Adam Schwartz: Game of Gold is a fresh concept, the producers tried to combine poker and reality TV. In my opinion, this program has no comparisons, and everything was done at the highest level. Today we will discuss the first episode, there will definitely be spoilers, so watch the show on YouTube first.
Daniel, we probably discussed the idea with you even before filming. Tell me how it happened.
Daniel Negreanu: When it became clear that I would be one of the participants, I could no longer take part in the discussion of the format. The production was carried out by a team from Korea; these guys now have no equal in reality shows. Anyone who has watched Physical: 100 on Netflix has probably noticed that these shows have a lot in common. Everything was kept strictly secret: we arrived at the shooting in different cars, and everyone’s phones were taken away, after which we were taken into the elevator, and the woman announced: “As soon as the doors open, the show will begin.” It was all a surprise to me, as it was to everyone else. I really like how it turned out, even the music that plays during tense moments gives me goosebumps.
Terrence Chen: I completely agree about the music. In pure poker shows, we see this quite rarely, it’s simply not necessary there. This would not even be appropriate at the WSOP final table, but in such a reality format it looks very organic. In general, I’m not a fan of reality shows; Hold’em on TV arouses even less interest for me, but here I immediately became emotionally involved, even surprising myself. I know some of the players very well, I saw some for the first time, and my first sympathies appeared already at the introduction stage. I sat down to watch it with the mindset that I was doing this solely for the sake of the podcast, but I quickly got hooked. The organizers added drama from the first minutes; I like that we are shown the reactions of our teammates while the player at the table is thinking. By the way, I think this is additional pressure for inexperienced players.
Daniel Negreanu: It is important that the reaction of all participants is completely sincere. The peculiarity of reality TV is that for the first hour or two, you still remember that you are constantly being filmed, but then you forget, behave naturally, and no longer hold back in your assessments. So in this format, even commentators are not needed; The remarks of the participants, among whom there are many strong professionals, are quite enough. The goal of any reality show is to bring emotions to the participants, here the organizers did an excellent job with this goal, dividing us into teams. And with our mistakes at the starting stage, we let down not only ourselves, but also our partners, which is a completely different level of responsibility. Did you see how nervous Kaina was? By the way, whose outfit did you like better – Charlie Carrel or Jungleman?
Terrence Chen: For me, definitely Jungleman, at least he had clothes on.
Ross Henry (podcast producer and editor who spends 99% of his time behind the scenes): My brother works in the fashion industry. When he saw Jungle, he immediately said that such jackets are bought by people who have a lot of money, but absolutely no taste.
Terrence Chen: Daniel, you said that you were driven to the set in different cars, but did you know who would be involved?
Daniel Negreanu: The organizers tried to keep everything in the strictest confidence, but such information cannot be completely hidden. I knew that Josh Arieh and David Williams would also be filming, we still communicate in everyday life. I only saw Olga and Nikita for the first time at the show; I knew the rest to one degree or another.
Adam Schwartz: After the first introduction, 16 participants drew cards to be divided into teams of 4 people. Daniel, you made the club team. Your partners are Jason Koon, Michael Soyza, and Kevin Martin. What was your first reaction?
Daniel Negreanu: Naturally, I thought that the other teams had no shot. We didn’t have a single no-name, Koon is a poker end boss, Michael Soyza is a Triton regular, and Kevin Martin is a popular streamer, he plays a lot and is constantly working on his game. But let's discuss all the teams.
Adam Schwartz: Peak team – Fedor Holz, Charlie Carrel, YoH ViraL, and Nikita Luther from India. YoH ViraL and Nikita are completely unfamiliar to me.
Daniel Negreanu: YoH ViraL is a very popular YouTuber from France, plays high-stakes tournaments and cash games, and can often be seen on streams. He has a huge army of fans, so his participation did not surprise me at all. Nikita won a bracelet in 2018, she is very popular in her homeland, but for me and American viewers, she is a dark horse.
Adam Schwartz: Team of Hearts – David Williams, Andy Stacks, Olga Ermolcheva (ed. – Adam had great difficulty pronouncing the last name ), and Lucas Robinson. David needs no introduction, Andy is a Hustler regular, and what do we know about Olga and Lucas?
Daniel Negreanu: I know about Lucas that he streams under the nickname Robin Poker, I think he is one of the most inexperienced participants in the show. Olga is also a dark horse for me, but I really liked her performance. No one knew what to expect from her, and she made great use of her image – 3-betting with 84s, making a brave call with , which we will discuss later. Andy is a cash player, not sure how strong he plays in 20BB stacks. The main star of the team for me is David Williams. Old school legend, who can play all games and switch gears great.
Adam Schwartz: Team of Diamonds – Josh Arieh, Maria Ho, Jungleman, and Kayna England.
Daniel Negreanu: The first episode showed a lot of Kayna. Like I said, she was incredibly nervous. I think this is due to the fact that she plays inexpensive limits and ended up on a team with recognized high rollers. The fact that the audience is shown the reaction of the partners is one of the highlights of the show. Maria was clearly tilted by her play, Josh was completely bewildered several times, and Jungle also looked surprised. I didn’t understand what to expect from this team. They do not have regulars of expensive tournaments on their roster. Josh is not a Hold'em specialist at all, Jungle is a legend but doesn't play tournaments at all, and Maria is an experienced player, but her Hold'em game is hardly the strongest.
Terrence Chen: Kayna found herself in an incredibly difficult situation. All of her partners will likely end up in the Poker Hall of Fame in the future, so it's understandable that this adds additional pressure. If they played mixed games, this team would be the clear favorite, but I suspect it will be exclusively hold'em...
Daniel Negreanu: How can you know that, haha? Which team do you think is the strongest?
Adam Schwartz: I may be biased, but it seems obvious that your team looks like the clear favorite. You yourself named the reasons – all are very experienced players, and three are also high-stakes regulars. Then it’s more difficult, I think I’ll put Jungle’s team in second place, Holtz in third, and the team of hearts led by David Williams in fourth.
Terrence Chen: I agree with Adam, your team objectively looks stronger than the others, and the team of hearts looks weaker than everyone else. Their main star is David, but he's not the strongest hold'em player either, Andy Stacks is a deep-stacked cash player, and I just don't know the other two players.
Daniel Negreanu: I know how it will end, but I will try to abstract myself and tell you about my first impression. For me, a solid second place goes to the team of Holz and Carrel, they are experienced tournament players, and YoH ViraL is also not a newbie. I’ll put the diamond team on third, and I agree that the heart team looks weaker than the others. I love David, but he will have to play with the strongest players from other teams – these will be Fedor, Jungle, and Koon. I love David, but he doesn't seem to have much of a chance here. I immediately put them in last place, but then I still had no idea what Olga was capable of. And she really surprised me; I didn’t expect such a game from a dark horse.
Terrence Chen: Maybe it was strategically beneficial for them to put Olga to play with Koon, Jungle, and Holz? While these guys were fighting among themselves, she would have made it to second place.
Daniel Negreanu: By the way, this is another interesting strategic point – at what moment to imprison this or that player.
Adam Schwartz: Once again, I strongly recommend watching the first episode first, but for those who are not in the know, I’ll explain that at the starting stage, teams play 4 SNGs and gain points in them, and their number increases in each subsequent tournament. At the end of four tournaments, the team with the lowest number is eliminated. But there is one important clarification – it is not yet known how many points will be awarded in the 4th tournament. What if everyone puts the strongest players there, but it turns out that there will be zero points?
Daniel Negreanu: Or, on the contrary, they will play in the winner takes all format. Don't forget that players score points not only for teams but also for their own personal standings. Jason and I just tossed a coin to decide who would play last. I was even glad about this because at least I knew that I would play for 50 points.
Terrence Chen: All the teams seemed to have unanimously decided that the strongest player should be left for the fourth match, and there were no fierce disputes on this topic at all. And the most inexperienced participants were sent to the first tournament, except perhaps Michael Soyza. Wasn't there an element of bullying from more star players?
Daniel Negreanu: Perhaps to some extent. But put yourself in the shoes of Olga or Nikita. You can’t say: “I’m the main star here and I’ll go last to play!”
Terrence Chen: Perhaps everyone was thinking about the team and not about their personal gain.
Daniel Negreanu: Exactly, because in the first stage the worst team is eliminated entirely.
Adam Schwartz: Let's discuss the hand between Olga and Michael. At the 20k/40k level, Michael on the button opened 90k with Q3s, and Olga in the big blind called with AJs. It seems like calling her isn't the most standard play. What do you think?
Terrence Chen: I don't remember exactly, but it seems like the stacks were still deep enough that her calling was fine.
Daniel Negreanu: I agree, you can mix here – sometimes call, sometimes 3-bet. Everyone sets up their own internal randomizer. I like calling better in this format, we don't want to play big pots out of position, so we have to 3-bet less often.
Adam Schwartz: Olga check-called the 70k bet on the flop.
Daniel Negreanu: Completely standard game. Michael could have bet more, he has more on this board , , , and even . He has a huge advantage in terms of range, but the 70k bet is quite normal. Well, there are no questions about Olga’s game; she should always play check-call here.
Terrence Chen: At that moment, a funny episode happened in the fans' room. Daniel said that Michael would c-bet and not put another penny in the pot, but Koon countered that he would continue if the turn came , or , since these cards strengthen his backdoor. And indeed a ten came, giving Michael a gutshot with a blocker on the nuts.
Adam Schwartz: Michael put 240k into the pot of 360k, and Olga called.
Daniel Negreanu: I was hoping that he wouldn't continue betting. If I were him, I would have already thrown out the white flag. That's why – he is a high-stakes reg, and there are three less experienced opponents against him. You need to play calm, correct poker with such people; you don’t need to try to outplay them in every spot and bluff in big pots, even if this is correct according to GTO. What do we know about Olga? Nothing. Are we knocking out a king? What to do on the river after she calls? Continue betting? We drove ourselves into a difficult situation against an unknown opponent. This is the case when small ball is the best strategy.
Adam Schwartz: The flush hit on the river, Michael bet 600k to 840k.
Daniel Negreanu: What is Olga's range on the river? After calling on the turn, she has no kings, only aces, some two pairs, a straight and flush draw, and pairs with a flush draw. When the club comes, we have to ask ourselves if we can now knock out the bottom of its range. She had just one pair, and we didn’t wait for a fold. Koon said it right – in order to bet on the river, we definitely need a club in our hand. But even with a flush blocker against her, I would have given up on the turn, and I certainly wouldn’t have risked betting 600k as a bluff on the river.
Terrence Chen: But by that time Olga was not a completely unknown opponent. She 3-bet with 84, and although her neighbors at the table did not know about it yet, it was still clear that she had not come to sit out, as Nikita, for example, did.
Daniel Negreanu: Now we know that Nikita overfolds, but Olga does not. At that time it was still unclear, so there was no point in taking such risks. The episode ends with a hand in which Olga opened with , Kayna shoved A8o, and Nikita simply folded in the BB!
The second episode of the show aired on Monday: