Capital: San José
Currency: Costa Rican Colón (CRC)
Casinos with Poker
- Grand Casino Escazu
- Taormina Hotel & Casino
- Hotel Del Rey
Costa Rica is a great place for gamblers. Games of chance are popular both among locals and tourists alike.
According to worldcasinodirectory.com, they have 32 land casinos in operation – not bad for a nation of just under 5 million people. However, pokerdiscover.com only lists 5 poker rooms across the small Central American country.
Despite that, they were home to a stop of the Latin American Poker Tour each time in the series’ first three seasons. Hotels can easily host one-time poker events, such as the LAPT.
It’s also important to note that many of the casinos aren’t the size you’d expect in, for example, Las Vegas. Many of them are small rooms inside large hotels or resorts.
Costa Rica is known for the lax legal environment when it comes to gambling. This especially holds true for online gambling operators, for which no relevant legislation or regulatory body is in place. Perhaps this is the reason that the Winning Poker Network – which includes the famous Americas Cardroom – along with hundreds of other online gambling companies chose San José, Costa Rica as location for their headquarters.
However, gambling online for Costa Rican residents is still technically illegal – only operators enjoy a total lack of legal scrutiny. But in reality, the players themselves have very little to fear too – online bettors are never prosecuted.
Famous Costa Rican Poker Players
Humberto Brenes has cashed for over $6 million in live tournaments. He has two WSOP gold bracelets. He won the $2,500 Pot Limit Omaha event for $128,000; and the $2,500 Limit Hold’em event for $149,000, both in 1993.
He came in 2nd in the $15,000 WPT Championship at the Five-Diamond World Poker Classic for $923,475 in December 2004. That is his biggest single live tournament cash to date.
Aside from his great tournament results, Brenes is also known for his brash and upbeat behavior at the poker table – the man definitely likes to put on a show, especially when he’s celebrating winning a big pot.
Author and poker player Max Stern from Costa Rica is a 3-time WSOP bracelet winner. He took down the $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8-or-Better event in 1995, as well as the $2,500 7-Card Stud Spilt and the $3,000 No Limit Hold’em events, both in 1997. Overall, he cashed for $1.494 million in live tournaments during his career.
There have been multiple extremely successful online MTT players from Costa Rica. Perhaps they’re poker players who were drawn to the country by its lax gambling laws, rather than Costa Rican natives.
Chris “Big Huni” Hunichen has amassed over $12.6 million in online poker tournament winnings while playing from a Costa Rican location. Chris Oliver, who plays under the screen name “imdanuts” has outearned even him, with $13 million in career earnings online.
A Costa Rican player with the screen name “munchenHB” on PokerStars and “ilove2fish” on partypoker has cashed for $11.044 million in online poker tournaments.
– Playing Live Poker in Costa Rica –
Live Poker Legislation in Costa Rica
The law governing gambling in Costa Rica was passed in August 1922. It gave a green light to land casinos in the country.
Some regulations were added later to the bill. For example, nowadays a casino can only be open between 5 pm and 2 am. They also have to pay a 15% annual gambling tax to the government.
Live Poker Venues in Costa Rica
At Grand Casino Escazu right outside the capital city of San José, you’ll find a number of cash tables running. They have NLHE games at $1/$2 stakes and PLO at $1/$2 stakes as well.
You can also find poker rooms in the Taormina Hotel & Casino in San José, and Hotel Del Rey, also in the capital city.
It’s not uncommon for poker festivals to choose luxury hotels as a venue, rather than a regular casino with year-round poker action. That’s what the Latin American Poker Tour did, who hosted their events at the Paradisus Playa Conchal Resort 2008-2010. That resort is now known as The Westin Reserva Conchal, an All-Inclusive Golf Resort & Spa. Another big tournament series held in the country used to be the Costa Rica Classic poker series, which took place in the early 2000’s at the Corobici Hotel & Casino.
– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Costa Rica –
Online Poker Legislation in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is famous for its lax online gambling laws when it comes to operators. Many foreign companies have decided to host their servers in the Central American country to avoid high licencing costs. The most notable of these companies is the Winning Poker Network, which includes Americas Cardroom, a very popular online poker site.
Other than ACR, over 400 online gambling companies have been headquartered there – this is a number cited from calvinayre.com’s profile on the country. These include BetUS, Realtime Gaming and Wagerweb.
Calvinayre.com also writes this short summary on online gambling in Costa Rica:
“Costa Rica has a long history with online gaming. It’s a unique jurisdiction as companies can operate without a gaming license and there are no market restrictions. The key drawback is local banks won’t process transactions and it’s nearly impossible to get a simple corporate account from a local bank as the banking sector is controlled by the US.”
As we wrote in our intro, online gambling is technically illegal for the local residents. However, in reality, that restriction is never enforced so Costa Ricans can have their pick of any online poker room they want.