10+ Years Poker Pro Traveling the World (My Story)

Online poker dream

I post a lot of pics on my Instagram of exotic tropical beaches, luxury condos, rooftop infinity pools and so on. 

And I get DM's every single day from people telling me that I am living what they call the "dream life."

Some people might even think that my entire life is just one big vacation! 

And to be honest, it kind of is, I can't lie. But this was also the entire point all along as I am going to explain in this article.

And I am also going to show you exactly how you can do it too (don't necessarily have to be a poker pro, it's just one potential option).

Time is Your Most Valuable Asset in Life (Use it Wisely)

Tim Ferriss famously stated in "The 4 Hour Work-Week" that real wealth and happiness in life is the ability to actually go live your life, and do all the things you always wanted to do, while you are young.

And furthermore, to actually be there with the ones you love, instead of spending long hours at the office, waiting for some distant time in the future when you are 60 or 70 years old (and well past your physical prime), to hopefully "retire."

I could not agree with this worldview more.

I haven't worked a so called "9-5" job in over 12 years now and I never will again. I also haven't used an alarm clock in over 12 years. 

Instead I work when I want to, doing something I truly enjoy, and I do it from anywhere on earth.

poker dream life travel the world
Working from the pool earlier this year, private beach, southern Thailand

Also, if I want to just completely get away for a couple weeks, a month or even a year with family or friends, I just do it. I don't have to ask some "boss" permission to go live my life.

Now I should mention that for some people this lifestyle might seem like some sort of ridiculous fantasy world only reserved for rich people.

But for me and all my friends based out here in SouthEast Asia, who also work for themselves online, this is actually just a completely normal way to live your life for us.

It really is just a matter of perspective.

Online poker is what allowed me to create this lifestyle of time, location and financial freedom. Put simply, this game allowed me to live my life exactly how I want to, every single day.

Now, I want to be extremely clear off the top though that poker isn't for everybody, and most people will actually end up losing in the end.

Also, there are many, many other ways to achieve a lifestyle of time, location and financial freedom, many of which are a lot easier than becoming an online poker pro!

However, for some people like me, online poker was indeed life changing. And this is my story.

By the way, I also made a youtube video recently, discussing my struggles to become a poker pro early on in my career, starting from absolutely nothing, $0.

How Online Poker Changed My Life

I first "discovered" online poker way back in 2004. This was right after Chris Moneymaker had famously won the World Series of Poker as an amateur for $2.5 million dollars and poker was literally everywhere on the TV and the internet.

I pretty much had no clue what I was doing back then and my main strategy was simply to "play tight." Luckily back in those days though, that strategy was good enough to win.

Online poker living the dream

And so after spending a few years slowly moving up through the micro stakes games, I found myself with a 10k bankroll and multi-tabling the 50c/$1 games ($100 buyin) online.

It was at this point that I realized that I was making more money in just a few hours playing poker each night than I did all day at my job!

So that was when I decided to make the fateful decision to turn pro, in April of 2007. 100% of my income would come from playing poker from now on. 

And my life would never be the same again.

My Experience Becoming a Professional Online Poker Player

Now I would love to give you some sunshine and roses story about how I climbed the nosebleeds to the very top and became some high stakes poker hero like Tom Dwan or Phil Ivey.

However, it didn't exactly work out that way.

In fact the first couple years when I went pro were some of the most difficult periods of my life and I almost quit this game completely, many many times. 

Many people do not realize what actually happens when you suddenly don't have a boss telling you what to do anymore.

You have to motivate yourself to "go to work" (play poker in my case). And back then when the money was just literally falling out of the sky, I took it for granted and figured that it would last forever.

rich poker players

It didn't of course. And this was a huge mistake which I still regret to this day. I literally threw away millions of dollars.

So instead of playing poker I often found myself playing the latest Call of Duty or going out with my friends. After all, I could just play a few hours a week and make a couple thousand bucks very easily.

Why bother working so hard right?

Well, predictably, the money didn't keep falling out of the sky forever. Eventually people got better at poker. 

They learned to stop playing so badly and literally giving their money away. A worldwide recession also hit in 2008, governments started interfering with player pools and so on.

The bottom line is that by around 2009 or 2010 online poker wasn't the walk in the park joke anymore where you could just sit down and literally print money.

You actually had to have some skill now. So I had to move beyond my "play tight" strategy and learn how to actually play poker better in order to continue dominating.

And so that is exactly what I did. I joined training sites, I read books, I studied poker courses. I even hired a few coaches!

I also started studying my own hands and my opponents for countless hours in PokerTracker. And this is what I really credit the most in taking my game to the next level.

