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Despite being arguably one of the most removed from the Survivor community, Yul Kwon, winner of Cook Islands, did his due diligence before returning for the 40th season, Winners at War.

While researching his opponents, he came across a “poker alliance” and successfully painted targets on them after only a couple of days on the island. After the premiere aired, Kwon explained his strategy behind the poker alliance, and why he chose to flip the vote.

Yul Kwon
Yul Kwon | Robert Voets

*SPOILER ALERT: This article reveals information from the Survivor: Winners at War premiere.

The poker alliance on ‘Survivor: Winners at War’

In 2018, Jeremy Collins, Kim Spradlin-Wolf, Tyson Apostol, and Boston Rob Mariano all competed in a Survivor champions poker tournament. While competing, Apostol told the other three they are the “power alliance” if they played Survivor again.

Yul exposed the “poker alliance” to others on his tribe to paint a target on them, and it worked. Spradlin ended up jumping ship, and Apostol went into “survival mode,” leaving Amber Mariano, who is a part of the alliance by default, vulnerable.

Despite attempting to paint a target on others, her unbreakable bond with her husband proved too big of a threat, and she joined Natalie Anderson at the Edge of Extinction.

Yul Kwon explained his strategy behind the poker alliance

Before competing on Survivor: Winners at War, Yul Kwon, who has been removed from the Survivor community since his win, did research on his opponents before entering the game.

After the season premiere, Apostol asked Kwon for “some insight as to where and how exactly you came across the poker alliance.” The Cook Islands winner answered that he “read somewhere” that Apostol and Mariano enjoyed poker.

Therefore, he Googled, “Tyson Boston Rob Poker,” and read an article that contained “footage of the poker game.” In a TwitLonger post, Kwon revealed he didn’t know if the poker alliance was “real,” but wanted to immediately paint targets on others while building “a separate alliance quietly.”

Yul Kwon explained why he flipped the vote

As viewers saw in the premiere, Tony Vlachos wanted to vote off Apostol because Sandra Diaz-Twine told him the Blood vs. Water winner planned on sending him to the Edge.

According to Kwon, they wanted to split the vote with Nick Wilson in the case of an idol. Therefore, he encouraged others to vote for Amber Mariano “with a split vote against Kim” because he didn’t want to lose his ally, Wilson, and he wanted to keep Apostol for his strength in challenges.

He also thought the Season 27 champ could have an idol since he already found one in Blood vs. Water, and Amber Mariano had never played a season with hidden immunity idols before.

Additionally, Kwon admitted, “there’s a weird and really unfortunate statistical imbalance where men are far more likely to find idols,” which is why he’s “not a fan of letting idols be found by random searching.”

Finally, the California-native recognized Amber and Rob Mariano’s strong alliance as “unbreakable under any circumstances.” Therefore, he “thought it was prudent to vote one of them out” in case of a tribe swap, and “wanted to make sure someone from the poker alliance went home while keeping open the possibility of aligning with one or more of the remaining members.”

He also explained how difficult it was to vote the All-Star winner to the Edge, but did what he “felt made the most strategic sense at that point in the game.” Watch Survivor: Winners at War Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.