James Holzhauer became the second contestant in the 35-year history of Jeopardy! to win at least $2 million in the regular-season play.
The 34-year-old professional gambler has been parlaying his wealth of sports betting experience into the Jeopardy! arena, confident in his knowledge and taking big chances. He won $74,400 on Friday’s show to bring his 27-day total up to $2,065,535.
For those of you counting at home, that averages out to $76,501.30 per episode. To help put that in context, before Holzhauer, only one player in the history of the show had ever won more than, but that was in a single game. Roger Craig accomplished the feat when he won $77,000 in 2010, but this is the Holzhauer’s average over 27 episodes.
He’s now the second longest reigning champion and the second highest overall winner, trailing the legendary Ken Jennings in both categories. Jennings still has a $455,165 lead on Holzhauer. At the current champion’s rate he’ll break the record in six episodes, but if he can average $91,034 this week he’ll be the undisputed champ by Friday.
If that seems like too daunting of a task, consider that Holzhauer has already surpassed that total six times during his streak.
Friday’s episode was a typical Holzhauer rout as he entered Final Jeopardy with $39,400 which put him $37,600 ahead of second place contestant Susan Waller. That didn’t stop him from betting $35,000 on the final question.
The champ also set a new record for total earnings in the first round of the game as he won $24,600.
His analytical betting style learned from over a decade as a professional gambler means that his strategy includes betting big on the Daily Doubles. He also goes for the big money questions on the board first and does it in a way where he bounces around the board.
Considering that a big part of the game is how quickly one can buzz in, that added wrinkle puts tremendous stress on his opponents who are coming into the game inexperienced on the big stage.
By the time they settle into the game, they are generally already out of it as Holzhauer is instantly in his rhythm while the others are left scrambling to catch up.
Even Jennings is blown away by what he’s seeing. In a recent op-ed piece in the Washington Post he said that “Holzhauer 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.” He sums it up perfectly saying ,”history is being made before our eyes.”
I couldn’t agree more.