Pura Vida

One of my favourite aspects of playing poker for a living is freedom. I can manage my own schedule, set my own goals, and go on vacation whenever I want. Since I became a professional poker player less than two years ago I have traveled more than in my whole life, and 2015 has been no exception so far. My year started in the Bahamas, and as soon as I came back I was already booking a flight for another wonderful trip: a whole month in Costa Rica.

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I spent March in Tamarindo, a picturesque town near the Pacific Ocean. What a wonderful place! The sun shines every day, the ocean is warm, and the relaxed atmosphere makes it an amazing town to rest and spend some time away from everything. But it was the lifestyle the best part by far: I would go to the beach in the morning, play online poker in the afternoon, and relax during the evening, my only concern being where to go out for dinner.

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Believe it or not, even though there was so much to do and see, I was able to focus on poker and had a very good month at the tables. I played around 71,000 hands; maybe less than my usual volume but decent for someone who is on vacation.

However my trip wasn't just surfing and sunbathing. PokerStars has offices in several locations around the globe, and one of them is in San José, the capital of Costa Rica. I had always wanted to see how PokerStars works behind scenes, so I was thrilled when I was invited to visit the installations.

Around 300 people work in the Costa Rica offices. I was given a tour where I was able to learn about the responsibilities of each department and talk to the employees, and honestly I was impressed by the high level of professionalism and the strong customer orientation. But what surprised me the most is that the commitment PokerStars shows to players is the same toward their employees. PokerStars is among the top companies to work for in Costa Rica, something you can feel as soon as you enter the building.

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After the tour I was able to play a poker tournament with the employees, and it was a blast. I was a little worried that everyone would hate me because I was running like never in my life (sorry about the bad beats, guys!). But I had a lot of fun, and I am very thankful to everyone for having me in their workplace and being so kind and warm.

My trip is sadly over, but living for a month in Costa Rica was an experience I will never forget. There are two words that summarize the Costa Rican way of life: "Pura Vida." A literal translation would be "pure life," but its meaning is much deeper than that: it refers to being thankful for what you have, having a positive attitude, and enjoying life. I will certainly miss the sun, the waves, and having a tan, but it is the "Pura Vida" philosophy what makes me want to go back.

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Celeste Orona is a member of Team PokerStars Pro Online