TCOOP: Black Friday refugees cashing in

13996-TCOOP-thumb.pngUntil 2011, for many young American poker players Mexico was a vacation spot. It was the place they spent their Spring Break holidays or a couple of regrettable nights in Tijuana. It was never the place they intended to call home. That all changed on April 15, 2011.

"I was coming into form at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011," said Nicholas "Rounder63" Carrillo. "April 15th was a really bad day for me."

Like American poker players from coast to coast, Carrillo lost his ability to make a living playing online poker overnight. Though he had Los Angeles' Commerce Casino nearby, Carillo's real profit and living money came from grinding tournaments online.

"It ruined my entire WSOP planning and completely put me into a mental lapse," Carillo said.

To people outside the online poker community, it was hard to understand. But for anyone who paid their bills with poker money, it wasn't hard to see how Carillo's life started to get out of control.

Sean "wcsquad3" Pramuk is one of those people who can understand.

"Due to Black Friday, I have been unemployed for the last few months and just recently had to relocate to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico with friends," Pramuk said.

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Shores of Cabo San Lucas courtesy Stan Shebs

Pramuk has been playing professional poker for the past four years. Now 26 years old, his move to Mexico came at the beginning of this month. Like Carillo, it's already proven to be a good decision.

Just a few days ago, Parmuk won $85,000 in Event #25 of the Turbo Championship of Online Poker. A day later, Carillo won $30,000 in Event #30.

Pramuk--a near-scratch golfer--is finding a measure of relief south of the border. He's getting in a few rounds on the links and learning more about poker than he ever expected.

Though Black Friday upended both TCOOP winners lives, it has also had the unintended consequence of creating Mexican poker think tanks. No longer isolated in their hometowns and bedrooms, America's displaced poker players find themselves constantly surrounded with like-minded and talented pros.

"I just try and get better all the time," Pramuk said. "Being down here in Mexico with all these great poker minds definitely helps with that."

Carillo is in the same situation. A lifelong football player and coach, at 32 years old Carillo found his favorite form of competition stripped from him in one day. Now, albeit with a move to another country, Carillo has found a new drive and spirit. Once again, he's optimistic.

"I want to able to care of myself and make sure that my wonderful mother doesn't have anything to worry about," Carillo said. "I dream of one day making a charity foundation that gives back to underprivileged kids in sports."

In the world of TCOOP, things move quickly. Tournaments can be up and down in a matter of a couple of hours. For American poker players, there is no easy fix. Nothing moves quickly, it seems. A move to Mexico is part of the long game. For some like Pramuk and Carillo, it's paying off quickly.

"I moved to Mexico with lofty goals and this win puts me even closer to my goal," Carillo said. "This win is nice because of the money, but mentally it's like a bunch of weight has been lifted off my shoulders."

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in TCOOP