Everyone hates taxes. Getting a root canal is probably preferable to forking over hard-earned money. For Americans, it was doubly painful that Black Friday in 2011 fell on April 15. For one Greek poker community member, a hefty tax burden could cause him to move permanently.
‘Pokerfan89gr‘ chopped last weekend’s PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up for $53,000. You’d probably think he’d be jumping for joy, doing cartwheels most Olympian gymnasts would salivate over. Instead, he’s bogged down in the three-letter “t” word, killing his buzz like a cold shower.
“It sucks because of the ridiculous tax,” he said of the resulting burden of the biggest score of his online poker career. “Most Greek pros or people who want to play a lot have to move or stop playing entirely. (The government) tax daily. At 7:00am each day, they take 20% of your winnings. It’s automatically taken from your account.”
Every morning, a fifth of your earnings are gone. Poof. Like that Now You See Me movie except Jesse Eisenberg is continually banging on your door.
Accordingly, ‘Pokerfan89gr’ is seriously contemplating hitting the road too.
“I have to leave Greece in order to go to the next level,” he said. “If I win something big, I’m for sure getting taxed a lot. That’s really bad. It’s minus-EV. I would have to leave Greece, but my family and friends are here and the place is great.”
His family serves a major source of support, so leaving them would be a major, perhaps deal-breaking change.
“My first option would be Cyprus because it’s close and they speak the same language,” he said of his possible destinations. “I have friends, fellow poker players, and relatives who live there. I’m talking about moving there and living with them. My family would stay behind, but you can fly back and forth in an hour or so.”
Now you see his dilemma. It’s the ultimate Catch-22: leave Greece and pursue his dreams or stay and get milked of his profits.
One of his closest compatriots in poker is Paris Dedes, who is from Athens.
“He was already crushing when I was starting in poker,” ‘Pokerfan89gr’ said. “I started talking with him because I really liked the way he was playing and realized he was very good. And by talking with him, I mean bothering him constantly about spots. He saw that I could pick things up and we started discussing poker a lot. I was watching him play all the time and asking him things. He opened my mind.”
Dedes high-tailed it out of dodge and went to the United Kingdom to play poker, but eventually returned.
“I think the change of environment bothered him,” ‘Pokerfan89gr’ said of Dedes coming home. “I think I’d have a lot of struggles adjusting if I were completely alone. If I had roommates who played poker, I would probably be just fine. I also have a girlfriend, but it’s hard to have a stable relationship when you’re playing online all the time.”
Further complicating the situation is the struggling Greek economy. The unemployment rate is as high as 25% and the government has received multiple bailouts from creditors. It’s a mess.
You’d think that guys like ‘Pokerfan89gr’ would be jumping for joy that they have a source of income in the first place, even if it’s chock-full of variance and taxed so highly.
“We’re not as happy as we should be having the freedom poker gives us and making more money than others here,” he said. “But, if I stay in Greece, I’d still play poker until I find something better or more interesting. I’ve always been interested in philosophy, for example”.
Cyprus seems to be the front-runner should ‘Pokerfan89gr’ ultimately opt for a change of scenery. The island nation of a million people has a burgeoning live poker scene to boot, which could provide him with the opportunity for some poker diversity.
“I’ve heard the live scene in Cyprus has some good value, but I have never played there,” he said. “Lots of friends of mine have been there and said it’s really good.”
His poker career started on New Year’s Eve in 2007 when his group of friends were playing card games, mostly blackjack. Bored by that game, a friend proposed that the group take on a new challenge: Five Card Draw.
“We started playing Five Card Draw once a week,” ‘Pokerfan89gr’ said. “Then, one of us found out about No Limit Hold’em on the internet and we started playing that. Then, we started playing with play money on some sites.”
Almost a decade later, he is up to almost $1.1 million in career online winnings and is the 20th-ranked player in Greece.