After dominating the game for more than 30 days and racking up over two million dollars, does ‘Jeopardy’ James Holzhauer finally break Ken Jenning’s all-time earnings record?
Someone cue up “Weird” Al Yankovic’s “I Lost On Jeopardy,” because James Holzhauer’s record-breaking run is over. The 35-year-old professional gambler, who demolished the competition on Jeopardy! to take home more than two million dollars, has lost. The man, whose take on the game will be studied for decades, was defeated on the June 3 episode (which has already aired in different parts of the country.) “Jeopardy James” led the first round, but in Double Jeopardy, Emma Boettcher, a 27-year-old librarian from Chicago, surged ahead. She bet all her $7,600 on a Daily Double, which gave her an edge into Final Jeopardy (she led $26,600, while James had $23,400.)
“The line in “A Great Reckoning In A Little Room’ in ‘As You Like It’ is usually taken to refer to this author’s premature death,” was the Final Jeopardy answer. Everyone nailed it – “Who is Marlowe?” – but James, uncharacteristically, bet low, wagering just $1399.“A modest one, for a first time,” Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, 78 said. When Emma had clearly one, James walked over and gave her a high-five in a huge show of good sportsmanship.
After 32-straight victories, James leaves Jeopardy! having won $2,462,216, just $58,484 short of Ken Jenning’s all-time record for regular play. Ken also holds the record for most games won in regulation play, having gone on a 74-game winning streak fifteen years ago. While a moment like this would be television history-in-the-making, the event was spoiled ahead of time. A clip of James’s defeat hit the Internet early in the A.M. (and Deadspin notes that since Jeopardy! aires at different times in the country, this episode aired in the morning on KATV in Little Rock, Arkansas.)
James first appeared on Jeopardy! on April 4, and from there, he began shattering records left and right. He broke the Season 35 record of $40,000 for a single episode. He broke the single-game Jeopardy! winnings record ($77,000, set by Roger Craig in 2010) by winning $110,914. By the time he won his 29th straight game, he was averaging $77,756 per episode. “When I set the one-day Jeopardy! earnings record back in 2004, my total that night was $75,000. Over his first 22 games on the show, Holzhauer is averaging $76,864 per game. Nice work, if you can get it,” Ken Jennings, the Jeopardy! contestant who set the overall-winnings record for regular-season play in 2004, wrote for the Washington Post.
“We are seeing history made in front of our eyes, 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,” Ken added. “Even casual fans of the show have probably heard by now how Holzhauer is doing it: He’s a sports bettor who feels supremely comfortable wagering aggressively, and he cannily plays the game board from the bottom up, starting with the highest dollar values and amassing cash before the Daily Doubles have been found and while his poor opponents are still finding their feet.”
This wasn’t James’s first game show rodeo. He previously appeared on The Chase in 2014 and on 500 Questions in 2015. While he didn’t take home any winnings at the latter, he won $58,333 on The Chase and the respect of The Chase’s quizmaster, Mark Labbett.
“I think being on ‘The Chase’ made me better prepared for the pressure of the cameras and lights, and it boosted my confidence going into ‘Jeopardy!’ since I knew I was capable of winning on a big stage,” he told his hometown paper, the Naperville Sun. He also explained how he included some special messages in the game – his single-day winnings record amount was $110,914, his daughter’s birthday (11/09/14), for example – for his own enjoyment. “Family will always be more important to me than money or winning on Jeopardy, and the bets were a fun and unconventional way for me to show them that.”
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