Anyone that claims that moving out of the US in order to continue to pursue online poker was a snap-call must be even braver than the little toaster from that 1987 Disney flick! Obscure movie references aside, I own a Lab that's about one hamburger away from being considered a giant breed, and I wasn't willing to move somewhere that would force him to endure a long trip in the freezing hull of a plane.
As I wrote about in my first article for PokerStars, my husband and I decided to move part time to Rosarito, Mexico, about eight months ago. Over that time period, our experiences (with the noted exception of the near-fire Collin started while attempting to cook octopus) were quite positive.
Getting to traverse a rocky beach worthy of being on the cover of National Geographic every morning makes me feel almost like I'm on vacation more than visiting someplace in order to work. I've found the freshest organic eggs at a little market, and enjoy getting to try new experiences like holding a starfish and cooking cactus.
However, I absolutely loved living in Vegas, which was something that made selling and donating 95 percent of our belongings in preparation for the international move more difficult. It was an odd feeling to get rid of things I thought I'd own my whole life -- like the mahogany bedroom set that was my first major adult purchase. When I considered throwing away my university diploma just to save space, I realized just how daunting the prospect of moving with just a car full of stuff really is.
Initially, we'd planned on getting a storage space and keeping our nice furniture/electronics and donating the rest. But once I did the math, I realized that paying a lot to keep stuff in a place that you don't know when/if you can live again just doesn't make sense. It was as if I wanted to keep part of myself in Vegas by having my possessions there, but I ended up taking the massively +EV line of selling or donating all the furniture from our house.
In getting rid of nearly everything I owned, it was interesting to see the items that made the elite cut. I donated a Waterford crystal vase, but I brought the London Underground mug my Mom gave me during a trip we took there together; I donated a perfectly good computer monitor, but kept a battered quilt from my youth.
As our house in Vegas grew emptier, and eventually looked exactly like the first day I saw it (minus a few scratches), I realized part of why this move was so emotional for me. We'd found this house and moved to Vegas only a couple weeks before Black Friday, and the reality was that the existence I envisioned in the house just hadn't panned out the way I'd hoped.
As I spent more and more time in Mexico during the transitional period of the last few months, I found myself missing Mexico when I was in Vegas more than the other way around. And of course, that was primarily for one reason: getting to play on PokerStars. I know that some poker players just play poker for the money, but it has never been that way for me. I rarely feel as on top of the world as when I'm 25-tabling right as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean, and if it weren't for the glare, I'd move my grind station to the balcony with Wilbur.
While in Mexico, I tend to average playing more than 70 hours a week. Add in studying, writing, and producing poker training videos, and I work far more hours than I ever thought I would want to, which my Mom says is a sign that I'm doing the right thing with my life! I still have balance, thanks in no small way to the fact that a full cleaning of our place only costs $30. I love swimming in a gorgeous infinity pool, throwing a sea radish into the ocean for my dog to fetch, and cooking the freshest fish I've ever had after buying it at the Ensenada seafood market.
Poker has taught me so many lessons in my life. This one is like a familiar hand of poker: I have an overpair on the flop, get a lot of action and am concerned about my opponent having a set. But when I turn top set, my mindset changes to hoping that he actually flopped a set. In other words, something that initially seemed like it'd be disastrous can turn out to be good.
That's not to say that I ever really disliked the idea of going to Mexico, though I never loved the seven-hour car rides back and forth. Initially, the differences in culture were a bit overwhelming for me. I remember the first time we came here and it was already dark outside, I really had to use the restroom and we couldn't find our hotel. We stopped at a convenience mart that looked kind of sketchy, and the only desire stronger than not entering this strange place was the one caused by my habit of drinking too much water on car trips. Now when I pass by the same mart, I can't help but think how an area that once looked shady to me I consider to be pretty safe.
I'm often inspired by the people here. Trips later, to the same convenience mart, a disheveled man started cleaning our car while we were inside. Initially, it made me a bit nervous, but I tipped him a small amount as I got in, and he thanked me in English with a smile, then finished cleaning the car, even though the windows were up and he clearly wasn't getting more dinero.
In the Rosarito Walmart, children around 10 years old bag the groceries for tips after school. Typically, a first-worlder's reaction to this is that it's sad that these kids are working, but as a I watch a smiling boy sort the meat away from the vegetables as he delicately packs the bags, I realize that at eight, he is learning the responsibilities many American 20-somethings have yet to learn.
In addition to enjoying the fun aspects of Mexican culture (hello, giant piñata stores), I'm also excited to continue on my rocky path to becoming fluent in a foreign language. Despite three semesters of Espanol in college, I've never been one of those people that learns a language with ease. Last night, I accidentally spoke French to an understandably confused Mexican security guard. But I had a breakthrough today, when I actually understood a sentence my maid told me -"Me voy a comer" - and I even managed to compliment her eclectic music choice when she was doing the cleaning grind to "My Achy Breaky Heart."
"Yo admiro musica bueno!"
As I talked about in my first PokerStars article, Baja has welcomed poker players. In fact, there are so many of us in town that it's rare to go into downtown Rosarito without seeing at least one person that matches the traditional "young Internet poker player" description. I wonder if the Rosarito Walmart is confused as to why its hoodie sales have increased so dramatically!
As the Internet poker expat community grows, it's nice to have a lot of friends here. We have a Skype group chat, and people will post if they're going out to dinner so that there's always something social going on when we feel like getting away from our computers to embrace the light of day.
As the days get longer, one of my favorite pastimes is eating dinner out on our balcony and talking to Collin about how, little by little, Mexico is feeling like our home.
I'll miss so much about Vegas, from watching the neon reflection of the Strip bring awe to tourists' eyes, to 24-hour Korean BBQ and hiking in Red Rock Canyon. Heck, I'll even miss those guys in neon t-shirts that line the Strip to hand out call-girl cards. Vegas is a fascinating juxtaposition between real and fake beauty, whereas Rosarito feels as natural and calm as the water that hugs its shore.
Besides a tremendous number of poker tournaments, I can't say for sure what my first year living in a foreign country will hold. When I was little, I longed for an adventure like in "The Brave Little Toaster." Now, despite not being a small appliance, I've been given that chance, and yo espero to make the most of it!