in Making Money

Bien Duro: Making Money in Panama

“if you had any sense, you’d take your ass home.”

i swear, that’s what he says to me. i don’t respond. i love it when an opponent talks smack. besides, i’m holding a beautiful pair of jacks. and one of them is smirking back at me, as if he just screwed my girlfriend, and wiped his cock across the duvet on his way out the door.

it’s after 2 am in fulltilt’s $5 no-limit poker room, and the action’s heating up. my virtual opponent’s from Texas. he wants me to think he’s got AA. which means he probably doesn’t. i call his big pre-flop raise and we see a flop.

7 clubs, 2 of hearts, 9 of clubs.

my jacks look even happier. but it could be the abuelo. i make a pot-sized bet. i know texas will re-raise if he’s got AA. he just calls. he’s slow playing a big hand, or he’s on a draw.

a jack hits fourth street, giving me a set. i toast my computer screen, and bet the pot. tex re-raises. some players do that with a flush draw. or maybe he’s got trips. at this point i don’t care. i move all in.

“i warned you” he says.

yeah, you did tex. fifth street’s random. i show down a set of jacks. tex has three sevens. i haul in a $100 pot and wait for the inevitable whine.

“nice catch wetback.”

life can be so unfair for an angry white man. i remember when i felt a similar rage. only i wasn’t blaming immigrants. i was angry with myself. it was back in 2002. i was divorced, broke, and dealing with chronic knee pain. i knew i needed to change my life.

i made the rounds, telling anyone who’d listen, i was moving to panama. my big news went down like a dry chorizo. was i crazy? was this some kind of tropical mid-life crisis? probably.

had he been my shrink, Thoreau could have summed up my mental state up in five words, “a life of quiet desperation.” i was one of those guys. i’d drive to work, thumb in air, index finger to temple, as if i was blowing my brains out with an imaginary pistol.

30+ years of working hard, and playing by the rules just stopped making sense. it felt like i’d spent my entire life mindlessly filling out papers, standing in lines, waiting in traffic, and following orders. one day it hit me, wouldn’t it be better to work for myself, and follow my dreams?

(dear god, this is starting to sound like a self-help piece. i need a drink.)

4 yeas later, i’d tell anyone to do the same. quit the job, quit the wife, quit the life. hell, quit the dog too. but for the love of god don’t quit drinking. everyone in central america knows rum makes an excellent mosquito repellent. i haven’t been bitten in the 4 years i’ve lived here. and i owe it all to abuelo.

look, i know there are happy cogs. but consider this, i have a friend, lets call him dave. dave’s a teacher. like many teachers, he hates kids, despises his bosses. dave’s all about the benefits. i swear, he’d mop the jizz from porn a theater if they gave him a pension and summers off.

“just another 15 years and i’ll be fully vested”, he tells me.

to him this is a reasonable plan for living; life starts at 60. maybe i’ll be dead by then. if dave has any dreams they’re buried deeper than the crusty stack of playboys next to his bed.

i get dave. it feels safer to stay in a miserable job. the summer i told friends i was moving to panama, we all jumped out of a plane. as i dropped through the clouds over rhode island, i figured my chute would open; but i wasn’t sure it would. the road to panama (or into the unknown) is like that; a free fall of terror, doubt, and if one’s lucky, bliss.

but the leap’s surely not as horrifying as waking up one day, stricken and numb, knowing your youth is gone, and your dreams are dead. if my chute doesn’t open so be it. after all these years, i’m writing again. i can’t imagine how i’d accomplish that if i was coming home every night whipped.

back when i’d tell people i wanted to write, they’d always say, “don’t quit your day job.” i now believe that’s exactly what i had to do.

dreams aside, i need money to survive. and without a sweet pension, or a real estate swindle, survival can be a challenge in panama. the guru’s say everyone’s got something valuable to offer. i don’t think they mean i should ebay my porn collection; that’s more of a last resort. but anyone reading this is probably a native english speaker. any gringo can teach english in panama.

i don’t teach. i write. andopportuni for the longest time there was a need for an english paper that updated faster than the panama news. the panama news is a very fine paper. but not the place for a daily fix of news.

so, along came the infamous panama guide. its owner has a system for updating daily. he swipes stories from the daily papers, and posts them on his site, every day. because he’s offering value (someone else’s) he’s making money 24/7. he can’t get laid off. he doesn’t have to wait for a pension. his only fear is if (or when) he’ll be led away in cuffs.

there’s probably no end to the possibilities. one need not become a criminal. just figure out what people want and give it to them. sounds simple. its not. but it sure beats working for someone else.

maybe one day writing for panama after hours will pay the bills. until then, i play poker. the best time to make money on fulltilt is late at night. i average about $500-$900 a month playing low limit poker part time. that’s a decent salary in panama. but, i need to make at least $1200. a month to live and write in panama full time.

it’s hard. i’m not saying i have it all figured out. there are times when i think tex might be right. if i had any sense, i’d take my ass home. but then i think, how many of us really get to live out our dreams? more than anything, that’s what my life in panama’s all about.

Care to Comment?



  1. AMEN to that Cojito. A favorite quote of mine: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, "WOooHOO, what a ride!"

  2. your writing has taken quantum leaps since you got back. if most of your readers are pervets like you and me (as you claim), why don't you see if some of the brothels, massage parlors and clubs want to advertise on your site?

    or how about this — link up with some freelance hookers and be their online pimp. put up their pictures and bios and then let interested parties pay you for their phone numbers? ofcourse, since you believe in top-notch customer service, you're going to have to test each girl thoroughly before you can recommend her — hey! i didn't say the job would be easy…

  3. "quantum leap?" lol you mean it was really really bad before? like i've gone from an f to a c- ?

    these are all good ideas. i especially like the freelancer idea. first off, their stories and pics would make for compelling reading. it would bring in all kinds of crazy perve traffic. and it would be fun.

    the question is, would these women be willing to go public? would they be willing, or feel any need to advertise? or are they content to ply their trade in clubs and brothels?

    i stumbled onto a site the other day that was selling a 3 day stay with various girls. the price was something like $1600. crazy. they're probably paying the girl $100 a night (if she's lucky) plus tips, the hotel gets $100 a night. that leaves about $1000 for them.

    you might be on to something.

  4. i thought it was good before. recently it seems to have jumped a level. the more expensive rum will do that.

    call me and i'll give you some specific ideas. i don't want to post them here and have somebody rip you off.

  5. I wouldn't go down that road (with the whores). I have a friend in CR who did. There is money to be made, but major headaches involved. Plus, high, high maintenence. After the first three weeks, you'll realize that dealing with those people is the same as dealing with the people who work at Burger King. And trust me… you don't want to spend your life around that.

    It's like an island… fun to do for a couple of days… but you don't want to live there.

    Trust me… there are safer, healthier (and I mean mentally) and easier ways to make money. I can pay you (not a lot, but something!) to write some ebooks and reports for me if you're interested?

  6. cojito, check craigslist in SF. they sell everything, including apts, and call girl services if you like. Check out there web site and perhaps give that a try. If not your writing sure seems to be marketable for $1500 to $3500 per month. I am a panamanian architect living in SF selling my design services for a little more than that and living the most wonderful life ever, so I can only imagine that marketing your writing services instead of the fine women of PTY can support that fine living you have and enjoy your life in PTY. Check out the San Blas islands and the mountains in Cerro Punta or the rivers in Boquete while you are in PTY. The cayuco races, motorbike races, american football league and baseball are also great joys of PTY. The beaches, rivers, falls and swim holes throu out the interior are also something to experience. I would work monday thru thursday in the city, then head out to the interior from friday AM to sunday and enjoy and discover our beaches , rivers and the likes. Now that is the life my man. You are truly a lucky man. Make sure you make the best of it in PTY.


  7. i wasn't thinking of pimping in the literal day-to-day, in the streets way. i only think in terms of hassle-free recurring revenue. my idea does not involve working directly with the girls or ever meeting their clients. call me

  8. I have enjoyed your writing all day…..bored at work.

    I will be in Panama City, or some place called City of Knowledge, next week. I can't wait! I know very little spanish, is this going to be a problem?

    I am looking forward to the local women.

    Keep writing…good stuff.

  9. Looks like I found the answer in another article.

    Better start brushing up on my spanish. If not I am never going eat, drink, or get laid. The latter will really upset me.

  10. tefitzge – if you've been reading this site you already know more than i did when i first came to panama. don't worry, it won't be a problem.

    rrroyo – you're living in my favorite u.s. city. it's amazing, but expensive. i always said, if i was wealthy i'd live in SF.

    but i'm not. and i've fallen in love with panama. pty rocks too. with just a little money one can have a wonderful life here. thanks for the excellent advice. i'm going to try some of these things. the cayuco races are coming up soon i think.

    i've been limited because i'm still learning the city and language. i'm like a cat. i take my time. i explore the neighborhood bit by bit. my territory gets bigger and bigger. no worries, i'll be urinating on the bushes of Cerro Punta and Boquete very soon.

    also, until i have money coming in, i'm careful. can you tell me some of your favorite crocodile-free beaches, rivers, and swimming holes? can i get there by bus? or taxi? i don't have a car here.

    lakesdiver – it's cheap if you're not paying rent or a mortgage. i could live cheaper if i was off the grid. but i like my cable, laptop, and high speed connection.

  11. there is a find me-fuck me website called if you have a membership, you can search on panama city and find about 700 chicks looking for love. some are hookers, some are gold diggers, others are just looking for love. proceed at your own risk, but i know one of the girls and she's a sweet kid. The only way i would ever introduce you to her is if i interviewed you in person and concluded that you are not an asshole. I'm already embarrassed by the behaviour of gringos in general. i'm not about to turn one more loose one-on-one with a girl i respect.

  12. marcopolo – I am proud to be an American (gringo), but I am also embarrassed at how most act when visiting other countries. We need to implement a moron test to get a passport.

  13. I'm sure there would be a moron waiver available with proper references……and enough

    I am going insane trying to figure out where this place I am staying is located. It is called Albrook and I will be working in an area called Clayton. I hope this is not to far from the "fun" parts of the city.

  14. not far. depending on traffic albrook's about 5 min (and $1.50 – $2.00) taxi ride to panama city. i think raul's staying in albrook right now. maybe he'll stop in and give you a head's up.

    albrook and clayton were u.s bases. now they're kinda residential. there's a small airport, a big-ass mall, and a bus station that connects to the rest of the country. you'll be close to the canal too. not a bad place to be. the city will be crazy for carnival. and i hear all the better hotels are already booked up in town.

  15. Carnival…that explains. I was trying to stay at the Marriot but there are no rooms.

    Thanks for all of your help. Hope to run in to you while I am there next week. I have work but I should have plenty of play time. You can make fun of the Texan in Panama.

  16. All the hotels have been booked up for the past month. Really crazy, and nobody knows why. Everybody thought people would go home after the holidays… but they didn't.

    Albrook area is really, really nice. But a schlep to get out here.

    It's very suburban. Reminds me of the West University area in Houston.

    If you call a taxi from your hotel, it will be $4 to get to Cangrejo and where all the action is. Returning, if you hail a taxi on the street you can get back for $2. Maybe more if you've got gringo written on your forehead.

    They will negotiate with you, though.

  17. I ended up at Riande Continental casino hotel. I was not willing to stay all the way out there. I will have a ong cab ride to Clayton everyday though.

    Just got to Panama and I am in my hotel. Decent room…I guess. I have to fnd some fun tonight.

  18. You guys are the shit, I've been cracking up at all of the postings. tefitzge, good luck gettin some tail. rrroyo, I will heed your great advice about places to see. Cojito, you da man. Im moving out there in July, will be checking the site religiously until then. Take it sleazy

  19. here's a crash course:

    rum = ron – that's all you need for the menu part.

    for the spanish part tell the taxi driver "quiero chicas" and get your money ready.

  20. So you mentioned playing poker online, ever venture into Veneto or any of the other casinos? I sat down at the "hold'em" table in Veneto on my birthday for about 20 mins and made over $100.

  21. so how long have you been in Panama now? After numerous visits and years of entertaining the idea, I too am making the move next month.