Melissa Sassin Holzhauer is the wife of record-setting “Jeopardy” champion James Holzhauer. The couple lives in Las Vegas with their 4-year-old daughter. Melissa Holzhauer works as a tutor and her husband, as anyone who watches the game show already knows, is a professional sports gambler.
Melissa Holzhauer, 37, and James Holzhauer, 34, have been married since 2012. She has watched as her husband has shattered “Jeopardy” records, winning more than $1 million since starting his run on the show in early April.
Here’s what you need to know about James Holzhauer’s wife Melissa Holzhauer:
1. Melissa Holzhauer Has Worked as a Test Prep Tutor & Has Degrees in Classics From the University of Washington & Brown University
Melissa Sassin Holzhauer is a Michigan native. She graduated from the University of Washington in 2009 with a degree in classics and classical literatures, langauages and linguistics, which is the study of Latin and Greek texts, history, philosophy and more.
After completing her undergraduate degree, she attended Brown University and completed her master’s degree in classics and classical langauges, literatures and linguistics in 2012. In a video posted on the Ivy League school’s website, Holzhauer talked about why she decided to attend Brown:
Holzhauer now works as an “enthusiastic tutor,” focusing on test prep, in the Las Vegas area, according to her Linkedin profile. She wrote on the website, “I have been teaching and tutoring for many years. My experiences range from training adult volunteers how to safely remove lead paint to teaching kindergarten in Thailand. I have also tutored graduate and undergraduate students in Greek and Latin as well as taught Greek Mythology. Most recently, I tutored high school students one-on-one for the ACT. I always strive to help my students find deeper connections between the materials they are learning and their lives.”
Holzhauer added, “I am passionate about translation because I believe that language, spoken or written, is a conduit for understanding and that words can bring people together, even though sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right ones! Therefore, I pride myself on being able to explain ideas in several different ways and I don’t give up until my students and I are on the same page.”
Holzhauer previously worked as an ACT and academic tutor with StudyPoint, “I provide private, in-home test prep tutoring for high school students. My area of focus has been all sections of the ACT, but I am also equipped to tutor the SAT. With my help, my students have achieved a 5 point average increase in their cumulative scores. Using the StudyPoint materials and curriculum as a guide, I have personalized individual programs for each of my students. I focus on their weakest areas and translate concepts into terms that they can understand. In addition to teaching and reviewing material, I help them with pacing and test strategy so that they can achieve their score goals and hopefully get accepted to the college of their dreams!”
2. James Has Used Their Wedding Anniversary as a ‘Jeopardy’ Wager Multiple Times
James Holzhauer has often used dates special to him, like birthdays and anniversaries, for his “Jeopardy” wagers. During one of his early shows, he celebrated his wedding anniversary. James Holzhauer and Melissa Sassin were married on September 8, 2012.
Holzhauer also paid tribute to his daughter, using her birthday, November 9, 2014, during his record-breaking game.
“As for the shout-outs, 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,” Holzhauer told The Naperville Sun.
Melissa Holzhauer wrote on a website for The Legion Project, an outreach campaign to connect classicists who work outside of academics, “I earned an M.A. in Classics from Brown in 2012. Since leaving graduate school, I have held a number of jobs having to do with teaching and/or helping people: I worked as an ACT tutor, a Kindergarten Teacher in Thailand, a Youth Development Specialist through Seattle Parks and Recreation, and a Volunteer Coordinator at a non-profit that provides no-cost repairs to low income homeowners. I also met and married my husband, traveled the world, tried different things and even had a baby (biggest adventure yet!). I still talk and think about myth a lot. I use classical examples with my students and throw in some etymology as needed. Myth also informs my personal life—I suffered a loss some years ago (just before grad school) and felt like I was Laodamia and Cassandra; now, as a mother, I think about Clytemnestra and her fierce love, Helen who left with her chremata but not her little girl.”
3. Melissa Holzhauer Is Also a Game Show Winner & Competed in a National Quiz Competition
Melissa Holzhauer is no stranger to game shows. She appeared in 2014 on the daily version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and was a winner herself.
A video of her appearance with then-host Cedric the Entertainer was posted on YouTube by James Holzhauer. You can watch the video above. She ended up taking home $28,800.
During banter with Melissa, James and Cedric, the host said he “found out” that Melissa wanted to use some of the money to buy a puppy. James responded by saying, “I told her if she wins a half a million she can pick the dog out.” But Melissa joked that it was a lie, because James doesn’t like dogs.
Before she and James were married, they both competed in the World Quizzing Championships in 2012, according to the competition’s website. James Holzhauer, using the name Jamie Holzhauer, finished in 34th place. Melissa Sassin placed 154th, according to the results.
4. The Holzhauers Have Donated Money to a Las Vegas Museum & Say They Play to Give Away More of James’ ‘Jeopardy’ Winnings
The Holzhauers have lived in Las Vegas since 2015, when James and Melissa moved back to the gambling capital of the United States so he could resume his career as a professional gambler. The couple is already starting to give back to the community. During one “Jeopardy” appearance, James Holzhauer told host Alex Trebek that he plans to donate some of his winnings, because his family doesn’t need all of the money.
The couple gave $10,000 to the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which they often visit with their daughter, according to a press release.
“We enjoy bringing our child to the museum and seeing her face light up when she sees the animal exhibits (oh those chicks last week!),” Melissa Holzhauer said in a statement. “I also appreciate that every time we visit, there is something new to do or see. It is not a very big place but it has a lot of charm.”
James Holzhauer added, “We think the museum is an amazing resource for the Las Vegas community and we can’t wait to see how our donation helps it move forward.”
The money has been ear-marked for the “Open Door Program,” which allows at-risk students a chance to visit the museum at no cost and the Live Animal Department, museum officials said.
“It was an honor to meet the Holzhauers, and to hear how much they enjoy our Museum and how many times they have returned to experience our programs again and again,” Marilyn Gillespie, executive director of the museum, said in a statement. “It’s because of amazing residents like the Holzhauers that we can manage our existing programs and add new and exciting elements year-round.”
James and Melissa Holzhauer have long been involved in charity work. Rebuilding Together Aurora, a nonprofit in James’ native state of Illinois that works to improve homes for low-income residents, posted a “throwback” photo of the couple from when they were volunteering with the charity.
“This #ThrowbackThursday shout out goes to longtime RTA supporters, James and Melissa Holzhauer. You can see James continue to smash #Jeopardy records today on ABC 7 Chicago. We’re rooting for you, James!” the nonprofit wrote.
Melissa Holzhauer was a volunteer coordinator for Rebuilding Together Aurora in 2014. Melissa Holzhauer also spent time as a volunteer kindergarten teacher in Thailand, and was an Americorps Youth Development Leader for Seattle Parks and Recreation in 2012.
Along with donating some of the money to charity, Holzhauer said on “Jeopardy” that he and his wife plan on traveling around the world.
5. There Was One Bet That Her Husband Placed During His Career as a Sports Gambler That Had Melissa Holzhauer Worried, James Says
James Holzhauer’s risky betting career has worried his wife in the past, he said during an interview with Vulture, published on April 16. Holzhauer was asked what the weirdest thing be ever placed a bet on was.
“This isn’t super weird, but my wife was mad at me one time. It was the week of the 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame induction, the year Ken Griffey Jr. was eligible to be inducted. There was a place that would let me bet $75,000 he would be inducted with more than 75 percent of the vote,” Holzhauer answered. “It seemed easy to me, but I made the mistake of telling my wife about it. She got all scared we were going to lose this bet, although I have no idea how that could’ve happened. [Laughs.] I never tell my wife when I make bets like that anymore!”