Digital Nomad (Part 2)
As a professional online poker player I have the privilege of being able to earn a living from almost anywhere in the world. In part 1 of this blog I gave some advice on how to select the right laptop for the job and set it up. But that's only half the battle.
Choosing the right hotel to stay in is a skill game. First of all, using a booking site, look through photos of each hotel's rooms to see if they have a desk and chair that looks comfortable. Some hotels have 'executive' rooms that cost a little extra and include a nice desk / office chair combo that is more than suitable to work at.
Many hotels have HD flat screens. You can hook your laptop up to these and use them as your dual monitor. I've even gone as far as taking the TV down from it's bracket on the wall and placing it on the desk next to my laptop. Again, look through photos of the hotel's rooms before you book. You should be able to see if they have a good TV and where it's positioned.
Before booking a hotel, make sure it provides free un-metered internet For me, that is as essential as a bed and hot running water. I refuse to book a hotel that wants me to pay extra for the internet or limits it's use. It actually tends to be the cheaper or independent hotels that offer free WiFi and the more expensive chain hotels that charge anything up to $30 USD per night extra for internet, and you'd have to be a real fish to pay that.
Just because your accommodation provides internet, you can't rely on it being good. The quality of the internet service is very important as an unstable internet connection will cost you a lot of money through disconnections and extreme tilt. Before booking a hotel I will search through customer reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor to see if there are any comments about the quality of the internet service.
When booking the hotel I make a point of asking for a room as close to a wireless router as possible to make sure I have a strong WiFi signal. If you end up in a room where you are receiving a weak WiFi signal don't be afraid to make a fuss about it and request a room change. A lot of hotels still have Ethernet connections in the rooms that were installed before WiFi was popular, so make use of that for a more stable connection if it's available.
Renting an apartment short-term is also a good strategy. If you are travelling with friends it will likely work out cheaper, you can set up a group office at the kitchen table and you are likely to have an internet connection that is dedicated to your apartment. In a hotel you are sharing the internet connection with a whole bunch of people.
Hotels that are hosting a lot of poker players for a big tournament tend to have problems with their internet service very often. I think that day-to-day their internet service is probably decent, but then they get fully booked out with poker players who are heavy internet users and put a strain on the internet service. The worst day is generally the Sunday which is usually a final table day, so most of the field has busted and are in their rooms playing Sunday tourneys and surfing the internet.
That brings me nicely to my next tip. Backup internet. It's always important to have a backup internet connection, but especially if, like me, you play hyper turbo sit-n-go tournaments. Not being able to reconnect immediately after a disconnection results in the certain loss of at least a dozen buyins.
I always use 3G as a backup. Data roaming charges are absurdly expensive so don't even think about that. I buy a cheap pre-paid local SIM card at the airport when I arrive in a country and use it in either my USB AirCard that's unlocked to any network or my android phone where I can use it to broadcast a personal WiFi network.
If you want to be extra safe, buy two SIM cards from different providers, use one in your AirCard and one in the smartphone. You'd have to be running insanely bad for all three connections to die at the same time.
Another good thing about having a local 3G SIM card is the ability to play from places that have no internet. I stayed in a small town in Cambodia where the hotel had no internet but with my laptop and 3G connection I was able to happily play on PokerStars. Even a 10 minute power-outage couldn't stop me.
A 3G connection also means that you can play using Pokerstars Mobile on a smartphone or tablet whenever you have some time to kill on a coach journey or waiting for a train or something of that nature.
My final tip is to keep your laptop safe. If you are going to be around other poker players that you don't know and trust then don't leave your laptop unattended at all. If someone wanted to plant some malicious trojan on your machine all they would need is access to a USB port and a few seconds. This isn't unheard of.
If you are travelling with a high resolution 17" laptop it won't fit in a hotel room safe and if it "goes missing" it will be a nightmare to replace when you're away from home as 17" 1920x1200 laptops are now rare as laptops are becoming smaller. You can only buy them online so you're going to be stuck.
You are not likely to have any problems with theft in decent hotels in most developed countries but in poor countries where your laptop is worth a years salary to a hotel employee that makes for a big temptation. When I was looking through hotel reviews for a trip to Vietnam I constantly read reports of expensive personal items being stolen from hotel rooms.
You could buy a Kensington Lock and use it to secure your laptop to something while you're out of your hotel room but I think just removing the temptation by keeping your laptop hidden is the best strategy. I usually place the laptop in my suitcase and then lock the suitcase. If a member of hotel staff wanted to thieve my laptop it would be easy for them to just wrap it in a towel and get it out of there. A big suitcase is much more difficult to be smuggled out, and they won't know that anything valuable is in it anyway. They'd just assume it's full of clothes and my valuables are in the safe.
Happy and profitable travels to you all. If you have any other poker travel tips please send them to me on Twitter @Daleroxxu