6 Minutes Read
In a world where we are constantly struggling to make ends meet, it’s refreshing to come across someone who absolutely loves what he does for a living. The reference here is to Aditya Wadhwani (cover image), someone who is no stranger to the domestic poker community. Having burst onto the poker commentary scene when he first hosted the Poker Sports League on national television in 2018, Wadhwani is a master of many skills related to broadcasting and production, which isn’t surprising given the fact that he studied the subject in university.
An alumnus of the famed Gordonstoun School, Wadhwani’s love for gaming began when he got his first Nintendo Entertainment System, and there has been no looking back for him ever since. His passion for gaming is very evident in his live streams on Mixer.
His first steps into the world of poker commentary happened when he was employed with PokerHigh back in 2014-15. He is now a permanent fixture in the live streams at all the major live tournaments in Goa.
Though not a poker professional himself, Wadhwani is perhaps more aware of the intricacies of the games than most others. Believing in Vikram ‘Lungi’ Kumar’s mantra of being ‘recreationally professional,’ the Delhiite dabbles in poker production, hosting, gaming, and is also a very competent poker player.
For anyone who speaks to Wadhwani, it won’t take long to realize that he is brimming with knowledge about the game and how the industry as a whole function.
I recently caught up with him, where he told me about his early days in the industry, his student-mentor relationship with Abhishek Goindi, and his views on the future of poker production in India. Check out excerpts of my discussion with Wadhwani in the audio blog below or read the entire transcript of the conversation in the interview that follows.
To begin, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi, my name’s Aditya Wadhwani. I was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, and I currently live in New Delhi, India. I was educated in the British school here in Delhi and then in boarding school in Scotland in a school called Gordonstoun. And then I was in London for a few years for university where I was studying film and broadcast production. I don’t really have any post-grad qualifications because I dropped out of Uni (university) thanks to poker!
You are a man of many talents. From being an avid gamer to poker commentator and player. We are curious to know what came first video games or poker?
I hope they’re talents. I’ve always thought there pretty much danger obsessions really but in terms of what came first poker or gaming, definitely gaming. My dad bought me a Nintendo Entertainment System, the NES way back when and ever since then I’ve been clicking buttons and loving to do so.
You often stream your gaming sessions, and we’ve seen you play multi-player games like Apex Legends, Fortnite, and FIFA. Have you competed professionally?
Yeah, I love to stream. I love the medium of streaming, so I’ve never actually competed professionally, nor have I wanted to mainly cause I’m over the hill in terms of an e-sport professional being 33. You cap out at about twenty-five, twenty-six apparently in e-sports, so it’s too late for me to do that. But in terms of streaming I identified this as an amazing new industry and medium that is developing and especially in India where sectors like this can really boom if they catch on given our numbers and the fact that they’re less hurdles then poker had, for example, I found it very interesting to explore. So streaming was really to understand what streaming is about, and then it also became a fun way just to share with my friends what I’m doing you know. Just sometimes, there’s just cool clips and highlights, and you just want to share the fun you’re having. It’s a rather isolated experience now sitting at home playing video games by yourself, so to connect with the online community bridges that gap to an extent.
You were a part of the PokerHigh team back in 2014/15 and presented many videos for them. Was that the start of your career as a poker commentator?
My journey with PokerHigh I really love because it was my re-introduction to poker. It was my introduction to poker in India, as well as my re-learning of poker in terms of online poker as well as understanding what goes into the industry side of it. So, I joined as their first employee and had my finger in every piece of the pie by the end of it, from design to tech, to marketing, acquisitions, all of it. By the end of it, I had a really well-rounded sense of what this industry sort of about. I presented some videos because production is in my background, so from there that sort of gave me a clue that there’s something that I could perhaps do that’s unique to the poker industry, there I perhaps add the U. S. P. that others don’t. So, I guess it was the start of the inspiration, but I wouldn’t say it was the start of my career as a poker commentator.
Ever since you hosted the PSL TV show, you’ve become the face of almost all live tournament live streams in Goa. How did you dive into the business side of this industry?
Hosting PSL on national TV was definitely a game-changer for me – one of my proudest achievements because it was unprecedented at the time and yeah it definitely spring boarded me to the front of commentary in general and of course with the developments from all of the different companies hosting events now there’s a lot of action to get involved in.
In terms of the business side of the industry, that was definitely just back with PokerHigh. In terms of production, however, that goes back to university as well as just a hobby of mine I really enjoyed.
The production team in Goa right now in general, I’ve absolutely loved working with them because watching their evolution as well as my own has been extremely fulfilling. You know, you get a raw team that comes together at first who knows production but doesn’t know poker and then with each edition and each series that we did, you watch the team understand the game more, get into the nuances of it and apply that to work. It’s already great work that they do, you know. They’re professionals at production but not poker, and when you merge those two and have a good sense of both the production really starts to come together. So, I’ve absolutely loved watching this evolution, it’s been amazing.
You have been doing rather well on the virtual felts lately. Do you plan to pursue poker as a profession in the future, or do you plan to primarily stick to the production and hosting side of the game?
Definitely having a good upswing right now, probably the best of my online career for sure. I don’t plan to pursue poker as a profession in the future because I understand what it takes to be a professional, the discipline, the time especially, as well as the mental fortitude required to succeed long term in this game, not to mention a fairly decent bankroll. I respect that element of being a professional poker player too much to know that I can’t dedicate enough time given that I like to do a whole bunch of other stuff, including production, hosting, gaming, all of that. So, I would have to cut out other loves to pursue one love, and that’s not something that I’m comfortable doing. So out of respect for the professionals, leave them to that take the bulk of the money and punt in for the big scores once in a while. And enjoy doing it like Lungi (Vikram Kumar) says, “recreationally professionally.”
It is a common opinion that having a poker mentor can significantly help an emerging player in enhancing their gameplay. Do you have a mentor? Do you subscribe to training sites like RIO (Run it Once), RYE (Raise Your Edge), or Upswing Poker
Well, my current poker mentor actually used to be my student back in the day if I can be bold enough to say so – it was Abhishek Goindi, in fact. We met ten years plus ago, and I was really into poker at the time, really, you know, on it. And he said he just got started and was really enjoying it but didn’t realize that there was such a skill element to it and what all the technical aspects are. So, at that time, I actually loaned him Super System, as well as Mike Caro’s Book of Tells, because that used to be a thing back in the day. And before you know it, the guy goes off to Asia and crushes for like hundreds of thousands of dollars and comes back and now is, of course, one of the top pros in the country. So, that’s a little teacher-student, student-teacher moment that was fun.
And the best part about that is that I don’t pay for coaching from him now. I call him up whenever I have a problem, and he very graciously obliges with any spots, issues, mental, technical, mathematical, whatever it is, he really helps me out everywhere.
In terms of mentors in general, I think it’s extremely important to have one because it can help you avoid a lot of the pitfalls of your early poker career that can otherwise be devastating and sometimes off-putting. A lot of good talents have just disappeared or never come up because they just didn’t have the right mindset.
Mental coaching is a huge part of the game as well. I don’t think people realize how big. Kanishka Samant is someone who glued me on to the mental side of the game, another, I’d say sort of mentor of mine, especially from the PokerHigh days. But poker players in general from India have been amazing because I’ve been watching them for years while doing commentary and the advantage to that is that you don’t just get see the highlights right, that you would see otherwise on YouTube. Best hand, or this guy played this in such a great way, oh he trapped him like that, these big-big hands. Forget those. It’s the small hands, the hands they fold, the decisions they make, hand-for-hand in tournaments, where you really get to see the skill and the discipline come to life. And that’s been my greatest source of mentorship outside of a physical mentor, which is just watching good players play good poker and making notes in my head and then sometimes using it against them, but don’t tell them that!
I do subscribe to some online training sites as well, Run It Once and Raise Your Edge in fact, but the basic packages. If I was going to turn pro, then I’d probably take the full thing and go with those courses because those are super-super good resources. But even the entry-level stuff it’s really really good just to keep yourself sharp and keep yourself up-to-date with what the current trends in poker are.
Gamer – Producer – Poker Player – how would you line them up top to bottom on your priority list?
The order is definitely gamer-poker player-producer, definitely in that order.
The revival of the live tournament scene in Goa has opened up a lot of opportunities even kicked off a parallel industry of sorts like video production, commentary, hosting, media, etc. What are your views on the potential here and whether this is sustainable and/or scalable?
I love the scene in Goa, and I love that I’ve been able to work with all of the different companies, who have provided such an opportunity for the players because from DPT (Deltin Poker Tour) paving the way in terms of video production and being you know the modern version of tournaments in India, the revival of IPC (India Poker Championship) bringing back such an amazing brand that so close to all of our hearts, you know, it’s where I had my first win in India in fact. The BPT (Baazi Poker Tour) has come in so hard and fast bringing together the best elements of all of it in my opinion, anyway, I really enjoy working with them as well. It’s just great for the players.
In terms of sustainability and scalability, definitely possible, but what’s missing at the moment is viewers. I think right now we’re still sort of focused on the player’s group and that is kind of the core community and we’re not really hitting….a larger set of eyes which we should be because there are incredible amounts of money and effort being put into these productions and for them to be seen by just a few hundred people. Eventually, that’s not going to make sense right for the companies themselves. They’re gonna be bleeding essentially doing this for a few hundred people to watch. Now, that it’s definitely not enough, especially with the quality of production that’s being put on, that’s definitely not enough numbers. So, more people need to share these streams, more people need to talk about them, the companies themselves who are hosting them need to do a little better job in terms of tightening the production and the distribution of such. I don’t really see enough on social media with any of the companies – all three of them lack in this area, and it’s definitely something I believe that needs to be worked on because if you’re doing such a good job, get more people to see it. If more people see it more people will be inspired, more people inspired maybe more will play. If more play, it’ll grow, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
And for me personally, I would love to see poker get out of casinos because it’ll go a long way in terms of poker’s reputation in this country not being associated in a casino environment, under the same roof as games of chance. Right, poker’s a game of skill. We want that to be out in the open in people’s faces just like any other sport like cricket, like football, whatever right. I want it to go bigger, bolder, wider, more public, more visible, and more skill highlighted.
We heard you got hitched last year. Congratulations! How has life changed since you got married?
Thank you so much, I definitely should have gotten married earlier because life has been running gooood ever since then. It’s just having her around, she’s such a positive influence on me, she keeps me so balanced. When I’m tilting, she sorts me out, when I’m not playing well, she calms me down, she’s just fantastic. It’s the support system, as well as companionship that makes life so much more comfortable and allows me to focus on my professional life without stress.
So yeah, a big shout out to my wife Gayeti Singh, she’s my rock, she’s a legend and if she ever figures out how to play poker, we are all screwed!
Are there any international series that you plan to attend this year?
I’m not planning to play any international series this year. I’m gonna try and make it to Vegas at some point in the near future. Right now, there’s so much happening on Indian soil, I just don’t feel like going anywhere.
What would be your advice to others looking to possibly get into poker commentary or production and streaming?
So, my first piece of advice to anyone looking to get into poker commentary or production or streaming is that – DO IT. Just do it, and even if no one’s watching it, still do it because the more you do, the more comfortable you become. The more comfortable you’ll become, the more natural you’ll become, and then your true self will come out in the commentary or the production or in your stream, right. It’s all about being yourself out there and providing something that you find entertaining to watch, that you enjoy doing. If other people enjoy it, that should come naturally. If you’re trying too hard to make people laugh, they’re not gonna laugh. If you genuinely do something funny, they will right!
So, I just say – be yourself and practice, practice, practice, practice, until it becomes second nature. And don’t give up, especially if you’re streaming, by the way, cause that’s the hardest of all of these. Production, you know, it’s, it’s a skill, you can do it. Like I was saying, the Goa team you know they’ve learned over the years because their production fundamentals are great. They added poker to it, and now they are better. Poker commentary, that’s something, it’s just talking right. If you’re comfortable talking, you can do it. But streaming, streaming is incredibly hard because when you start by yourself, you’ll have no one watching you initially, and you’ll have no one watching you for a long time. One – two – five concurrent viewers, and it can be like that for months. Don’t give up because a lot of people get into this thinking that they’re going to kill it, and they could be super entertaining people that are amazing at streaming that nobody watches just because they’re not doing the other side of it, which is marketing themselves. Running social media for themselves, promoting themselves.
I don’t do it enough for sure because I’ve had the liberty of having the companies do it for me via their events. But if I was streaming on my own, my own channel has nothing cause I don’t promote it, it’s barely watched. So, if you want to do it professionally, don’t give up, keep at it, be yourself and definitely don’t do it for the money because there won’t be any money for years. Do it because you love it. Do it because the something to share and eventually everything else should work out.
Any parting words?
And just on a final note, I want to send a message to anyone starting out as a poker professional. Please treat this as a sport and behave like a sportsperson.
Don’t get carried away with this making big money, having big party life. It’s great to celebrate your big wins, but don’t make it your entire being. You know, I see so many people make tons of money and then just disappear, go off the rails, get into drugs, getting into drinking problems or gambling problems or debt or whatever it is.
Just think about the greatest sportspeople of all time from the Tiger Woods to Michael Jordan to the Leo Messi’s right. These guys are thorough professionals above anything. And they dedicated their full existence to being the best version of themselves in that sport. Do the same and crush it.
Don’t end up a cautionary tale because there’s so many out there. And I wish you all the very best of luck.