In short I wasn't taking this online poker thing for granted anymore. It was time to get to work!

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The Long Road Back

So as I mentioned, by 2009 or 2010 the online poker games had started to get a little bit more difficult and I had let my bankroll dwindle to a seriously low level, mostly from a lack of play.

It was time to get my act together. So like I said, I started pouring hours and hours into studying poker, improving my poker game and also grinding much harder.

And I really have to make this point clear. Poker was my entire life now. From the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep there was nothing else for years and years.

I dreamed about flops at night. I was completely all-in with this game. Make it or break it!

So it was during this time that I decided to start mass multi-tabling the lowest stakes in order to rebuild my bankroll. And this is what most people actually know me for still to this day.

blackrain79 online poker live the dream travel the world

I played millions and millions of hands at the very lowest stakes online and made a lot of money. At a certain point I just didn't even bother moving up again because the money was just so easy.

I would literally just load up 24 tables of NL2 or NL5 on PokerStars and watch movies or podcasts on my other monitor while I played 8, 10 or even 12 hour sessions.

I played so much poker during this period that I was accused of being a bot all the time. PokerStars would actually freeze all my tables from time to time and force me to solve a CAPTCHA. Apparently even they didn't believe a human being was capable of playing this much poker either.

The truth is that I just needed the money to get my bankroll up to 10k+ again and get back to the higher stakes games. And at stakes this low, I really didn't even need to think in order to beat these people.

This is still largely the case today. Because these stakes are full of complete beginners. So I just said screw it, I am going to grind these tables day and night and see what happens!

By the way if you are curious how on earth I played that many hands of poker and kept my sanity, yes I do use several software aids and tools.

For the complete list of poker software tools I use as a pro, click here.

Sudden Exposure in the Poker World, Dealing With "Haters" and a Weird Twist of Fate

It was also during this time that a certain website began data-mining all the major online poker sites on a massive scale. 

Then they would publish the results of all poker players whether they liked it or not.

Honestly, I won't even name this website here because they don't deserve any bit of free exposure. 

They pissed off a lot of people by publishing all this information purely for their own financial gain (they sold subscriptions to access this data, including my own).

This was especially bad for large losing poker players (fish). 

Now the whole world got to see their huge losses and it was very embarrassing for them. There is no doubt that this caused some of them to quit poker altogether.

Brilliant work guys!

Anyways, eventually PokerStars lawyers got involved and issued this website cease and desist letters and their little "business" basically went downhill from there.

In any case, once people started to see just how much money I was making at the very lowest stakes in online poker, my profile on this website became something of a circus.

In fact, my profile on this website was getting more attention at times than some massive names in the poker world like Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu and others.

This was especially the case because it was pretty obvious that I was actually a poker pro at such low stakes, something that was thought to be impossible by most people at the time.

Multi-tabling online poker from my condo near the beach.

The funny thing is that I have met so many poker players through my travels in SE Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe that are doing the exact same thing as me!

Anyways, almost overnight I suddenly started to get lots of fans and even my very first haters too! (aww the memories).

It was honestly quite shocking at first to see grown men gossiping and talking smack about me online, and even completely making stuff up, while hiding of course behind cartoon avatars and fake names.

All because they saw a few of my poker graphs on some website and so they went ahead and made a bunch of wild assumptions about me.

Now believe me, I get it.

If you choose to "put yourself out there" these days, then you will be unfairly criticized sometimes by anonymous clowns on the internet.

This just comes with the territory as any content creator or influencer these days fully understands, myself included.

But at the time, I didn't choose any of this.

I didn't choose the limelight, my poker results were published online without my permission.

In fact, all I ever wanted to do was just grind my little small stakes online poker games in complete anonymity.

And to be completely honest, anyone who actually knows me well, knows that I am a complete introvert.

I never wanted any of this attention.

Anyways, it's all water under the bridge now.

Because once people started to see that I was consistently making over 6 figures playing this silly little card game on the internet, my life would never be the same again.

So out of pure frustration one day I decided I was completely done with all the ridiculous comments and the unwanted attention I was suddenly receiving which had now spread to forums and reddit as well.

So I decided instead to start my own website, www.blackrain79.com, which is named after my online poker screen name.

I also decided to start publishing regular poker strategy articles about how I was achieving these results, in order to give back to the people who were actually supporting me (of which there were lots).

Luckily most of my fans, and even a few of my haters too, followed me over here to my website.

And so it began.

Going Public - From Anonymous Micro Stakes Grinder to Poker Coach and Self-Published Author

So I started writing poker strategy articles and getting hundreds of visitors a day to my website. 

