'I used to make £10,000 a month playing online poker - now I'm jacking it in'

He has no regrets

Ellie Broughton
Thursday 12 January 2017 12:32 GMT
Dale says poker winnings are not what they were
Dale says poker winnings are not what they were

He was arguably the ultimate digital nomad - travelling the four corners of the globe funded by his talent for beating the best players in the world in high-stakes online poker rooms.

For six years, Dale Philip travelled to more than 50 countries after quitting his IT job to play poker full-time, winning up to £10,000 in a single month.

But a legal crackdown by some countries on gambling, plus dwindling profits as the poker boom dies down, means he's back in the UK.

It was back in 2010 when he left his home city of Edinburgh, while assuming he'd make a quick return - unsurprisingly, he quickly found that the lifestyle was hard to give up.

He says he liked to use Thailand as a base, where he would spend weeks at a time accumulating the funds to continue his adventure. The relatively stable, developed country provides structure, he said, plus opportunities to meet people, socialise, and stick to a strict budget.

When he travelled, he always planned to work for at least a few hours each day, setting a goal to earn more money during the trip than he'd spend on flights, accommodation and food.

His main priority was always very different to the other travellers exploring Asia; his biggest concern was finding a stable internet connection.

If poker players get disconnected, even briefly, they can lose the whole pot: “Hotels were the worst," he said. "In the evenings the internet would slow down because so many people were using it at once. Shockingly, I mainly had internet problems in rich countries like Australia and Spain, but amazing connections in Vietnam and Cambodia.”

However, a two-pronged assault on the profitability of the game means his lucrative life abroad could be coming to an end.

Increasingly, countries are toughening their stance on online poker and in some places it’s no longer legal to play after a major crackdown by the US Justice Department five years ago.

The bigger problem is that online poker is becoming less and less profitable as time goes on.

"The online poker boom is well and truly over. There's now far fewer players playing online and the ones that are there have a much higher level of ability than in the past, so they're tougher to beat."

Sites have tried to make up for lost business by cutting ‘rewards’ (a large portion of most pro players’ income) and increasing their fee on each pot or tournament (the ‘rake’).

In 2010 Dale would regularly make £10,000 in a month: six years on, he reports that £2,000 is a good month. Many of his professional poker-playing peers have folded for good.

He's currently back in Edinburgh for the first time in three years, deciding between finding a different field, and continuing life as a ‘digital nomad’ - or returning to the UK full-time to resume an IT career. He worries that the routine of a working week would be a big shock to the system.

“It would be hard for me to adjust to a normal life after the way I've been living for the last six years,” he says. “I feel physically ill just at the thought of waking up at 7am each day, putting on a suit and spending most of the day sitting in an office.”

But the holiday’s not over yet: he’s hitting Europe next, and returning to Asia to look for new options. And lastly he says, he has no regrets.

“If I had spent the last eight years working in an office rather than having complete freedom to live my life the way I wanted to - that's something I would regret,” he says. “You're only young once and when those years have passed you can't get them back.”

Dale blogs at daleroxxu.co.uk

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