5 Lessons That I Have Learned From Moving to Thailand as a Poker Player

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. Some of these girls are "working" to some degree and you are either a short term or a long term paycheck to them. A lot of them are straight up pros at what they do in fact and hustling is their game.

This is not to say that all Thai girls are like this. In fact the vast majority are not. But most Thai girls do not speak very much English and therefore have very little interaction with foreigners.

The girls that foreigners typically meet are the small percentage that speak decent English because they have worked in some form of tourism or "entertainment" in the past. Once again, not all of these girls are out for your wallet, but just be careful what you get yourself into.

Just use some common sense and you will be fine. If you want to have a little fun, by all means go ahead. You can find some of the best nightlife in the world in this country.

And if you want a serious relationship, you can even find that too. Again, most Thai girls are great. You will just have to work at it like you would in your home country.

Just don't be like these idiots out here who spend all of their time and money in the bars trying to make a prostitute their girlfriend or wife. It really is shocking how many guys from some western country come here and completely lose their mind in this regard!

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 yourself. 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 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 Poker 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 for 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 the entire house in a better part of 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. They are hustling you, period. 

My Bangkok condo:

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 meetups to play sports, go for 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! If you enjoyed this article please "Like" or "Tweet" it below!

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  1. Crackin post Nathan, certainly living the dream! How cool is it that when you get a major bad beat you just hit the sand 50x or run and dive into the sea screaming lol. Good luck and fortune :)


    1. Thanks Craig. And I put a caption on that photo as it isn't my actual work station. Could be though.

  2. Wise words as usual Rain. Nice post..!!

  3. He man,

    I follow you a long time and i am at 0.25 playing at the moment . Grinding my way. I live in Indonesia where i started a kiteschool with my wife. But every evening from 19.00 I am playing. Till about 01.00 It can sometimes vary . Mtt as well . But mostly cash. If you ever wanted to visit me here. You are welcome. Although here is no nightlife and no party. :) But that's ok . It has many other things. send me a message if you consider trying a new sport and i can learn from you. www.seabreezekiteclub.com

    1. Hey Maurice,

      Thanks for the invite. I have always wanted to visit Indonesia and certainly will one day :)

  4. Anonymous03 April

    hey nathan, can you list your monthly overheads?

    1. It varies widely depending on my lifestyle and where I am living. This month represents the very lowest end of what I normally spend because I just moved down south to a small Thai beach town on my own for a bit to get away from everything and get some work done.

      When I live in the city, I often have a house or big condo, an active social life, a girlfriend, a motorbike etc. making my costs much, much higher than this. At least double, probably closer to triple. But I could still live fine for this amount there too. Just depends on your lifestyle more than anything.

      Rent: $200
      Utilities (Electricity, Internet, Water): $80
      Food: $200
      Miscellaneous (Laundry, Rent a beach chair, See a movie, Massage): $80
      Visa Expenses: $50

  5. I'm glad you're happy in Thailand Nathan. I still enjoy all your newsletters and take what you say to heart because you are one wise young man (yea, I'm old). I won't be moving to Thailand anytime, but your comments just solidify what I believe about you. Anyway, I've just learned the joys of felt and 'real' chip play with real people and found I do quite well - I'm very surprised. Rather than my loose approach online, I'm as tight as a drum and in spite of being female have earned some respect at the tables and that's a cool thing. I'm never done with online, but I'm a forever follower and don't you ever drop me from your email list! Best, Susan

    1. Hi Susan,

      Thanks so much for the kind words! I would really like to get into some live play one day also. The games are usually a lot better there anyways from what I have heard. Glad to know that I have some female readers also :) I appreciate your comments over the years and support. You will never be dropped from my email list haha, no worries. All the best versus the live donks! :)

  6. Anonymous03 April

    Great stuff as always BR! Look forward to the new book as well.

  7. Hey, Nathan) Great article. How long did you play poker, before, you've decided to move to the Thai?

  8. Thanks Gleb. I played poker for about 7 years in Canada before I came here.

  9. Glad to see you are living the lifestyle that you want.Your previous post was a great read, since there's nothing like it. Surprisingly with the amount of Poker Players living there, the info is extremely limited for a grinder. I'm an American who also speaks Thai/Lao and found it extremely intriguing how there are so many grinders moving to Thailand. However, the troubling part is how Americans can successfully deposit/withdraw, since there is no surefire or easy way to do it.

    Looking forward to the next book, will some stories about living overseas be included, aside from the strategy?


    1. Hi Sean,

      Glad you enjoyed the article! I know that there are guys blogging about Thailand out there but they just write small personal blogs with only a handful of readers.

      I get quite a few questions about the deposit/withdraw thing for Americans. I am not American so I don't know all of the ins and outs. I don't think it is very difficult though considering the amount of them that are over here. I would suggest that you ask about this particularly for Americans in the big 2+2 thread for Thailand.

      There won't be any discussion about Thailand or my travels in my new book but there will be on my blog from time to time.

  10. What happens if you get caught playing live in Thailand? Anyone know?

    1. They don't have casinos here in Thailand so the only way you could play live is if you actively seeked out some live underground game. I have no idea what the penalty would be if caught.

      If I wanted to play live I would just jump across the border into Cambodia where they literally have casinos right on the border. Also, some of the best poker action on earth is very close by with both Macau and Manila being a short flight away.