Exclusive Interview: Danny McDonagh & Cathy Zhao Talk About WPT Online India (WPTOI), Indian Poker & More

The World Poker Tour (WPT), one of the most well-known brands in poker, is returning to India in November with the first-ever WPT Online India (WPTOI) powered by Adda52.com. With a massive INR 13.5 Crores in guaranteed prizemoney, the series running from 5th to 22nd November features 154 tournaments including the 2.5 Crore GTD Main Event that comes with a host of surprises. The champion of the main event will not only walk away with a life-changing top prize but also get a Hublot Classic Fusion Chronograph Titanium timepiece worth $10,400 and a $5,000 WPT Passport. Adding to the delight, there are a whopping 31 trophy events and 35 Lac in leaderboard prizes.

With the inaugural WPT Online India just around the corner, Gauravjit Singh from OPN caught up with two well-known personalities from Global Poker Industry – Mr. Danny McDonagh, Live Events Specialist for the World Poker Tour and Mrs. Cathy Zhao, Director, WPTDeepStacks.

Here are the excerpts of the interview:

Gauravjit: Hi Cathy & Danny, thank you for speaking with us!
Danny : A pleasure Gauravjit!
Cathy : Pleasure speaking with you.

Gauravjit: Danny, please tell us about your role as Tournaments specialist for the World Poker Tour (WPT) for online Indian Poker audience.

Danny: My role covers the Asia Pacific region of the World Poker Tour and generally involves both the establishment of and my attendance at each WPT tournament series. And for some LIVE events such as WPT India, I also perform the duties of Tournament Director.

Gauravjit: Cathy, we would like to know more about your role as WPTDeepStacks Director.

Cathy: I execute the entire WPTDeepStacks product in North America region, and work closely with Danny in the Asia Pacific region. As a matter of the fact, most of the events in Asia are WPTDeepStacks events. Also, it is why I had the opportunity to visit Goa for past live WPT India events, where I mainly coordinated with partners on different fronts including staffing, logistics, marketing etc.

Gauravjit: Coming to WPT India, with ever-growing attendance and prizepools, it has grown into a hugely popular series among the Indian poker players since its launch in 2017. And you, along with Manish J. Adnani, Business Head of Poker, Delta Corp, have played an instrumental role in its growth story. Could you share your experience and thoughts on the growing turnouts and popularity of the series?

Danny: I joined WPT in January 2017 and the DPT in February 2017 was the first Live Event I attended in my new role. So from the get go I was working closely with Manish in building the professionalism of the DPT, a Tournament Series that was the catalyst in poker returning to the “good old days” of Tournament Poker in India that I was fortunate to experience twice back in 2011.

Being part of the February 2017 Deltin Poker Tournament, it was great to see tournament and series player numbers were already hitting new highs in India and I’d like to think that by the end of 2017 after 3 DPTs, and the inaugural WPT India, Adda52.com and Delta Corp had lifted the bar of the professionalism of poker tournaments in India to a new level which would not have been possible without the passion and hard work of Manish and his Deltin poker team.

I do remember the early challenges of getting many players to follow basic rules like no phone use while in a hand, to place their ante out etc, as so many players were new to poker in a Casino environment. I also remember the great attitude of many Indian players and their helpfulness in educating the new masses and the positivity of the poker staff.

Cathy: I first met with Adda52 ambassadors in Las Vegas when they traveled here to play WPT500 and since then we’ve had three live WPT India events on the Deltin Cruise, and each year we’ve seen more players participating in the series. Not only from the turnout perspective, the overall venue setup and digital content creations have been greatly improved. Last year, the tables layouts are even tidier with a feature table under stage lights; there was a professional photographer and production team on site to capture the series and players highlights. It has been great to see such a progress!

Gauravjit: What is your most memorable moment from your time working with the WPT India?

Danny: For me, it would be the success of the inaugural WPT India Main Event, achieving the magical number of 527 players from just two Day 1 flights with one entry per flight and generating a prizepool in excess of USD420,000. Poker in India had made a great impact globally for the first time with 2017 WPT India.

Cathy: It was the moment that Ashish Munot won the last WPT india event. The moment he won, the whole room exploded with cheering and applauses; his fellows who were railing for him lifted him, hugged him and the glory on Ashish’s face is still so fresh in my memory. It is so radiant.

Gauravjit: The World Poker Tour is returning to India in November for the fourth consecutive year, but this time in an online avatar with ‘WPT Online India’ series! Please tell us about the kind of events planned and what we can expect from the first-ever online series on Adda52.com.

Danny: It is fabulous that WPT India can be held for the 4th time in 2020, thanks to our long time partner Adda52.com! What sets the 2020 WPT Online India Series from previous WPT India festivals is the range of buyins, meaning WPT (Online) India is accessible to every Indian Poker Player with an Adda52 account. Of the 154 total events, 31 are special trophy events (yes, players will receive a great WPT designed trophy) ranging from 550 rupees entry for the Multi Day 1 Madness to the 55,000 Super High Roller. The huge 2.5 Crore GTD Main Event is priced at 11,000 as is a special Mike Sexton Tribute Event.

The two leaderboards boast 35 Lacs in total prizemoney including 10 Lacs and player of the series trophy to the Mega Leaderboard Player of the Series winner and 3 Lacs and Player of the Series trophy to the Mini Leaderboard Champ.

As with past WPT India events, there will be Kickoff, Super Stack, Bounty, PLO and High Roller Events plus so much more, so I urge players to check the WPTOI Player Guide.

Gauravjit: Unlike its usual seven-day eight-event in live version, the WPT Online India is a 18-day long poker festival with 154 events this time. What changes to this WPT Online India are you most proud of?

Cathy: Players can look forward to enjoying a full WPT Series from the comfort and safety at home. There are so many features and added prizes to the series, and we hope every player can find the action he or she is looking for. Additionally, online poker has become a major staple of WPT in the last few months, and I am glad to see it finally worked out to host an online series on Adda52 platform in this vibrant market.

Gauravjit: As with previous editions, the Main Event is the biggest highlight of this year’s series and it comes with a host of surprises for the champion. What are your expectations or predictions for the main event? Danny / Cathy (anyone of you):

Well, a player number record for the WPT India Main Event is a given this year. I know that Manish and the Adda52.com team have been working countless hours in planning for the Main Event especially and I hope Indian poker players really get behind the WPTOI and of course the Main Event which offers the champ added value of a fabulous Hublot watch and a USD5k WPT Passport. I’d like to think we can give the existing WPT India Main Event 3.6 Crore prizepool record a shake so that’s my “secret” prediction hope!

Gauravjit: You both have seen the Indian poker circuit evolving at a rapid pace. How do you see India as a poker nation?

Danny: The Indian poker players travelling the LIVE poker circuit (in normal times) are great people. Fun to party with but dedicated to their craft. Indian players have won major events globally in the past three years which has only broadened the interest in poker and I see no reason why India will not continue to build on the success already achieved in a very short period.

Cathy: Absolutely! Personally, I have met Adda52 ambassadors at WPT global events all over the world from Amsterdam, to London, to China not to mention US. I respect their dedication to the poker tournament and they have achieved a lot in the past years. Also, I am impressed by how Indian players are community-bounded, they care each other and one at FT means dozens on the rail. Best of luck to Indian players and I hope live poker is back soon!

Gauravjit: Any Message for the Indian Poker circuit regarding WPT India Online Powered by adda52.com

Danny: Sure – Gonna miss returning to Goa and seeing so many of you in person in 2020, but I am grateful I can follow all the action of the WPT Online India Series from a far and see who takes down the many feature events. Stay safe and become a WPTOI champ!

Cathy: It’s been a tradition to celebrate poker with Indian players on the Deltin Royale cruise every year. This year we are continuing the tradition by hosting the WPT Online India series powered by Adda52.com. I hope you enjoy the series with whopping guarantees and prizes. Good luck and see you at the virtual felt!

Thank you, Danny & Cathy for taking the time to talk with us! We look forward to a great 2020 WPT Online India.

Article covered by Khurshid Ahmad