country has to offer completely.

4) Don't Join a Grindhouse

Ok now this one might ruffle a few feathers but I will say it anyways. And please remember like before with the Thai women that there will be exceptions. A grindhouse may in fact be an amazing life changing opportunity for you. However, I think they are a bad idea for most and here is why.

Firstly, there are some small time scams going on with these places that I have noticed popping up lately where they are charging enormous amounts of rent because the newbie doesn't know what the prices are like in Thailand. For instance, I have seen multiple listings pop up in the 2+2 travel forum in the last couple of months regarding Chiang Mai where they are charging the same amount for a room as I was paying for an entire house of the same size that is also quite a bit closer to the city.

Do a little bit of research about the prices before moving into one of these houses. Google "house rentals [area of Thailand]" and you should have a pretty good idea within a matter of minutes by checking out some listings. To the grindhouse guys credit though they often do help you get set up, adjusted, and take away the leg work that comes with finding a place. That is certainly great and all but the price that you are paying for this "service" is still often very exorbitant in my opinion.

Secondly, a lot of guys coming over here dream about what it would be like to live with a couple other elite young grinders and the learning opportunities and motivation that that would provide. In some ideal scenarios that is the case. But as I stated, there are many more degens in this country that will often just annoy the shit out of you in general. And even worse will actually be -EV for your poker game because they are borderline break even players at best.

If you can somehow find a great group of solid grinders then that is fine. But most of the time you are moving in with 3 or 4 guys who you barely know anything about in all actuality. This just does not cut it for me. There is nothing wrong with finding a place on your own and grinding it out just like you did in your home country. You certainly won't be lonely because you can often afford to live right in the city in this country for next to nothing. And by all means go hang out with the poker crew regularly. There are many regular meetups for sports, dinner and the like. Just don't live with them. This has worked for me at least.

5) Realize How Lucky You Have it Every Day

After Two Years What I Have Learned From Moving to Thailand as a Poker Player
Not my actual work station. But it could be!

I have woken up pretty much every day since I arrived here with a smile on my face. It is hard not to when it is sunny and 30+ degrees basically every day of the year. I am looking at a beautiful beach as I type this from my condo that costs a laughable amount per month.

Also, I am very blessed to be able to do what I do and work anywhere in the world. This is something that most people dream about. Just wait until you start posting the pictures on Facebook and the comments that you will get! Truthfully though most people can actually do this. They just don't want to take the steps to make it happen. You took the huge first step by just getting on the plane. Have a blast but don't take it for granted once you get here!

I still don't really even want to go back "home" after two years. I mean I eventually will for sure because I certainly miss my family and friends back in Canada. But I know that it won't be long before I am sick of the exorbitant prices and terrible weather again to name a few things. I will soon be back on a plane to Thailand, or perhaps exploring another similar location in South America, because sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side.

Thanks for reading. Let me know about your experiences traveling or relocating as a poker player in the comments below!

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

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  1. I moved to Bulgaria from England to play online poker. Left my engineering job and I’m managing to live comfortably here as the prices for beer and food and accomodation is great. The weather is great in the summer too and there are some nice places to live on the Black Sea Coast. Unfortunately the government has been cracking down on online poker here and I may have to relocate again. Thailand sounds great. But I also love Oriental women so it might be a polarising move!

  2. Good stuff Linasut! I have heard many great things about places in Central/Eastern Europe.

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