PLAYA DEL CARMEN, MEXICO — When Matt Block walks into Big Al & Redneck Steve's Beer Bucket on 10th Street on a brilliant sunny Sunday afternoon with a tan and the tropics-approved outfit of light polo, simple shorts, and low tops with no socks, he looks like the thousands of people who flock to the vacation paradise 45 minutes south of Cancun.
Except unlike the tourists hemorrhaging cash on watered-down margaritas and overpriced beach chairs, the New Yorker is here to work. On this Sunday, he makes $7,100 in a few hours sitting in front of his computer, playing online poker. He arrived a month ago and has no plans to leave anytime soon. Life is too good, cheap and easy, with an endless string of women "actively looking to make bad decisions, "as he puts it.
The 28-year-old — "ancient for poker," he says — is a new addition to the informal brotherhood of about 150 mostly young men, the majority American, who have flocked to this beach resort on the so-called Riviera Maya to make their fortunes at online poker, spending their spare time partying, hitting on women, and living large. Members of the loosely connected group span more than a dozen years in age and varying degrees of card-playing talent. Some bonds are tighter than others. People come and go, but together they make up what you could call the Poker Frat of Playa del Carmen.
The life sounds like a dream. And for the most part it is.