With a second round of action beginning, the fifth episode of GGPoker and Poker After Dark’s Game of Gold lit the blue touch paper, hid behind the sofa and watched the fireworks from a safe distance as new teams were formed, and a multitude of heads-up battles began.
With previous episodes taking place in the form of four-handed Sit & Gos, the drama of Episode 1, Episode 2 and Episode 3 were added to by a tumultuous finale to Round 1 in the final match of the four in Episode 4, where Team Club, comprising of Daniel Negreanu, Jason Koon, Michael Soyza and Kevin Martin were all eliminated from the competition, relinquishing their shot at winning the only prize reserved for the winner of the show, $456,000.
In this and every article in this series, we’ll be discussing the episode of the title as well as any and all episodes leading up to it. We won’t be spoiling any further into the series, so if you’ve only made it this far, don’t worry, you won’t find out anything you don’t want to about the drama to come.
Now… let’s get to the GOLD in this week’s episode.
Picking the Teams
“Her picking anybody would be a death sentence.”
Ali Nejad told the remaining 12 players at the start of the episode that in Round 2, each member of what was Team Spade in Round 1 now became a team captain of three. Once again, that would mean four teams were taking part in the ‘Team Heads-Up’ challenge. Johan ‘Yoh Viral’ Guilbert was top scorer in Round 1, so got the first pick. He mistakenly chose Fedor Holz, a former teammate who was now an opposing captain. He was reminded by Nejad – to hoots of laughter from around the room – that his choice was against the rules!
“I slowrolled myself because I forgot I couldn’t pick Fedor!” laughed Johan on camera.
After each former Team Spade member made their picks in descending order of who had the most coins. Johan went for Jungleman first, Fedor then picked Maria Ho, before Charlie Carrel opted for Andy Stacks, a tough call for Charlie who admitted it was between Andy and Olga Iermolcheva.
“He picked Andy… so now I want to kick his ass!” Olga said on the back of Charlie’s choice. After
The former Team Spade players’ second picks were in reverse order, with lowest scoring Team Spade player Nikita Luther going first, so she got pick four and five. Josh Arieh was not looking forward to being chosen.
“She was definitely the weak link [in Team Spade] ‘cause the other three are just pretty good players. Her picking anybody would be a death sentence.”
Nikita chose Robin, a.k.a. Lukas Robinson and he was disappointed to have joined her team. Nikita then chose Olga Iermolcheva to complete her team. That left Josh Arieh, David Williams and Kyna England. Charlie chose David Williams, before Fedor picked Josh Arieh, who rejoined Maria Ho in their superb trio.
“If I could have picked two players, it would have been Fedor and Maria.” Said Josh as he celebrated a tense process ending with a great personal result for him. With Kyna England picked last by Johan, she was resolute in her self-belief before the action dot underway.
“I was a little bummed to be picked last. If they want to think I’m the worst player here, I’m going to go ahead and let them.”
Here’s how the four new teams for Round 2 shaped up:
The Drama Begins
“They’ll soon realize that Nikita is an absolute machine.”
The Round 2 format was a simple one… with some complex nuances. Each team of three would play heads-up games against one other team in the competition. Players from each team would individually do battle until one player was beaten, to be replaced by another member of their team. When any team runs out of players, they would lose the match, and at the ‘semi-final’ stage, that would mean going into the losers bracket.
With the other two teams squaring off in the same format, the two groups of winners would face off for 100 gold coins each to the winning team. The two losing teams would then play off for survival, with the losing team of heads-up players in this ‘death match’ leading to their elimination. By the end of Round 2, we will be left with just nine players.
As the overall Round 1 winner, Johan Guilbert got to pick the team his trio were up against and he chose to face Nikita Luther’s team. Robin attempted to convince Nikita that her experience heads-up meant she had an ‘edge’ over Jungleman, a notion that Nikita herself laughed off.
Johan and Jungle went into a deep discussion about who should go first and it left Kyna England feel like she was being pushed into third place on both days, which could come with the potential of the most pressure and the least reward of coins.
“They’ll soon realize that Nikita is an absolute machine heads-up.” Robin said as Nikita took on former teammate Johan Guilbert, who was sad to play his old Team Spade member.
A massive hand played out when Nikita raised huge with and Johan called with . A flop of led to a bet of 140,000 from Nikita, a fair amount from her initial starting stack of 2 million chips. With just a 15% shot of winning the hand, Johan’s raise to 510,000 put Nikita into the tank and with the clock running, she folded it away.
