Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May in the Books

Poker hasn't felt like as much of a job for me in a long time. It feels similar to when I used to host on UB and was forced to work four hour shifts every other day. The difference now is I'm working two five hour shifts every day in hopes of making SNE by the time I leave Canada in early Sept. My days have consisted of waking up at about 6:30, putting a pot of coffee on, and playing till about Noon. I've been doing cardio and eating lunch to break my day and then playing another 4-6 hours, usually finishing up around 6 or 7. I have actually gotten out of the apartment quite a few times at night at least.

In spite of an abbreviated month, my results were decent. I played more hands in three weeks than I've ever played in a full month. There were a lot of sessions where I felt like I was just going through the motions, trying to reach my daily goal of VPPs, and playing on auto-pilot. My strategy always has been to take a break when I'm not focused, unfortunately I don't have that luxury anymore if I want to make SNE while I'm here.

I feel like I ran below average, though it's hard to say. I hit about a 30K downswing courtesy of 100-200 but recouped most of it in the next few sessions. I've been running way above average at 50-100 all year so no complaints.

There have been very few high limit games running since SCOOP ended and now with the World Series starting, it doesn't bode well for June. In any event, I'll be playing whatever games are available.

Here's to a profitable June

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Info. on Relocating to Canada

I've been receiving a number of emails and PMs with Canada questions so I figured putting it all in a thread is the best thing to do at this point. All of this information is subject to change at any time of course.

Traveling Over the Border

The most important point here is to make sure you tell the truth to the border patrol agent. I haven't read of a single instance of a poker player being denied entry after telling the truth about what they are doing. In my opinion, the only chance of a poker player being denied is lying about their intentions. You will be detained, at least everyone I read about has been, and questioned. The questioning took me about ten minutes but some people are saying an hour. It's also possible they'll search your car though they didn't search mine.

The BP's primary concerns are that you have enough money to support yourself and that you'll return to the US within six months. Based on my conversation with the BP agent, they consider poker players a higher risk of going broke and being stuck in Canada. And rightfully so. Bring a bank statement issued within the last three months. I was able to show an ATM receipt that I had saved from the day before so that will likely suffice as well.

If you have any kind of criminal record, including DUIs, there's a good chance they'll deny entry. More information on this is here

Changing your Country of Residence with Poker Stars

Poker Stars is requiring a copy of your passport or license to verify your identity, easy enough.

To verify your address they are requesting a copy of a utility bill. One option with this is to rent an apartment and ask the landlord if you can setup a utility in your name ahead of time. If they are willing to do this, you should have a bill waiting for you when you arrive in Canada. An alternative to this, and what PokerStars accepted from me is a copy of a voided check from a bank, signed and stamped by a manager with the following wording,

"Please accept this copy of a voided cheque as confirmation of the above client's banking account information for purposes of pre-authorized debit or credit"

It literally took eleven emails before Poker Stars security department agreed to accepting this.

The other thing you'll need is a landline, it took a day to get this setup through Shaw. PokerStars will call and ask every imaginable question and once they're satisfied you are who you say you are they'll forward it to their verifications team for final review. The final review has been taking up to two weeks. I was able to escalate it through the VIPClub at PokerStars and it took about a day. If you're a SN or SNE, I strongly recommend doing this. The turnaround time could change though, they were swamped when I applied for my country change.

Opening a Bank Account

Any US citizen can open a bank account in Canada with a license and passport. HSBC required a passport and credit card. At HSBC, I told them exactly what I was doing: that I was a professional poker player looking to wire large amounts of money in from poker sites and then to the US. The rep who opened the account said it wasn't a problem.

I opened two accounts and may open another one in the event one of them is closed for poker transactions. I don't anticipate they'll be problems but it's hard to say until a lot of players start receiving large wires.

Right now the best option for poker players looks like the HSBC premier account. There is a 100K minimum balance requirement but anyone can open the account and pay a $50 fee if the balance isn't maintained. The premier account allows you to open an account in any country where HSBC is present without physically being in the country and they don't require any additional documentation which is great if you're traveling around. They also allow you to link all of your accounts from different countries online and transfer money in different currencies with no fees. Even with a regular HSBC account, they allow you to do wire transfers online. They are the only Canadian bank I know of that allows this, the rest require you to be in the branch to do an outgoing wire.

That said there have been a couple reports from pre black Friday of poker players having their HSCB accounts closed.

Right now I have three withdrawal options available to me in Canada:

MoneyBookers withdrawal up to $15,800 CAD per day
Check up to $52,700 per day
Wire transfer with a *minimum* of 52,700

MoneyBookers is looking like the way to go when out of Canada and requesting checks or MoneyBookers withdrawals while you're here. A regular MB account only allows about 15K to be withdrawn every ninety days after verifying your bank account and address with them. They have a VIP account which allows unlimited withdrawals. In order to become VIP, they've told me you need to deposit at least 5K per month on a gaming site and it can't be a gaming site that you're withdrawing from. So, I opened a new account on Party Poker (Party instructed me to do this) and have started depositing 1K a day to try to hit the 5K limit.

The plan at this point is to upgrade my HSBC account to a premier and get a VIP MB account. With that I do my withdrawals to MB, then to HSBC, then to a US account with minimal fees. I will likely open a US HSBC account when I get back to the US so I can transfer online without doing wires (and paying fees) to other US banks.

Plan B: When back in the US, if I'm not able to get a premier account or VIP MB account for some reason, is to wire the money from PokerStars to a Canadian checking account and then write checks to myself and deposit in my US account. I'm not sure how a $52,700 wire is going to go over with a Canadian bank so I"m hoping it doesn't come to this.

That's about all I can think of right now. I may update/change this as more information becomes available as I'm sure a lot of this will be obsolete in a few months.

Good luck to anyone relocating.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Canada: Week 1

Week one is in the books. I set a goal to play 6500 VPPs a day and fell just short earning about 41,000 . I ended up winning about 14K with bonuses/milestone credits and am very happy with that especially considering I'm down 2 big bets after 22K hands.

I was very rusty the first couple days, making a lot of mistakes. I also started out 6 tabling which was a big mistake. The pace was way too fast and I kept losing track of the action. I've cut down to 4-5 tables now and sometimes 6 when I'm thinking clearly. It's a ton of poker in terms of time, it's taking me about 9 hours a day of playing to hit 6500 VPPs. I don't know if I'll be able to keep up the pace but I'm going to try.

The games themselves have been sporadic. Sometimes they'll be four or five tables going at 30-60+ and other times they'll be several hours with nothing running. Lobby watching has become even more valuable with the higher limits games since they run less frequently now and fill up so quick. In terms of skill, the games seem about the same. It's generally five regulars with one recreational player, with the occasional table with two recreational players. The lower limit games (5-10 and 10-20) run most of the day but there are even periods where those are dead. I've struggled at the lower limits, partly because I don't pay as much attention to them, partly because I'm not familiar with the players, and partly because many of the players are so difficult to read. I have a lot easier time understanding the regs at higher limits and feel like I'm able to exploit them better.

I haven't made any withdrawals yet and that's my main concern right now. It's still unclear how the Canadian banks will feel about US players receiving money from poker sites. More on that to follow..

Here's what the month has looked like so far:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Back in Business...almost

We arrived in Vancouver on Friday and were detained by border patrol briefly. I immediately told them the truth about what I was doing and they had no problem at all with it. I asked if I was supposed to get a work visa and the agent said, no you're not taking a job away from a Canadian and you're not being funded by any Canadian entity.

Saturday we opened a bank account without issue and I forwarded basically all the proof possible that I was living in Canada to PokerStars and they wouldn't accept it. I went back to the bank, got an official stamp on a copy of a voided check (which they requested) and again they wouldn't accept it (no explanation given). So after maybe ten emails back and forth they agreed to accept a voided check, with an official bank stamp, with very specific wording. I went back to the bank Monday morning, got the document, and even had it addressed to PokerStars. The Financial Services Manager at the bank laughed when I said it was for PokerStars and said I should play on Party Poker, they're always sending him things in the mail.

So I sent the document to PokerStars and finally they accepted it. They called me at my landline here, asked a ton of questions, and said I was up for final review. Final review is taking anywhere from two hours to two weeks or even longer. I was able to get in touch with one of the VIP hosts who works with SNEs and he forwarded my case the head of security and said this generally results in being approved in less than twenty-four hours.

So, that's where I'm at right now. I've been working out and eating healthy, trying to get myself in the best mental shape possible for the grind. I'm planning on being here about four months and would like to make SNE in that time. As of today, I'd have to average earning about 6000 VPPs a day to do this. I'm really not sure if I'll be able to do it but I'm going to try. Over the last year and a half, I haven't really maximized my time in terms of tables when I've been on. If there were only 2 or 3 games going above 15-30, I'd either take a break or just play those tables instead of opening all the 15-30, 10-20, and 5-10 tables I could. So the plan is to always have at least 6 tables going, likely a couple of lower limit tables that I'm paying little attention to and devoting the majority of my attention to the higher limit games. The games seem to be running from early in the morning, maybe 5 or 6 AM PST to about 5 PM. I intend to wake up early, play for four hours, eat lunch, workout, and play for another four hours.

I'm trying to figure out the cheapest way to convert money as well since I'll be receiving funds in Canadian and later converting to US. I haven't been able to find a bank that does it cheaper than 2.3%. My accountant said the fees are deductible so that knocks about 35% off the 2.3% but I'm sure there are better ways of doing it.

I should have another update in the next week or so.