Since the feedback was mostly positive I decided to continue writing and build up an even bigger audience.

However all of this was still just a hobby for me. I never intended to actually make an income off this website. 

Heck, I didn't even put up any ads or anything! (and still haven't to this day even though I get offers every single day in my inbox).

This website is simply not for sale.

You can't buy your way in front of my audience.

Because this was never my intention when I started it.

Instead, this poker blog was meant to be my way of giving back to the poker community, to my fans in particular, who have supported me so much over the years.

However, I did do a little bit of private coaching during this period and I also started making videos for a major poker training site. 

I also did some of my first interviews with a couple big poker news sites.

Online poker dream blackrain79
My very first ever interview with PokerListings.com in my hometown of Vancouver.
What is up with that beard though!?

However, I still didn't consider any of this as much more than a silly side project while I continued to grind it out at the poker tables.

After all, who on earth is seriously going to listen to some micro stakes "poker coach?" My haters made sure to remind me of this often too.

Turns out they were dead wrong though.

The traffic to my website started really exploding around 2012 and by 2015 this was the #1 small stakes poker strategy website on the internet, getting thousands of visitors every day.

It was around this time that I also decided to start a poker YouTube channel as well (although more on that in a bit).

What really changed things drastically for me though was when I started to learn a little bit about online business and SEO. 

I also learned just how easy it is to actually write and self-publish an ebook.

I have always enjoyed writing and before I ever "discovered" poker I spent years and years in university getting my degree in history and philosophy.

Sure, it was (and still is) a largely useless degree as far as finding a job in the modern workplace. 

But it did teach me how to write.

So I began working on Crushing the Microstakes (my first ever poker book). I actually ended up writing the entire thing in a couple weeks.

blackrain79 poker pro traveling the world

And after playing millions and millions of hands at these stakes, with some of the highest winnings in online poker history, the book literally wrote itself.

After two more weeks of editing the book I released Crushing the Microstakes to the world on just this blog and I was hoping a few dozen people might buy it!

Update: CTM has now sold tens of thousands of copies, been translated into several other languages, and been called the "bible" of the micro stakes by some.

But at the time, I was totally just "winging it."

I knew absolutely nothing about marketing back then. I didn't have any social media at all or even an email list to tell people about it either!

As mentioned, I literally launched the book with just a single blog post. Just like the one you are reading right now. 

Which is totally insane when I think back on it.

The entire project was really just a ridiculous moon-shot (which is kind of the entire point of this blog post as well, just go for it in life, who cares).

I had no idea if anybody would actually buy the book or even take any interest in it at all.

So, much like my decision to become a poker pro several years before, I was simply taking a calculated chance. 

There was no script to follow. And there was nobody to hold my hand and tell me what to do.

It would either fail spectacularly or become a success.

I just went for it.

Anyways, as mentioned, Crushing the Microstakes (CTM) has now gone on to become arguably the most popular poker book ever written for the lower stakes games.

And it has also been featured and reviewed by almost every major poker publication in the world.

I went on to write two more poker strategy books after that:

1) Modern Small Stakes

2) The Micro Stakes Playbook

Both of these have also been highly successful.

I hope you are able to see the lesson here as it applies to your life as well.

If you are procrastinating on some big goal or dream in your life, please don't do it anymore.

Just start taking action today.

Realize that you literally have nothing to lose, but potentially everything to gain.

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

― Steve Jobs

Making it in the YouTube Poker Game?

Lastly, as mentioned, I did start a poker YouTube channel several years ago as well.

But being the total introvert that I am, I was terrified of being on camera and so I only made (sporadic) screencast videos of me explaining poker hands for many years.

While I saw a little bit of success and people seemed to like the videos, the real success of my YouTube channel didn't start until about a year ago, when I decided to come out of my shell.

I made my first YouTube video showing my face in Feb, 2021 and it is painful for me to even watch it because it is so bad.

While I don't consider myself to be good at making YouTube videos to this day, I have learned a lot, and the channel is about to hit 50k subscribers as I type this.

Edit: Just hit 100k subscribers now!

My YouTube channel is also among the fastest growing poker channels on the platform in the past year and I have had great support from all my loyal subscribers.

So all I can say is thank you for your faith in me!

Like I said, I still think my videos are pretty terrible, but I am always learning and improving.

And that is really the entire point.

I don't consider myself to be a "YouTuber" and don't really have any intention of becoming one either.

Although, my poker YouTube channel does provide another steady side income that has been growing consistently.

And having more income streams is without a doubt one of the biggest keys to success in my opinion.

But learning to finally "put myself out there" on camera, and stop hiding behind the pen, this website/my books, has been the real reward.

Like I said, I was terrified when I made my first real video speaking to a camera, but I had to take this crucial step to grow as a person and reach a wider audience.

You must tackle the things you fear in life head on!

Where There is a Will There is a Way (Create Your Best Life)

The real point of this whole story is to hopefully show some of you that where there is a will there is a way in life. People literally laughed at me every stage of the way and told me I was crazy.

He is going to play poker on the internet for a living? That's ridiculous, go get a real job! 

Now he is going to write books about the micro stakes games? Nobody is ever going to buy that!

I have fought it at every stage of the way. I even had my own family (the older religious members) telling me that I was throwing my life away, I was a "gambling addict" and so on.

I knew they were 100% wrong, but it still hurt nonetheless. It hurt badly.

And this is just one part of the psychological side of the game that not too many people talk about these days.

By the way, I discuss this in much more detail in my new Elite Poker University training

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I think truthfully though they were upset because I wasn't following their idea of how I should live my life (career, wife, kids, house in the suburbs).

But you need to remember that only you know what is best for you and your life. And the only person's opinion that ultimately matters is your own.

blackrain79 poker pro travel the world

I knew that their idea of how I should live my life was not right for me. I would never be happy with a life of comfortable mediocrity in a 9-5 answering to some "boss."

I always demanded much more out of life than this. And that is why I chose to go it alone, down the road less traveled, with a career as a professional online poker player, and then as a self-published author.

And let me tell you, yes, it absolutely was scary and totally unpredictable! And yes, it could have all ended in utter failure too. And I would not even be writing this story right now.

In fact there were countless times, especially during my heavy poker grinding days, where I thought I was out of my mind to be doing this.

Maybe they were right after all, maybe I was throwing my life away. Maybe I was in over my head. These are all the thoughts that will go through your head again and again.

But this is also why so many people never follow their dreams and goals in life. They are too afraid of failure. And they are especially too afraid of what other people will think if they fail.

What they forget though is that going all-in with your dreams and goals in life can sometimes also lead to something truly amazing. Real happiness, success and freedom.

A deep passion for what you do. Jumping out of bed with a smile on your face every single morning. And even more importantly, with the power of technology today, you can do all this while you are young!

I think the idea of waiting until you are 65 to retire, enjoy your life, and finally do all the things you always wanted to do, is utterly ridiculous.

And in fact, most Americans won't even be able to afford retirement by age 65 anyways. They will literally just work themselves into the grave.

Please, please guys, if you take nothing else away from this article just remember that there really is another way in life.

And it's actually a lot closer than you think.

Right now is the greatest time in history to be alive. You can literally start a successful business from your iPhone or laptop while sitting on a beach anywhere in the world.

blackrain79 travel the world poker

The biggest key is to just start taking action, every day.

The vast majority of people spend their entire lives sitting around talking about all their dreams and their big goals in life.

And life ends up passing them by. 

I hope that won't be you too.

Take action, even when they talk smack and nobody in the world believes in you.

Just keep taking action and let your results do the talking. 

Final Thoughts

Anyways, this was just my personal story.

I hope it was helpful or inspiring in some way to a few of you dream chasers out there who, like me, are looking for a little bit more out of life than the ordinary.

And to be honest, this article isn't really even about poker, although there are more ways than ever to quickly improve your poker game these days.

You don't have to become a professional poker player, create an online business or travel the world in order to achieve your own version of happiness and success in life.

For many people, this kind of nomadic digital life just isn't something that they are interested in at all and that is completely and totally fine!

The real point that I wanted to get across in this article is that if you pursue your goals and dreams in life with a relentless fury, then anything is possible.

And I know it sounds cliche.

But I am living proof that it is true. Because I came from nothing. I started my poker career with literally $0.

And against all odds I built a career out of this silly little card game. Because I have a deep passion for it.

You start by believing in yourself, first and foremost, above anything else in this world. And then you decide to go 100% all-in after whatever it is that you are deeply passionate about in life.

I created my own version of "living the dream" by mastering online poker, playing the game professionally, and then monetizing that knowledge through blogging, youtube, coaching and digital products like ebooks and courses.

In fact, I just released my brand new BlackRain79 Elite Poker University a few months ago.

17+ hours of video lessons, hundreds of step by step example hands and "cheat sheets."

This is the culmination of everything I have learned throughout my professional poker career.

Get $100 OFF with code: ELITE100 

We are lucky enough to live in an age where literally anything is possible.

All my friends living out here like me in Thailand, Bali and Vietnam also created their own version of "living the dream" with location independent online businesses (and most of them are non-poker).

