The Queen
Maria Ho was cast as The Queen in the latest episode of Game of Gold.. but could she keep her crown?

Maria Ho was the star of the show in Episode 8 of Game of Gold as the brand-new blend of poker and reality TV that has captivated poker moved into a crucial phase of the  competition. With 12 players still remaining, Round 2’s Team Heads-Up Match reached the winners bracket as Maria, Josh Arieh and Fedor Holz took on Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates, Johan ‘YoH Viral’ Guilbert and Kyna England for the win and over 300 gold coins between the winning team.

Game of Gold’s opening Episode 1 opened the floodgates to thousands of poker fans jumping on board the thrilling mix of solo poker action and backstage teamwork. Many more thousands joined the bandwagon for Episode 2 and Episode 3, and when Round 1 concluded in Episode 4 the poker world stood still as Team Club, featuring Daniel Negreanu, and Jason Koon, crashed out of the competition.

In Episode 5, ‘No Turning Back’, everything was left on the line and that led to some fireworks after Team Nikita was shot down in flames during Episode 6. Jungleman and YoH Viral clashed, Kyne England looked shaken and Fedor Holz lost his stack in the second Heads-Up Match, but Maria Ho won an important match in Episode 7, entitled Quick and Easy, before Josh Arieh finished the job and closed out a superb ‘last man’ win, taking down both Andy Stacks and David Williams.

Now, Maria Ho kicks it off playing for the win against Jungleman. Let’s get to the GOLD in this week’s episode.

Jungle Gets Tangled Up

“It could have been the bluff of the day.”

Early in the battle to gain a foothold in the first match, there was a very big fold from Maria, who held Td8c against Jungle’s QhJd. With the major action on the river of a board showing AcTs5cKc8s, Maria made the right fold but lost parity as Jungle edged into the lead.

That situation was quick to reverse, with a flop of 4h3d2s followed by a Qd on the turn. This time it was Maria’s turn to bet big, as she slid out a stack of chips worth 420,000 holding AsQs, representing almost a quarter of those in front of her. Jungleman, holding Jd5h couldn’t make the call with the open straight draw and threw his hand away.

“I’m not sure how I feel about these turnover bets,” Jungle said. “If you had magic all the time then it wouldn’t be magic.”

Worse was to come for Jungle, as on a board of 9h7c2hJd9d he had the best hand with 8h2d but was pushed off the pot by a river bet from Maria holding just 8d3d.

“It could have been the bluff of the day.” Jungle said, eyeing his silent opponent as a snake might view a mouse crawling quickly past their reach.

“Let’s go!” yelled Josh Arieh in support of his teammate Maria in the green roon. “That was awesome! That was the bluff of the day… you got f**ked!”

Feeling Kyna Starstruck

“How sick would this be?”

If Jungle was caught in the headlights, then they were about to be switched to ‘full beam’.

“You don’t wanna be messing with me.” Maria said to him.

Jungle seemed to fight against this suggestion by shoving all-in with just 6c4c. Maria only had Qh5d but was pondering the call.

“How sick would this be?” Josh quipped.

Maria did make the call for 940,000 and knowing it would either all be over or they would be level in chips, the board of Td9d8sJc3h sent Jungle to the rail.

“Nice playing with you,” he said. “Did you bluff me?”

“Yeah.” Said Maria, revealing the truth as she hugged her opponent. She would later credit Jungle’s experience as a reason she made the bluff, because he was good enough to make the fold.

“Nice playing with you, Jungle, take it right there!” Josh celebrated, as Fedor chuckled on next to him.

Next up for Maria was the young Breakout Player of the Year Kyna England, who had only played in Round 1 until this point as a result of Johan Guilbert’s 3-0 win in the first Team Heads-Up Match and Jungle taking the first position this time round in the winners bracket.

The opening hand between the pair threatened to bankrupt the underdog as Kyna held 3s3c and lost a chunk to the As7c of Maria on a board of AcKcAdThTd after Maria bet 300,000 on the river. Kyna made the fold but Fedor thought a smaller bet might have been better.

“Why value bet against no hands that get to the river? A small donk bet could have let her spazz it off.”

Maria was making Kyna for many hands she played and it didn’t stop there. Kyna had ace-king and on a flop of Jh6c4c and put 130,000 into the pot against Maria’s Qc8d. Maria raised it to 380,000 and got a call.

“There are not really a whole lot of ways Maria is going to win it.” Fedor said about the hand. Josh couldn’t disagree, but in the other room, Jungle was delighted.

“We’ve got a battler!” he yelled.

“From her demeanour, its super obvious she’s weak.” Said Fedor.

On the 5s turn, Maria thought the same and bet 470,000, taking another important pot down.

Maria seemed to have the Indian sign over Kyna and the former used all of her experience as, on a board of Jc7d4cQh4h, she was face with a pot of 380,000. Kyna only had 680,000 behind, so Maria’s bet of 310,000 while holding 5c3s saw Kyna go into the tank with AsKc.

This time, Kyna did make the call and won with ace-high.

“That’s maybe the hand of the match.” Johan said in the green room. “I would have folded.”

Pain and Gain

“Get out the broom, I’m gonna sweep it!”

Now on 1.1 million chips, Kyna ran a bluff but Maria sniffed it out and made the call with ace-high. Kyna was all-in shortly after with a dominating hand, holding AcQs against Maria’s Ah4c. The flop of Qh8c5h looked good for Kyna, but the 7h opened up the flush draw.

“I would normally root for something exciting, but let’s not make it exciting,” said Kyna. “We need a black card!”

A Th on the river doomed Kyna as Maria had snuffed out another player’s hopes making it two from two.

“Make it hurt, Maria!” Josh said gleefully.

“YoH Viral is just gonna come in and do it again…” teased Kyna.

Afterwards, Kyna admitted that she thought she’d let her team down a little bit. Maria, however, was classy in victory.

“She does have a little less experience, and its probably an intimidating atmosphere for her which is very normal and natural. I put myself in her shoes thought and [thought] ‘What would be the best way to play?’. Johan swept his matches do he’s going to be a tough opponent. You know what they say: get out the broom, I’m gonna sweep it!”

Maria initially got off to a good start against Johan, but in an inflated pot got all the way to the river with a busted flush draw. It seemed the perfect situation for a bluff-shove, as Josh and Fedor admitted they would try. But if Maria did so, then Johan would almost certainly have called with a rivered two pair. As it happened, Maria found a life-preserving check, Johan made a chunky bet and took the pot for a 3 to 1 lead.

Without the chip lead, will the queen hold onto her crown and seal 100 coins for each of her teammates as well as herself, or will Johan keep the battle for the gold alive?

We’ll find out in Episode 9, intriguingly entitled ‘The Final Prayer’.

Until then, watch Episode 8 in full here: