James Holzhauer becomes second ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant ever to win over $2M
Jeopardy! contestant James Holzhauer became the second person ever to pass the $2-million mark in winnings on the show on Friday.
Holzhauer, a 34-year-old sports better from Las Vegas, won his 27th game on Friday with $74,400, bringing his overall winnings to $2,065,535.
The match wasn’t close. He went into Final Jeopardy leading with $39,400, more than $35,000 ahead of second-place Susan Waller, who had $1,800 — a type of lead that is not uncommon for him.
Holzhauer bet $35,000 and correctly answered the clue “astronomy buffs visit Idaho for the U.S.A.’s first dark sky reserve; oddly, part of it is this resort area with a bright name.” He responded “What is Sun Valley?” — but not without a cheeky joke, writing “Las Vegas Strip” on his answer and striking it out.
He also broke a Jeopardy! record by earning $24,600 in the first round of the game.
WATCH: ‘Jeopardy!’ champ James Holzhauer passes $1M mark
Holzhauer is moving at a breakneck pace to match past Jeopardy! contestant Ken Jennings’ winnings in 2004.
Jennings took 74 games to win a total of $2,520,700 at an average pace of $34,000 per episode.
At Holzhauer’s current pace of an average of $76,500 per episode — more than double Jennings’ pace — he could get the top spot in six more shows.
If he plays as many games as Jennings did at his current pace, he could make more than $5.6 million total.
Holzhauer has gained some notoriety for his quickness to the buzzer and high-stakes betting on the show, likely influenced by his career in sports betting.
He often begins at the bottom of the playing board instead of the top, as is traditionally done, to get the $1,000 clues and build a war chest, then goes searching for the Daily Doubles and bets aggressively.
“I’m not surprised that most contestants don’t gamble the way I do,” he told the Associated Press. “Loss aversion is a very real factor.”
Jennings said in a Washington Post op-ed that Holzhauer is a “statistical outlier” and that “history is being made before our eyes.”
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“[He is] the Jeopardy! equivalent of a basketball player notching 70-point games for an entire season or a baseball player hitting for the cycle in every game,” Jennings wrote.
Holzhauer will play his next game Monday.
-With files from the Associated Press
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