OPN Heads Up With Ramesh Rao Thotapalli


Ramesh Rao Thotapalli became a sensation in the poker circuit of Bangalore by winning and final tabling some of the major tournaments in the city last month. An MBA graduate, Ramesh is passionate about this game of skill and mixes up live tournaments and cash game in his poker appetite for maximum profits.

OPN India had a conversation with Ramesh about his poker experiences and journey so far. Here are the excerpt from the conversation:

Hi Ramesh, thanks for taking out some time to speak with us. To start with, can you tell us when you started playing poker? Your poker journey in brief.

Ramesh – It is indeed a great pleasure meeting you Mukesh. My poker journey started back in 2011-12 after my MBA on a random trip to Goa. A friend of mine is a recreational player and he took me to the casino (Casino Pride) for the first time. I got to know the game then only. However, I didn’t play then. I was working with BCCI back then. The game was so exciting; I came back with some bankroll two months later. During my learning phase, which was practically on the table, I donated a lot of money. 3 months down the lane, I broke even and then it all started. Later, I travelled quite a bit to play cash games in various countries.

Of late, your performance especially in tournaments in Bangalore poker rooms has been fabulous. Share your thoughts on the recent success.

Ramesh – Well,  I was on a business trip to Bangalore. I knew that there are poker rooms, but never played there. Also, I was short on BR. So, I sold a pack for the first time on IPPA. Madan Kumar, Vinay Choudhary & Tanuj invested 50% in my pack. I reached Bangalore and started my grind. In no time, I registered for my first-ever live tourney on a weekend after Madan Sir asked me to take a shot. I came first among 90 odd participants. I later hopped to various tournaments in Bangalore over the coming weeks. Poker Ninja’s HOK event, which I won, was the most interesting. I came in late at level 4, thanks to Bangalore traffic. I was put on waiting list because all tables were full. I got Eka’s seat since he skipped the tourney. I was confident from the word ‘Go’. In no time I was the chip lead. Call it confidence or arrogance, I told everyone in the house that I am going to ship this when 20 players were still left. I came first among 150+ entries after a 3 way FT deal. All this while, Madan Sir & my best friend Ajay Ojha were my biggest support. I shipped couple of small tourneys later and was in ITM for the rest of others. Really, it was a dream run.

What do you prefer more – tournaments or cash games? What would you like to become five years down the line – cash game specialist or tournament player?

Ramesh – I want to balance both. 70% tournaments and 30% cash games is what I am looking forward to. Although my run has been good, I am aware of the fact that tournament variance and striking a balance is the key. I am going to the Macau Poker Cup & APT Manila. Next year I will head to WSOP. I want to get a bracelet for India ASAP. This is my dream.

How much poker do you play on an average?

Ramesh – I am not that good online. I still dedicate 4-5 hours a day on PokerStars and couple of hours on various Indian Sites. Right now, I am focusing on participating in as many events as possible.

Are you playing poker full-time? How do you balance your professional and personal life with poker?

Ramesh – At the moment, I am playing poker whenever I see value and opportunity. I am investing in poker and poker players full time, apart from my family business. When I am playing poker, nothing and no one can distract me. I try not to think of the game when I am doing something else. But then, it’s tough to take away poker from my mind.

Which players you take up as strong competitors?

Ramesh – I admire Madan Sir’s game. Love the way Clawin solves any situation in the game. Among Indian players, Masood is one maverick ,who I always feel, is very difficult to beat. He has a wide range. I love Rohit Tiwari’s game. There are many regs who play so tight. Out there, every hand and every player matters.

Who do you idolize in Poker, both in India and internationally?

Ramesh – Madan Kumar is my guru and mentor. I love Aditya Agarwal. I have massive respect for Clawin & JDsaz. Most players in the Indian circuit are my close buddies. I love Dwan’s aggression, Daniel’s reads & love to have a run like Mercier who ran like God when it mattered the most.

What are your poker plans ahead this year?

Ramesh – I am headed to the DPT now. Right after DPT, I am flying down to Macau for the Macau Poker Cup. Immediately post that I am heading to APT Manila. I am yet to plan the last quarter of this year.

What is your one poker dream?

Ramesh – A WSOP Gold Bracelet.

How do you like spending spare time off the poker felt? What are you hobbies?

Ramesh – Poker itself is a great hobby for me . If I am not playing poker, then I love to  travel. I am a big foodie. Trying out different cuisines and places is my favourite passtime.

What’s your take on the rising popularity of poker in India? What do you think should be done to promote this game more?

Ramesh – It’s just a matter of couple of years and we will reach that point where poker isn’t ill-treated by the society. We are on the verge of a massive boom. People like Aditya Agarwal, Navkiran Singh, Amin Rozani, Praveen Dwarkanath, Clawin (to name a few) and websites like Adda52.com are doing a lot for the community. Events are getting bigger & classier than ever. A lot of Indian players are now travelling to various places and representing the country. Investors are also backing youngsters without any fear. It’s just a matter of time. We will be there!