Amidst ‘Game of Gold’ Buzz, Olga Iermolcheva’s a Breakout Star

Amidst ‘Game of Gold’ Buzz, Olga Iermolcheva’s a Breakout Star

Imagine stepping into a poker gauntlet against the likes of Daniel Negreanu, Jason Koon, Fedor Holz, Dan Cates and a still deeper cast of legends from several different eras of the game.

That was the reality that Olga Iermolcheva was thrust into as part of the cast for the inaugural season of Game of Gold. Whats more, is that until the moment she stepped out of the elevator, Iermolcheva had no idea of the mountain she would be expected to climb in this competition.

I knew that there would be 16 of us, but I had zero information about the competitors, said Iermolcheva. I was still hoping to have some non-poker competitors, to make it a little bit fairer.

Once I saw all of the famous super pros that were there, I knew it would be difficult to beat them for sure. I realized this quickly.

Over the last two weeks, Game of Gold has become one of the most talked about subjects in the world of poker. The revamped, reality game-style return of Poker After Dark pits 16 poker players, including some of the most recognizable names in the game, initially drafted into teams of four as the field slowly gets whittled down to what will eventually be one winner by the end of the show.

And while the big names understandably drew a lot of attention at the outset, when it came down to the poker itself, which for Round 1 was a series of four-handed Sit and Go tournaments, focus quickly turned to the action at hand. Through a random draw of cards, Iermochelva was drafted to Team Hearts, which featured David Williams, Hustler Casino Live regular Andy Stacks and online streamer Lucas Robinson.

While team competition is far from the norm in poker, Iermolcheva had an advantage to potentially balance out the game against players with tens of millions of dollars on their poker resumes.

It was tough, because poker is an individual game, and we have to rely on ourselves, said Iermolcheva. But I had experience of playing in teams I previously played in Match Poker. Sometimes you play bad, but your teammates are doing good, and you survive. Sometimes the opposite.

In Match Poker, teams are split onto different tables with one player from each team in each of the different seat positions. All players start each hand with an equal number of chips and receive their cards on a digital device. Each seat is dealt the same cards as the players in the same seat on every table.

In Game of Gold, Iermolcheva’sname was called first, and she represented her team well. In her four-handed Sit and Go, Iermolcheva took on Michael Soyza, Kyna England and WSOP bracelet winner Nikita Luther. Iermolchevas opponents had a difficult time adjusting to her style, and she eventually ran away with the victory.

On the DAT Poker Podcast, Negreanu specifically praised Iermolcheva for leaning into her image as an unknown, and her play in two specific hands one where she three-bet with 8-4 suited, and another when she made a big calldown with top pair on a flush-draw board.

Team Hearts was off to a strong start, with an objective of simply not finishing as the lowest team in the standings by the time all four Sit and Go tournaments played out. But then Andy Stacks finished third in his heat, and Robinson went out in fourth.

That left Williams to take on heavy hitters from the three other teams Koon, Cates and Holz. When it mattered the most, Williams won his table and got his team over the finish line.

I was a little bit frustrated that my teammates busted early. I mean, Andy and Lucas were still doing good, but they were unlucky, of course. And then David, at the end, somehow helped us to survive, so I was happy with that.

We could have busted out in Round 1, and at some points I was 100% sure that we would. But we did not.

After making it through Round 1, Iermolcheva’s redrafted team lost their first set of heads-up matches in Round 2. Their elimination match will air in the coming week, with her status in the show on the line.

Regardless of how Round 2 plays out, its easy to wonder what its been like to watch these episodes as theyre released, after living through it all when they were filmed.

Its a little stressful, said Iermolcheva. You know, I don’t like to watch my televised poker game because it influences my live game when I am back to the poker tables. But for entertainment, it was fun to watch.

We didn’t see all the hands, we just saw the major hands, said Iermolcheva. Viewers at home dont get the full picture of all the poker being played. Sometimes people think that players are punting their chips, while in real life, it wasnt like that.

Well have to wait and see how it all plays out on the coming episodes of Game of Gold. But beyond the exposure that the show has offered Iermolcheva, shes enjoyed some major tournament successes in her career over the last 12 months as well. She finished third in a $1,500 No Limit Holdem Shootout at this years World Series of Poker and, most notably, took second in the televised WPT Ladies World Championship.

While the memories around both results are positive overall, Iermolcheva feels like the bright lights and big stage can be a challenge.

As I said, for me, playing on a televised broadcast is difficult, said Iermolcheva. I was very happy that when I was playing the WSOP final table of the $1,500 Shootout in Vegas in July that it wasn’t televised, because probably it would probably have changed my game a lot.

But speaking about the WPT Ladies Championship, it was really fun, said Iermolcheva. All of the girls were so nice. The staff treated us well, and it was fun to go through makeup and hair before the final table started. And then all of the finalists got tickets on the cruise. It was a nice surprise for me, on top of the prizes.

A couple of tough hands during heads-up play ultimately determined the outcome of the heads-up match between Iermolcheva and eventual winner Lina Niu. But almost a year out now, Iermolcheva is at peace with the result.

Of course, I was unhappy with second place, but the girl who won it, Lina, she really deserved it, said Iermolcheva. She played very well, she was a nice person and I’m happy for her.

So whats next? In the here and now, Iermolcheva bagged chips on Day1A of the 2023 Seminole Rock N Roll Poker Open. Shes still waiting to finalize her plans for a busy December of poker, but she will be back at Wynn Las Vegas. And after making one major final table during last years festival, Iermolchevas setting her sights even higher for 2023.

I’ll be for there for the $40 million guarantee, for sure.

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