Abu Dhabi: Thousands of people wait all over the world in bated breath to hear this man call out their name. He has a personality of a showman. And his sequined ensemble which he dons every time he goes on the big stage does no justice to undertone his glamourous presence.
Today, March 3, 2020, the Dh10 million Big Ticket jackpot draw will be held.
For the first time, the event will be streamed live without any public attendance due to concerns over coronavirus, COVID-19. Besides the big jackpot prize money, there will be nine other winners who will walk away with prizes.
We talked to the showman Richard, the popular host of the monthly jackpot event.
Who is he? He's a British expat who lives in Abu Dhabi and loves to travel the world.
Take this: It is a life-changing moment for many when this man calls out their name every third day of the month. He literally changes the life of a person 180 degrees.
Brace yourselves everyone as today as well, Richard will call someone just after 8.30 pm who will be the lucky winner of the Dh10 million jackpot draw. “Everyone should be close to their phone by then,” said Richard.
“It is a big day today!,” said Richard.
About the man himself
Richard is a Piscean, born on March 9. On his birthday, Richard will be holidaying in Thailand, where you can follow him on Instagram @theboombastik.
But work needs to get done before that.
“The past few days has been busy for the Big Ticket team. Preparations setting up for the event start a day before the big day. But a week before, the teams sits together. We talk about the programme and set a theme for the big draw day,” explained Richard.
“Preparations for the draw day is everyone’s top priority,” he said.
Richard’s glamourous red outfit
It is a one-off design and has been put together by an Abu Dhabi-based designer. “There is no other one like this,” said Richard.
An eagle-eyed person would notice there are two outfits which Richard wears for the Big Ticket event. One is a special gear for the Dh20 million jackpot and another standard one for the Dh10 million draw. On Monday, March 3, Richard will wear the standard suit as it is the Dh10 million ticket draw.
For those who follow the Big Ticket regularly will notice Richard first gives a little introduction to the event – hat, jacket all in place.
After the introduction, Richard leaves the stage and comes back a few moments later. The special thing about the jacket is that it has detachable sleeves.
“When I put my hand into the drum – everyone can see my bare arms so they know nothing is hidden when I am picking up the ticket. It is a very special suit in that sense – one which looks glamourous, attractive on stage. It is designed well to work under lights, camera and stage.”
The boombastic stick
The stick is as much part of the whole glamourous gear that Richard dons. For each draw, Richard spins the raffle barrel and scoops a few tickets in his palm.
And this is where the stick comes in play.
“When the barrel is being rolled, it is necessary to make sure all the tickets are included into the drum. I need to reach inside and get all the tickets that maybe stuck on the sides due to static. Basically I need to knock them down into the drum. Because my hands cannot reach far into the drum the stick does the trick.”
How the name boombastic happened
“Last year we had a competition for our online followers to name their stick and devise. A gentleman called Ismail won the competition. We also brought him on stage to Abu Dhabi to reveal him to the public. It was an amazing day,” said Richard.
Preparations for the big day – what it’s like
Richard said he comes on stage at 7.30 m exactly to the second on the big day. “But the preparations happen quite long time before that,” said Richard.
“Works begins the last week of every month. We have a team meeting where we talk through the programme, including the prizes being handed out. We also set a theme for the event. The day before we do a dry run of the show – practice the event with lights and sounds.”
Days following the Big Ticket draw, Richard said he gets totally involved in the whole event. “It is on my mind when I am driving my car. My mind always wanders back to the big day.”
On the “Big” day
Before I come on stage – Tim and Boushra select people who we call life changers. They are from the public who have come to the airport to watch the live show, all of whom have been given wrist bands with random code numbers on them.
“They are the people, who we call 'life changers'. They are the ones who pick the ticket from my hand. All this just adds to the authenticity of the whole show.”
The Big Ticket life changer also gets a momento and souvenir. They are made in limited editions just for the life changers so they can remember their time with us.
Every audience member gets a wrist band. Each wrist band has a code number on it.
During the draw Richard picks a random number and the Lucky one with the matching wristband wins either a flight ticket, gold or a mobile phone. At the end of the show one more wrist band is picked and that person wins Dh10,000!
Little things on the day that make the “big” difference
“There are so many little things that happen on the day. Some special moments are etched in my memory,” said Richard.
The best thing about being a host of a massive show
“Of course it is that moment when I make the call to the big winner. People scream, cry, and laugh, it is a beautiful feeling, just soaking in on their reactions.”
“If I am allowed two wishes – the first one would be that jackpot winner is present in the live audience. Unfortunately that will not happen this time, but hopefully soon. My second wish is for the winner sitting at home, watching the draw and hears his or her name being read out. And so when I ring them - they already know they have won and are therefore screaming back down the phone.”
Changing lives 180 degrees
Last August an Indian farmer, Vilas Rikkala from a tiny village in India won Dh15 million at the draw. The following month he (Rikkala) came to Abu Dhabi to collect his money – that too with 15 relatives from his village.
“It was one of the biggest highlights of the show. Just seeing this man with his family taking the money was overwhelming to say the least,” said Richard.
“What is more, he said on the night he was receiving the money, his entire village promised him they would watch him taking his prize money on the live stream.”
In December, Anabelle Dela Cruz won Dh12 million at the draw. “I called her and asked her straight what day it was. She said it is the 3rd December. I asked her what happens every month on the 3rd and she said it is the Big Ticket! And from there her screams of excitement started! She was screaming for like one minute. Then people in her apartment started screaming too.”
During last month’s draw, the winner Nidal Shanwar (from Syria) recognised Richard’s the moment he heard his voice. “I could sense his excitement immediately after he realised it was me calling him. That was a memorable one.
Richard recounted another incident on January 3 which he said was truly memorable because Big Ticket gave away their biggest ever jackpot of Dh20 million.
“The winner was Mohammed Shajan (from Pakistan). When I asked him where are you right now – he said none of your business and he hung up on me. The audience had a good laugh. I believe he hung up on me two or three times during the call. He could not believe that he had won Dh20 million — he thought it was a scam! When I met with him backstage a month later — the first thing he did was apologise to me. He said he was not expecting to get a call from Richard.”
Richard said every call he makes every third day of the month is special.
“We all share the moment when people’s life changes for ever! This makes it really special. For lots of people the call I make to the winner is their favourite part of the show. To be honest, it is mine as well.”
Some people have told me that they connect the live streaming to their television and watch the show together. They said it is like a game in the family where they all watch and try to guess the nationality of the winner!
Granting a wish
Back in September Big Ticket organisers ran their much loved ‘Dear Big Ticket - Season 2’ where residents of UAE were asked to share their wishes and dreams. Out of thousands of entries received, 15 were shortlisted. People went online to vote for their favourite wish. Of this – five were granted.
“In December – I surprised the five winners and broke the news to them that their wish was going to be granted! It was a magical day for me. Tears welled my eyes while filming their videos.”
“The wishes picked by the public were all so very deserving! There was a lady who needed help funding her chemotherapy treatment. A Nigerian man did not have enough money to continue his education which was key for him to be able to support his family.
"I believe now he is studying in a university in Cyprus. When I called him to give the good news that his wish had been granted, he was crying. He called his mother and it was a very emotional moment.
"A family with two children had never been on vacation together as one, a child needed an operation to be able to hear and another needed an operation to prevent her from going blind!”
These are some wishes have been granted.
“I am so lucky and privileged to be able to bring so much joy and happiness into people’s lives! Big Ticket really has the most wonderful audience!