Relocating for Poker in the Philippines
After the US shut down PokerStars and the main online poker sites on Black Friday I found myself playing live everyday in casinos and it was awful. No chicks looked like this.
Via the Asian Poker Tour, which visits Cebu and Manila every year
I didn’t have the bankroll for it and the swings were to much. Not to mention that live poker is super boring after you have been multitabling online for years.
I had a few life choices, I could either continue hating life grinding live, get a job, or move abroad. I settled on moving abroad and was deciding between Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines. After doing research on the Philippines and finding out they spoke good English, the cost of living was so low, and that the ladies liked foreigners it was quite an easy decision for me. So after a brief stint in Cambodia I ended up there.
There was also enough live poker in the Philippines that I could fall back on it if the online games were too tough, or if there was another site shut down similar to Black Friday. I really had no plans for playing live, but it was nice to have it as an option.
I researched every forum and website I could find for 7 months, asking tons of questions to get myself as prepared as I could possibly be. I had a huge wordpad file with all sorts of tips about hotels, apartments, restaurants, doctors, dentists…. every useful bit of info I could find I saved.
Sadly most of this info was for Manila and I have now been in Asia for 3 years and never lived long term in Manila. It’s overcrowded and more expensive, I don’t like paying more money to waste time sitting in traffic. I still had a lot of info on some of the other places I have stayed, and the research has definitely paid off overall.
Poker in Manila
Most poker players that move to the Philippines do end up staying in Manila at first. It has the most casinos and is definitely the best for live poker. If you want to play 100-200 (lil smaller than 2-5) no limit or 200-400 (lil smaller then 5-10) then it really is your only option. There is also some PLO around.
It seems like everyone wants to stay in Makati when they first arrive as that’s the nicest area of the city. Gramercy is a 70 floor condo with a nice pool and gym, lots of poker players end up staying there. Use Craigslist Manila to check out rentals.
Gramercy condominium infinity pool
The worst part about the Philippines is that the condo/hotel costs are way out of whack with the costs of the rest of the country. To get any decent condo in Manila you will need to spend like $500-600 a month. That is crazy in a city where the average person makes $200 a month.
Of course you can find cheaper, but it will be cheaper for reasons that you won’t want to deal with, at least not when you are first arriving in a third world country. At Gramercy you can get month to month which is nice but it is pretty overpriced, I believe the cheapest studio you can get is around $700 a month.
Solemare is another option. It is not in Makati but it is located closer to the main casinos which will save you a lot of time if you want to play live. It is a nice new building and you can get a room there in the $600 a month range.
There are also quite a few month to month options in the area around Burgos Street. Some for $500ish which are definitely liveable. If I ever lived in Manila that is probably where I would stay. It’s in a pretty safe area of Makati.
Live Poker in the Philippines
Playing live poker in Manila you have quite a few options. The main casinos are Resorts World, Solaire, Metro Card Club, and the PokerStars Live room in City of Dreams.
They always have 25-50 games running, 50-100 most of the time, and then 100-200 and 200-400 some of the time on weekends.
In Resorts, the 50-100 and higher games typically run from around dinner time to a few hours after midnight. The same case for PokerStars Live.
The rake is quite high anywhere you play in Asia but since Manila does have multiple options it isn’t quite as bad here as some other places. Still it is way worse then what you would pay in Vegas. Also the dealers can be pretty slow or bad.
The casinos also aren’t all packed together like you will find on the strip in Vegas so if you go to Resorts World and the games aren’t any good hopping to another casino will take some time. Another thing to be prepared for is that Asians love to slowroll so have fun with that.
In Angeles City there two main poker rooms and both are very close to each other. They are called Wild Aces and Double Aces. One is located on Walking Street right across from High Society disco, the other is on Santos Street across from the Penthouse Suites. Don’t expect to find anything higher than 50-100 here, and its mostly 25-50.
In Cebu there are a few options but the main one is Waterfront Casino. Again don’t expect 100-200 here but 50-100 runs pretty often. It’s in a nice area of the city, I’d suggest trying to rent a room around IT Park if you want to play a lot at Waterfront.
This is one of the problems with the Philippines for online poker, but eventually you will get set up fine. In Thailand you can pretty much rely on mobile data for all of your poker needs. I stayed in Pattaya for one month and the only internet I needed to grind on 888 was a $30 3g stick.
Mobile data in the Philippines can’t be relied upon. It may be great in one area and awful the next. It also is generally worse in the day when everyone is awake and better at night. That is ok because if you want to grind online in Asia you will likely need to be on a night schedule.
You will be best off either renting a place that has wifi already that you can test before you sign, or getting your own land line put in, e.g. from the company PLDT. The problem with that is that I like to move around and don’t like signing their year (or longer) contracts.
Eventually you will be able to get internet set up, but there will be some trial and error at first, and there may be some nights where your normally steady land line acts up and you just can’t play. At that point you can go to an internet cafe, try and rely on mobile data, or just give up.
Edit: I asked on PokerManila.com and they recommended getting mobile internet from two providers, Globe plus Smart or Sun (not Smart and Sun together as they’re co-owned). Then at home a 5mps connection or fibre line, at around $60/month. They also suggested the Pasig area of Manila if you’re mostly here for live poker.
Outside of Poker
Outside of poker the Philippines is a great option for western men. The women are very open to making new friends and like westerners in general. All you have to do is smile and be polite and you will have problems finding a girlfriend or something more casual.
The people speak reasonably good English and you should always be able to communicate anything you need to. You can find most things that you will want or need here so you don’t need to bring a lot of stuff with you. The food isn’t that great but every city has enough good restaurants you will be alright.
The cost of living is really low, I never spend more than $1k in a month but I don’t party. Manila is the most expensive city but there are other cheaper options around. Overall living in the Philippines is great and making the move was the best decision I ever made.
I wrote more info on poker in the Philippines for Rakeback.com.