The final episode of Game of Gold was a two-hour finale spectacular and after a dramatic denouement, it was Maria Ho who took down the $456,000 prize for the winner and the winner only. Ho, who became the first-ever victor of poker’s most captivating show in many years, beat Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates heads-up after a thrilling battle. As the credits rolled, the curtain came down on one of the poker events of 2023 as Maria fulfilled the destiny of an incredible voyage of discovery, writing her name in the history books as Game of Gold’s Season One champion.
The poker world stood still to watch the final act in what has been the most compelling poker show of 2023. If you’ve missed the drama so far in Game of Gold, then we’d recommend that you read our recaps of the Team Sit & Go action in Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, and Episode 4 as Team Club, featuring Daniel Negreanu, and Jason Koon, crashed out of the competition.
In Episode 5, Episode 6 and Episode 7, Josh Arieh clutched for a vital win for Team Fedor before Maria Ho won two matches in the winner bracket in Episode 8. Episode 9 saw Team Charlie and Team Nikita begin their losers bracket battle for survival, while in Episode 10, events got closer to a dramatic conclusion that would see one team devastated upon defeat.
Episode 11 saw a dozen players cut in half as Team Nikita lost the final Heads-Up Match and Indian poker saw Charlie Carrel, Andy Stacks and David Williams – all three members of ‘Team Charlie’ in the previous round – eliminated.
Now just six players remain… so let’s get to the GOLD in the final episode of Game of Gold.
Arieh Arrowed by Former Teammate
“I didn’t win the money, but I got the experience and I’d do it all again tomorrow.”
As play began, Maria Ho had the chip lead, and the American-Taiwanese player was living up to her billing as the player to catch, imposing her stack and her will on the table. Josh Arieh was doing likewise, and his bet of 420,000 with on a board of put Johan ‘YoH Viral’ Guilbert to the test with the better hand of . Somehow, the Frenchman folded.
Another hand hit YoH Viral hard when his was no good against Maria’s on a board of . Maria bet the river, which YoH Viral escaped from but the pot of almost a million chips went Maria’s way and that pushed her lead higher.
Kyna England would have hoped to double through Josh when he held and Kyna shoved with . It was a great fold but ‘the cards don’t care’ and soon after, Josh was all-in with [K], five-bet shoving only to be crushed by his former teammate Fedor with . The board of flushed away Josh’s stack, and all-in with on a board of , he was flushed again, beaten by Dan Jungleman Cates’ in sixth place. Jungleman, dressed as a leprechaun in a green suit and speaking in perhaps the worst Irish accent since Sean Connery in the 1987 film The Untouchables, was delighted. Josh bid everyone good luck as he left the arena first. To him, it was the same as losing heads-up.
“Second pays the same thing as sixth,” smiled Josh after the end of his event. “I had a great time and I would love to do this again. It was an amazing experience. Winning two matches for our team when our backs were against the wall was a day I’ll always remember. I didn’t win the money, but I got the experience and I’d do it all again tomorrow.”
Massive Three-Way Hand Sparks Double Bust-Out
“I punt in big spots like that.”
With the blinds going up, no-one was safe and with five left, a huge three-way hand sent one player to the way and crippled another. Fedor had lost some chips – and the lead – to Maria when she woke up with . Between Fedor and Maria, Kyna England shoved for 1.4 million chips with and Maria made the call. Fedor held and also called.
It was a nightmare for Kyna, who watched in horror as a flop of [. Top set for Fedor and after Maria checked, he bet 600,000. Maria called to a turn of where Fedor bet 1.35m. Maria called and on the river, got her reward, the landing to confirm Kyna’s exit. Maria bet 1.8m and Fedor – who used multiple timebanks in coming to his decision – eventually made the marginal call, losing a massive chunk of his stack in the process.
“Ahhhh… what the f**k?”
“Good game guys,” said Kyna, but she got no response so was disappointed when she left the arena.
“I punt in big spots like that, and I shouldn’t have done that,” she said after the event. “I got up, and nobody said anything to me – it feels bad, [but] I had a great time.”
Holz was in trouble, down to just 1.4 million chips as Maria sat as a massive chip leader on 14 million.
All-in soon after with , Holz couldn’t win a flip against Jungleman, as the latter’s won with the chip committed pre-flop. A board of sent the German to the rail in fourth place of the 16 players who entered.
“I put some much energy into the path. Normally poker tournament take one, two or three days. After such a long time of ten days, getting zero dollars…” he grimaced. But then he smiled. “I would play another season. I’m a bit disappointed, but I’ll party tonight!”
Viral Video Content and Jungle Jokes
“It’s my pot of gold!”
Three remained and while Jungle and YoH Viral scrapped for around 6 million chips between them, Maria held more than double their chips combined. YoH Viral had to make a move and when he did, he was in the best shape, with a 55% chance of doubling through Jungle. YoH Viral had committed his final chips with against Jungle’s but the flop of was a disaster.
“I can’t watch!” he said. “I’ll stand behind you, Jungle”. Jungleman was happy to provide shelter for YoH Viral as he looked to eliminate him. The turn didn’t leave him drawing dead but the river of ended the Frenchman’s hopes.
“Maria, tell me if I win or if I lose.” said YoH Viral as the river card dropped.
“You lost.” said Maria.
“Thank you for watching the show – it was insane.” YoH Viral said on his way out of the room. “I really enjoyed this show. I’m happy to have come in third place. If they ask me to play Season 2, I would sign now… where do I sign?”
Heads-up, Maria wished Jungle luck on their way into the room.
“Don’t feel bad, I’m going to beat you anyway.” Maria said her opponent.
“I beat him once before heads-up, so why not again?” Maria said in the pre-match interview.
Returning to the table, she said: “Danny McFanny, you’re going down!”
“It’s my pot of gold!” laughed Jungleman, responding to his new nickname.
Ho the Hero
“I had a lot of momentum coming in and I’m super-grateful to win.” ~ Maria Ho, Game of Gold Season 1 Champion.
As the pair of former teammates sat down, Maria’s chip leading stack of 15,250,000 faced Jungle’s underdog pile of 6,850,000.
Early levels went with Jungle, who ground his way up to 9 million, only a short way behind Maria’s 12 million. A river bet on a board of was a helpful pot, and Maria kept up the pressure, closing in on her original lead. Another river bet with on a board showing prompted a raise from Jungle with just . Maria used a time bank gold coin, then another, before eventually folding the best hand, levelling up the stacks at 11 million each.
A major pot developed when pre-flop and post-flop raises came with Maria holding and Jungleman having . A raise on every street completed a board of whereupon Jungleman shoved. Maria thought about it for a few seconds, but ruled out the ‘ace from space’ and made the call to win with a flush and become Game of Gold champion!
“I don’t know what just happened… you won my pot of gold!” said Jungleman. “My Lucky Charms betrayed me. [I’m] not one to stand down from a challenge, you can count on that as you can on the sun rising and setting.”
Afterwards, Maria told presenter Ali Nejad that she found the team portions of the game the toughest. “We rode a bit of a rollercoaster in Round 1,” she described. “We could have been that [eliminated] team and having to face Jungle heads-up for all of it… I don’t have enough ego to think that Jungle isn’t the favorite with all of his experience. I had a lot of momentum coming in and I’m super-grateful to win and feel I played well throughout.”
Maria Ho most certainly was that. The line of legends queuing up to play Season 2 is already forming…
Watch the incredible finale of Game of Gold in all its glory as Maria Ho became the inaugural champion of the poker show the whole world enjoyed.