They all did the exact same thing as me. 

They created something out of nothing by simply hustling harder than the next guy/girl and not being afraid to take chances.

Look, the internet is the greatest opportunity in human history. Anybody can change their entire life if they really want it bad enough.

You owe it to yourself to create your own version of "living your dream life" (whatever that might be).

Start today.

Don't talk about it anymore.

Be about it instead.

Lastly, if you want to learn my complete strategy to crush low stakes poker games, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

10+ Years Poker Pro Traveling the World


  1. Thanks for sharing the whole story in such detail. It sure is unique, and I wish you all the best.

    1. Thanks Lars! Glad you enjoyed and thanks for being a loyal reader of my poker blog and poker youtube videos :)

  2. Great read Nathan. Thank you for everything you do, it has helped me a lot at the tables.

  3. I enjoy your articles and credit your first book for helping me be a profitable microstakes sit-and-go player. I'm curious how much poker you still play and at what stakes.

    1. Awesome Ben, congrats on your success and I am glad my book helped you! I play poker part time and almost always at the micro stakes since those are the stakes that I teach.

  4. Crazy good read, thank you! I have a ton of admiration for your courage and your tenacity! Thank you for sharing this with us!

    1. Thank you Jeanmarie I appreciate it! Thanks for being a loyal reader of mine, I always see your comments on LinkedIn :)

  5. Damn Nathan, you're such a nice guy. I love how u motivate people and how you always remain modest and honest about your own life. You helped me with Poker but even more with keeping my dreams alive. Greets from a 27 year old guy from Vienna (Austria) with a law degree under his belt and no idea what to do next :D p.s.: it won't be "working in a law firm", hopefully!

    1. Thank you sir, I am glad I could help you and motivate you! My goal with a post like this really is to help inspire people to become the best version of themselves whether that includes poker or not. So I hope you discover what works for you and chase your dreams, whether that is law or something else :)

    2. Thanks my friend and keep up the good work!! :)

  6. Great article, I enjoy the stuff you write. I am on my own little personal journey in Nicaragua.....

    1. Thanks for reading bicknica, I always appreciate your comments and all the best on your journey!

  7. Great article Nathan! I can't imagine how hard it was to take such a step. How do you cope with solitude in the beginning (when you move to Thailand)? A greeting from Spain.

    1. Thanks Julio!

      Meeting people in Thailand was actually incredibly easy for me because there are so many other foreigners already living here. The whole culture here is much more social than the west also.

      So it is really the exact opposite. Solitude where I am from in Canada. More friends than I need here in Thailand haha.

  8. Fantastic read as are all your articles thank you for making the time to help others.

    I salute you.


    1. Thanks a lot Mark! And thanks for being a loyal reader ;)

  9. Always an inspiration Nathan ..

  10. Great article Nathan - your openness and honesty is one reason why there are many like me who admire what you do. It's clear that your mixture of talent and sheer hard work (it is a grind after all) are the background to your success and enviable lifestyle. All power to you.

    1. Thanks man I appreciate it! I try to give people a realistic version of what this poker thing is really like. It can lead to good life with lots of freedom but it is a very demanding and stressful job as well.

  11. Hey Nathan, just wanted to thank you. Although somewhat of a late starter I'm also passionate about poker and I feel I'm developing into a solid player and your books have been the backbone of that. I currently work a 9-5 that I hate and you've inspired me to make a change, stop feeling sorry for myself and pursue the life I really want.

    1. Thanks wgt glad I could inspire, go after your dreams!

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Very inspiring story I too would like to become a professional online poker player. I've done pretty well live and have 15k online earnings as well with my largest score being 2K in 500k gtd on ACR. But I feel I can use some coaching in order to move up in stakes and would like to sign up

    1. Hey Potgenius nice results congrats! I wish you all the best in your pursuit to be a poker pro. Unfortunately I do not coach anymore. There are plenty of quality coaches out there though.

  14. Definitely a good article for motivation. I only been following you on Facebook and your youtube videos for about 6 months or so but there's no question taking your advice has definitely not only improved my game but my winnings. I dont know the exact time i first came across your site and information so i just estimated and the results proved it. You definitely seem like a person thats genuine with what you say and didnt forget where he came from like alot of these poker pros once they make it. And that's why I got more respect for you than these other poker pros. Thanks man

    1. Hey Jmm87,

      Thanks for the kind words I really appreciate it. I am glad my poker articles and videos are helping you succeed. All the best at the tables, let me know how it goes for you!

  15. Exactly what I needed to hear bro. I believe this article contains so much truth. Thank you

    1. Thanks glad this article helped you! :)