Already holding several prestigious live and online poker titles like DPT Highroller, DPT Bounty, WPT Win The Button Hyper Turbo, WPT Monday Feature, Mega Suits, AOPS Candolim, etc. this man needs no introduction. We are talking about Gagandeep Malik, the Sunday chartbuster who championed Adda52’s 1.5 Crore GTD DOPT Main Event to win a career-best INR 24.7 Lac after outlasting a guarantee-crushing 1500 + entry field comprising some of the biggest names in the business.
Hailing from Raipur, Malik is a 32-year-old pro with a B.Com and Masters in Business Administration. He started his poker journey through Zynga Poker and realising that there is a logic and skill to it, he started taking a keen interest in the game. Soon, he came to know that poker can be played for real money legally in India and that is when he began playing the game more seriously on Adda52.com where he qualified for WPT China and DPT Goa Live series in 2016 and ended up shipping “Win the Button – Hyper turbo” in WPT and “DPT Highroller”. Within a week’s time, his bankroll jumped from nothing to more than 20 Lac. These wins helped him to realize that there is a scope for him in poker and he finally quit his lucrative job at Deloitte where he worked as an analyst from 2013 to 2017.
There has been no looking back for Gagan since then. Today, he is one of the established figures in the Indian poker circuit with over INR 1.44 Crores in online MTT earnings and INR 35 Lac in live tournament winnings. A two-time DPT Champion, he has won several prestigious online and live titles over the years and this past Sunday he added the DOPT Main Event title to his resume.
We spoke to Gagan about his massive DOPT Main Event victory, what it means to him to win this prestigious tourney, his poker journey, downswings, his experience on Adda52.com, his better half doing amazingly well on the virtual felts, and much more. Here are excerpts of the interview.
OPN: The thrill of winning such a big title is unparalleled. Tell us how you feel to win the DOPT Main Event!
Gagan: It feels like a dream. I remember I could not sleep properly on the previous day because of the excitement for Day 2 and honestly there was a time I was not even planning to play the main event. But then I got a ticket for it and I managed to qualify Day 1A with a massive stack without any re- entry and eventually shipping it is very satisfying I would say coz it has been a long downswing for me and this win brings in a lot of peace inside me. Also, this is my first main event title ever so it holds a very special place in my heart.
OPN: Replete with the country’s top pros and regs, it was a huge field of 1500 + entries. What was your strategy going into this tourney? What challenges did you face and what helped you to ship it?
Gagan: I had a stack of more than 100BBs going into Day 2. So, my main strategy was to avoid variance spots and exploit short stacks, and go as deep as possible with minimal risks. But once the tournament got deep and stacks became shallower it was all about surviving and taking good spots and stealing blinds to stay afloat.
I think the last two tables were really tough and everyone was playing their ‘A’ game so that was the most challenging phase of the tournament. I was a short stack most of the time on the last two tables but was really focused and observant and that helped me survive and reach the final table and eventually ship it.
OPN: The DOPT Main Event FT was a tough one as it had a lot of experienced players. What was going through your mind, and what was your strategy with the other players on the FT?
Gagan: The final table was really crazy and there was so much prize improvement on every place so there was a lot of pressure obviously. But I tried to keep it simple and when I entered the final table I was 7th in chips so I just waited for the 8th one to get out and then my main target was to just improve one place at a time and I survived till the 5th position in the same way.
After that, I started taking more spots and got some timely double-ups and when there were 4 players left the two chip leaders became really aggressive, and luckily for me one of them busted against each other.
The heads up against ‘Manish Lakhotia’ was really special because I really like his style of play, he is very well-balanced and has been crushing the Indian poker scene. The way he grinded that day and made it to the top two was excellent learning for me. I was looking to be aggressive against him and luckily that worked for me and the final hand was also a cooler for him, so I am glad it got over soon, else the result might have been different.
OPN: What motivated you to play this event? Take us through your overall DOPT Main Event experience.
Gagan: The guarantee and structure of the tournament were the main attractions, so I decided to give it a shot. The overall experience was pretty smooth and lag-free and Adda52 has the experience of conducting such tournaments in the past, so it definitely matched my expectations.
OPN: How do you get yourself in the right mindset before and during such a big online tourney?
Gagan: I think the most important thing is to stay positive in these sorts of tournaments and try to be in the present and not get too far ahead with your thoughts. When I made it to Day 2, I watched a lot of final table streams on YouTube to get in the zone and also watched Goonjan Mall’s stream that really helped as well. A couple of days before the tournament, I read Gaurav Sood’s interviews on Pokerguru which I think is a goldmine in terms of how you should be thinking in terms of poker. All these things really helped me to stay positive and be zoned in throughout the tournament.
OPN: The DOPT has been growing every edition in terms of turnouts and prize pools. What are your thoughts on the flagship series and its growing value for the Indian players?
Gagan: DPT always held a special place in my heart because one of my first tournament wins was DPT Highroller and whenever the online version of DPT is announced I look forward to it with great excitement.
DOPT has been growing every edition and with it, the value for players has also increased tremendously. This time also, it catered to all sorts of players with buy-ins ranging from low to very high tournaments, and the guarantees were crushed in all of them. Also, the leaderboard brings an additional value, and therefore it was a memorable series for so many players.
OPN: When and how did you get started playing poker? When did you realize that you had what it takes to play poker professionally and what made you come to that realization?
Gagan: I started playing through Zynga and at that time I knew nothing about poker as I only had an interest in numbers and calculations and that’s what drew me to the game. Soon I came to know that the online poker scene has begun in India and that’s when I came to know about Adda52.
On Adda52 through satellites, I qualified for WPT China and DPT Goa live series in 2016 and I ended up shipping “Win the Button – Hyper turbo” in WPT and ” DPT Highroller” and within a week my bankroll jumped from nothing to more than 20 Lac. These wins helped me realize that there is a scope for me in poker and that’s when I quit my job and started taking poker more seriously.
OPN: How and when did you start playing on Adda52.com? How has been your experience so far?
Gagan: I started playing on Adda52 in 2016 and my experience has been nothing short of a miracle. Let’s say that whatever I have achieved in poker is mainly because of this particular platform. Also, I feel it’s one of the safest and trustworthy poker sites in the Indian poker circuit.
OPN: Your better half, Ankita Ajay Malik, has been crushing it on Adda52.com. She is already a five-time Running Hot winner and had won the Warm-Up tourney at the DOPT series. Your thoughts on that?
Gagan: She has been doing great as a new player and I am really proud of her achievements. Also, having your partner play poker is a blessing because your daily routine and goals are aligned with each other. So, the grind becomes much more easier and having a partner who understands poker helps both of us as we can understand downswings and help each other to bounce back quickly.
OPN: Your take on the current Indian online poker scene? Do you think Indian tourneys are at par with international formats and standards? If not, what is missing?
Gagan: I haven’t played much on international sites, so I don’t think I would be the right person to compare it. But in general, I think Indian tournaments have improved a lot in terms of structure, value, and guarantees if we compare it to a few years back. And looking at the pace with which the poker scene is booming in India, the future of the game is going to be very exciting.
OPN: What type of tourneys you would like to see from Indian operators in the future?
Gagan: I think 1 CR guaranteed weekly event should become a standard across all sites. Currently only Spartan is doing it with “Millionaire”, Adda52 used to have the “Full House” tournament weekly but it got chucked so this addition would be a welcome coz it brings a lot of value to the players.
OPN: The INR 24.7 Lac is not a modest paycheck you have to your name now. Any thoughts on how you plan on spending it?
Gagan: Most of it is going to be invested in poker again. I have done a lot of ‘BRM’ mistakes in the past so hopefully, I would do a better job this time and this amount would definitely help in that.
OPN: Finally, any words for players who railed you during this event?
Gagan: I would like to give a huge shout-out to Puneet Mishra who is a very dear poker friend. He has been railing me from the start of my career during DPT Highroller and Bounty wins and this time also he railed me throughout the final table and I was sure something special could happen if he is on the rail. A big shoutout to my other poker friends as well – Faiz Alam, Dhirendra Kumar, Ashit Sharma, who were also railing me. And a special thank to my close friend Ganesh Raygalla and poker friend Ramesh Rao Thotapalli who wished me good luck before the tournament which makes this win even more special because of the support of all these wonderful friends.
Cheers to Gagan for the DOPT Main Event win and we expect him to chase down more titles ahead!