Tyler Forrester (28), who has a Slavic literature degree from Duke University, is least bothered about academics right now because he is a professional poker player, earning his living from playing online poker for hours and hours every day. Forrester, who hails from Dillon, is one of the 150 odd US professional poker players, who migrated to Costa Rica following the events of April 15, 2011, the day on which the US federal government cracked down on three major online poker rooms and seized their domain names.

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Most of the US professional poker players are young men in their twenties and not happy about having to leave the US in order to play poker. They have all expressed their anger at being forced to leave their home because US federal law does not allow them to earn a living playing poker from their home country. They also feel that the US land casino industry is responsible for the crackdown on the online poker rooms.

Jake Wycklendt (28) and Jimmy Doherty (25) are two more US poker players who now share a house near Playa Hermosa. Complaining that he has to live far away from his wife and two children, Jake said, “I definitely resent the government. I’m sick of it. This sucks.” Jimmy said, “Obviously, I’m really bitter at the fact that I have to be in another country. Even playing 15 hours a week, I was making as much as an electrical engineer would at a full-time job. My parents were very grateful that they didn’t have to pay for my college anymore.”

US poker players who migrated to Costa Rica to continue earning their living playing poker are referred to as “poker refugees,” which also happens to be the name of a center for such players in San Jose. This centre helps US poker players travel to Central America, get bank accounts, find a house, and start playing online poker.

Kristin Wilson, founder of Poker Refugees Relocation Service, said, “These guys play anywhere from four to 24 games at one time. If the Internet or power goes out for 30 seconds, they can lose thousands of dollars. So they have to have two sources backed up to a battery. And they have a USB data card. So if the Internet goes out, they just switch over to the data card.” She calls her clients “specialists at the craft of poker, not gamblers.”

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