Robin Gets the Bird
“Time to make a hero call!”
Johan was ahead and rivered a straight to put Nikita under heaps of pressure. Making a chunky bet on 5th street, the Frenchman managed to elicit a call from his opponent and Nikita was suddenly looking at a 3:1 chip deficit. A horrible playout in the next screened hand saw both players flop a king as Nikita’s and Johan’s hit top pair on . The turn of a , however, meant a chop pot wasn’t happening, and Johan’s sneaky bet of 180,000 got a call. On the meaningless river of a , Johan bet 520,000 and got a call.
Now short, Nikita shoved with for 620,000 and Johan called with . The flop of kept Nikita ahead, as did the turn but the river gave Johan a straight and knocked out Nikita.
Now one team member down, Robin was next to enter the fray and take on the in-form super-aggro Johan. Early screened skirmishes went the way of Johan, but the stacks were even when Robin value-bet top pair on a board of for just 60,000.
“He bet 60k? That’s so weird.” Jungleman said from his position in the green room, where he and Kyna England struck the kind of body language that suggested they would be the oddest married couple ever if poker and reality TV wanted to ‘get weird’.
Johan was on the bet immediately, raising it to 440,000 with just a bottom pair of deuces. Perhaps thinking Robin could find a fold, the Frenchman sat, immovable, his poker face doing the work for him.
“Time to make a hero call!” said Olga in the green room. “He’s attacking our weak range.”
But Robin couldn’t do it. Folding his cards, his teammates were dejected in the green room.
Despite losing that hand, Robin bullied his way into a lead, but Johan doubled up when his ace-high shove stayed ahead the whole way.
Robin now needed the double to prevent Johan knocking out two members of the team and leaving Olga Iermolcheva as the only remaining ‘Team Nikita’ player.
As Kyna England – alert, alive, taking notes – and Jungleman – asleep, reading philosophy or asleep – contrived to make The Odd Couple look like an exercise in matrimonial harmony, Robin shoved with and Johan made a quick instinctive call with . It wasn’t right, but he was only a 41% dog in the fight as the dealer prepared to spread the flop.
“Please win!” yelled Olga knowing that if Robin lost, she was next to face Johan.
The flop of kept Robin ahead, dropping Johan’s chances of winning the hand to just 29%. Those chances dropped to 18% on the turn.
“I’d take [another] ten.” Said Johan. The river, however, landed a .
“A jack? Even better. GG bro.”
“Sick! Why? Noooo!” Olga lamented as Johan made it back-to-back heads-up wins and sent Robin back to the green room.
“The pots I decided to play against him, I made them big.” Johan said afterwards, explaining his desire to make Robin uncomfortable whenever he was involved in a hand.
“I’ve got the least experience of anyone here, but I’m very proud of how I played that heads-up match.” Robin said after his defeat.
Olga Faces the Beast
“At any point I can do crazy stuff.”
Two down, but could Johan make it three in a row?
“He doesn’t know you’re nervous,” Nikita told Olga, firing her up for a match Olga needed to win to prevent her team going into the losers bracket. “He thinks you’re a beast ‘cause you smashed the first match. Bring that momentum and energy into this match.”
Johan greeted Nikita in Ukrainian to welcome her into the arena then when she asked how he was feeling, responded with just one word.
Intimidation and control are all part of a classic heads-up match, but perhaps the truest words came when Johan said, “At any point I can do crazy stuff.” Calling with the worst of it, he made a straight as his king filled in the gutshot of Broadway and that put him ahead in the match. Olga had 1.7m to Johan’s 2.3m, so she raised it up with the button to 160,000 with and Johan called with
The flop of [ paired Olga’s hand but gave Johan the flush draw with two overcards, making him the racing favorite. A bet from Olga, a raise from Johan and a re-raise from Olga to 600,000 gave Johan a big decision.
“How much do you have behind?” Johan asked, Olga organised her stack.
“You can see all my chips.” She said with more than a little edge.
Johan moved all-in, putting Olga at risk if she called. With only 1.1 million behind, could she make the call?
We’ll find out next time in Episode 6 of the 12-episode series…. which promises to be the most explosive yet.
Watch Episode 5 of Game of Gold, entitled No Turning Back, right here: