Interview: Out of Quarantine with Danny McDonagh

After a long hiatus, the World Poker Tour is back in Asia-Pacific. This month, Ha Noi will host its first ever WPT Deepstacks event. Somuchpoker takes time to discuss with WPT Live Events Specialist – Danny McDonagh who will also act as Tournament Director during this festival.

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Danny McDonagh at WPT Cambodia

Somuchpoker: After a long hiatus, it seems that the World Poker Tour is back in Asia- Pacific. What are the next key events to look forward to?

Danny McDonagh: We have the advantage in Asia Pacific that a number of existing WPT destinations with a big enough local poker market are handling Covid-19 well enough to plan WPTDeepStacks Events. The successful running of WPTDS Taiwan this past December gave us the confidence to move ahead with events in 2021.

WPTDS Hanoi (April) and WPTDS Gold Coast (May) have already been announced and a return to Taiwan in 2021 looks very promising.

It was very pleasing to see our Indian partners Deltin/Adda 52 running a hugely successful DPT Xpress last month so a live WPT India is possible this year.
And WPT Japan for the 5th time looks on the cards, after the successful hosting of this event in Tokyo in 2020.

There is one other possible “wildcard” for the WPT in Asia Pacific in 2021 but it’s too early to provide any details.

Fingers crossed Covid-19 will not impact on the above 2021 planned events and I really hope come 2022, Covid-19 will not be a factor for any poker event in the region and worldwide.

SMP: It will be the first stop ever for the World Poker Tour in Hanoi and the event will be hosted while the borders remain closed. How challenging was it to make it happen?

DMD: The biggest challenge was ensuring a WPT representative attends the event, a must for any first time WPT event in Asia Pacific as was also the case for Taiwan in December. Hosting the event has also relied on the Vietnamese authorities overcoming a January Covid-19 outbreak and right now, the event looks a go with over 40 days since a local community case in Hanoi. Life is basically back to normal in Hanoi with Night Clubs and Karaoke Bars the only businesses yet to be allowed to reopen. And credit must go to Crown Poker Club Management for all their efforts to keep the event on track for April.

SMP: For players who are considering taking part in this first event in Hanoi, can you tell them briefly what they should expect?

DMD: Happy to give my insight here with the benefit of having worked the WPTDS Hanoi Warm Up weekend at the Crown Poker Club:

Crown Poker Club is located on the top floor of a commercial building. The 23 poker table set up is spread very generously and once international travel resumes, the space can accommodate up to around 40 tables.

– The Club has its own kitchen with excellent value tasty meals which I can personally give my full recommendation.

– For those players who like to stay at a very nice hotel, the Pullman Hotel Hanoi, is only a 200 metre walk to Crown Poker Club and comes with my recommendation. There are numerous other hotels to suit all bankrolls in close proximity with excellent deals given current travel restrictions.

– Schedule wise, players can expect the same Main Event structure used for previous WPT Vietnam Events and the VND22 million buyin WPTDS Hanoi Main Event carries a 4 Billion guarantee. Qualifiers are running every Wednesday and Saturday on the Poker King platform.

– Side events have been generally priced a little lower than before to better cater to the local market but have maintained the same structures with the highlight being the VND6 Million Crown Poker Club SuperStack Classic Freezeout 2 Day Event which boasts a 50k starting stack and 30 minute levels. Plus three High Roller events on the schedule means there will be events to cater for all bankrolls.

– Finally, players will experience first hand the enthusiasm of Crown Poker Club Team who are very excited to be hosting the World Poker Tour for the first time in Hanoi.

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WPTDS – Warm Up Hanoi Micro Main Event winner – with Danny McDonagh

SMP: You will act as Tournament Director during this festival, but you are currently based in the Philippines. How did you manage to enter Vietnam to prepare and run this festival?

DMD: I actually left Philippines in November to work WPT Taiwan in the knowledge I would not be able to return given restrictions on Foreigner entry.

With the assistance of our Taiwan partner CTP, I was able to secure a Business Visa to work the event and also travel extensively around Taiwan to provide valuable information for international players (those articles are work in progress) attending future Taiwan Events once we return to normality.

The plan all along was to travel to Vietnam and it was all looking fine that I could secure a Visa to Vietnam while in Taiwan, however a Covid-19 outbreak in January in a neighbouring province to Hanoi meant a delay in the visa process. My Taiwan Visa ran out but luckily I was able to travel to Singapore as a tourist and await approval of the Vietnam Visa there and it thankfully came through for a March 7 flight to Hanoi. Exiting quarantine on March 21 allowed the WPTDS Hanoi Warm Up weekend to be held a few days later and Crown Poker Club have now secured local regulator approval for WPTDeepStacks Hanoi April 16 to 25 dates.

SMP: We mentioned that the World Poker Tour had a long hiatus in Asia but in fact, Taiwan has been an exception. Can you tell us more about the local situation there and how the WPT is involved?

DMD: After 8 months in various degrees of lockdown in Manila, I was very excited to be travelling to Taiwan. Quarantine was quite easy to endure having come from a lockdown situation and it felt unreal at first to be freely moving around in Taipei given their excellent control of Covid-19 with the only difference to normal life being mandated mask wearing on transport and at numerous public venues.

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Danny McDonagh with CPT Taiwan club owner David Tai

The quality of the CTP Tournament Operations team allowed me to take on a more varied role at Taiwan beyond TD duties. There was the filming of a few video clips at the venue and the immediate surrounds of CTP Taipei including Taipei Stadium and the excellent A-Tree hotel. I also teamed up with CTP’s Raymond Wong to enable WPT to remotely Live Report on the Main Event.

After extensively travelling throughout Taiwan during my 75 day stay, I implore any poker player that wishes to combine travel with a quality poker event to place Taiwan on the top of their list once international borders reopen.

SMP: With vaccines starting to roll out, people are hoping to see poker events resume this summer or by the end of the year at the latest. Are you also as optimistic, or do you think this crisis will cause some long-termed consequences to the Industry?

DMD: For poker events in countries that can’t proceed unless international travel opens up, realistically I can’t see any occurring before Q4, 2021, and rate Q4 events under this category as 50/50 at best. However, I am more of an optimist for 2022 and I don’t see any long term consequences for any venues and poker tours financially able to weather the “covid storm” as once normality returns, I am 100% sure Live poker will be back with a vengeance.

SMP: From a more personal point of view how have you been dealing with the past 12 months? You were always on the go, traveling from events to events and suddenly everything had to come to a stop.

DMD: I have personally experienced the extremes of Covid-19. My partner and I flew from Australia to Manila on the evening March 14, 2020, a few hours before Metro Manila was locked down.

To go from constant travel into lockdown with no travel, not even getting into a car for over 8 months, was something that I could never have imagined. It wasn’t easy but I was fortunate to be in walking distance of an excellent supermarket so the oven was finally used for the first time in the 5 years I was based in Manila. I was also able to go running daily at the condo complex I live at so my time in Manila despite the lockdown enabled a very healthy lifestyle.

Since leaving Philippines, a country struggling to contain Covid-19 infections, I have spent time in the three Asian countries that have been leaders in controlling Covid-19, namely Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam and personally feel very lucky for my experiences these past 4 months.

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Somuchpoker’s main goal is to provide the latest poker news and information from around the world, with greater focus on the happenings in the Asian Market. More about Somuchpoker's newsroom.

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