Was Costa Rica the Right Move? | Matt Stout Poker Blog September 24, 2011


I’ve been in Costa Rica for exactly a month now since moving here in August to play online poker. Although I’ve done several interviews about the move for different media outlets ranging from CardPlayer and Bluff to Bloomberg/Businessweek, I haven’t really blogged about the trip at all aside from doing a video blog of our place here.

Clearly I haven’t won anything big, or I’d have certainly found some time for a brag blog. Like I’ve said many times, it’s a lot easier to write about positive stuff and winning than it is to talk about grinding your ass off while running bad. This is especially true for me, because I’ve always gone out of my way to keep my public whining to an absolute minimum. When I was a broke college kid coming up in poker I was often disgusted to read blogs and interviews with highly successful poker pros where they did nothing but complain, and I always promised myself that would never be me.

As I sat down this morning to eat my usual banana pancakes before my penultimate grind session for this trip, I was left wondering a lot of things. Did I make the right decision to come here? Am I playing my best game? Will I regret the decision to move to Costa Rica if these last two session of the trip before I head to Europe for WSOPE/EPT don’t go well?

As far as my game goes, I feel that I’ve been playing well…but not my absolute A game, so it’s still unacceptable. This can be attributed to a few different things. Although I’ve done a lot to get set up and be comfortable down here, I’m sure I’d be more rested and focused if I were at home in Vegas. I’m definitely feeling an ever-increasing element of homesickness. I bought a house in Vegas last December with the intention of getting a dog, setting up a home, and spening MUCH less time on the road than I had over the previous 5 years while playing a lot more online. I put a lot of time, energy, and money into making that house a home…and have been *forced* to leave it. I miss my dog. I miss my bed. I miss my best friends in Vegas. I miss Texas de Brazil (my favorite restaurant).

Somewhat frequent power/internet issues and the failure of battery backups and air cards I’d purchased at the beginning of the WCOOP have created a lot of stress and some shortened sessions. I’m used to dealing with bad beats, but I still can’t keep myself from tilting when I time out on hands, blind out, and lose time banks while I can’t get back online. Joey even had to head to our friend David Chicotsky’s house in Heredia (over a 1/2 hour from us) to finish a session after a thunderstorm caused a power surge that knocked out a subrouter in our complex, leaving us without internet for a day. Thanks again to David for the save, and for helping us get acclimated to Costa Rica in general.

Another issue is that I’ve probably become a bit complacent with my game lately, which is usually a sure-fire way to fail in just about any profession. People around the world were continuing to play thousands of hands a day and improve their game while I took an unexpected post-Black Friday hiatus from online poker except some session on Lock Poker, partied, and played the WSOP and very few other live tournaments over the course of four months. I could have spent a lot more of that free time watching training videos, reading books, and reviewing hand histories…which I’ll definitely get back to doing more of in the future.

The few months I took off from long sessions of online poker was definitely detrimental to my work ethic and stamina, as well. I find myself getting tired earlier in my sessions, even on Sundays which I usually loved putting 12-14 sessions in during. The wacky, early sleep schedule I’ve had to get on for the increasing Euro-centric online tournament schedule hasn’t helped, either.

The World Championships of Online Poker aren’t over though, and I’m definitely planning on staying in tonight (my last Saturday in Costa Rica for this trip) to get plenty of rest before the $5,200 main event tomorrow with a $5M guaranteed prize pool and $1M guaranteed for the winner. I live for high-stakes, deep stacked tournaments like that one, and I definitely plan on making a deep run in it.

In the unfortunate event that I don’t, though, I still think I’ll leave here without regretting the decision to come as well as looking forward to the next trip down. I’ve made some good friends down here, both gringo and tico, and become closer with a couple friends I already had. I helped my best friend Joe Cappuccio make the transition down here despite it being one of his first international trips and him not knowing more than three words of Spanish.

I’m also finally pushing myself to continue learning Spanish after two years in high school and three semesters in college and have even been using Rosetta Stone on top of conversational practice with Spanish-speaking friends. And even though it’d still be a net-losing trip so far even if it was cash, I’m glad I won my PCA package to go to the Bahamas in January. I love PCA, but it can be hard to justify the astronomical travel expenses of staying at Atlantis resort when I don’t win the package.

All in all, I think I’ll be able to say that I made the best decision I could have based on expected value in these events, even if if doesn’t work out as planned. I made some new friends, helped out my best friend, tried really hard even if it wasn’t my absolute best, and fell in love with a new country that will always have a piece of my heart. Pura vida!