James Holzhauer is a professional gambler from Las Vegas who is the current “Jeopardy” champion and set the single-game record with an astonishing $110,914 on April 9. Holzhauer shattered the previous one-game record of $77,000, set by Roger Craig in 2010. He has since continued his dominant run on the game show, winning a total of $1,691,008, second only to Ken Jennings in “regular season” winnings.
Holzhauer has won 22 consecutive games, which is also second only to Jennings. He recently passed Julia Collins, who won 20 games. Jennings won 74 games in a row and took home $2,522,700 during his run.
Holzhauer won’t be on “Jeopardy” for two weeks as the game show holds its annual “Teachers Tournament.” Holzhauer and the regular show return on May 20. Taping for the current season has already concluded, and the show is set for its summer break on July 29. If he continued his run through the end of the Season 35 taping, Holzhauer would be a 62-game champion.
Holzhauer was in his fourth game on “Jeopardy” and had won more than $130,000 during his first three appearances as a contestant when he broke Craig’s record. Holzhauer has now won eight games. Before he even played in his first game, many fans of the show had speculated that the 34-year-old Holzhauer was the “next great champion” who has been teased in promos by “Jeopardy” leading up to April.
Holzhauer, originally from Illinois, made his debut on “Jeopardy!” on Thursday, April 4. After his record-breaking win on April 9, Trebek closed the show by saying, “Is it too soon to make Ken Jennings comparisons?”
Here’s what you need to know about James Holzhauer, the gambler and “Jeopardy” champion:
1. Holzhauer Said He Had a Goal of Breaking Craig’s Record & ‘I Did It’
James Holzhauer said in a statement, “I said all along that I wanted to break Roger Craig’s one-game record and I did it.” The Illinois native raced out to an early lead during the April 9 show and then shocked the audience by “going all in” on the first Daily Double in the Double Jeopardy round. He got the correct answer and doubled his score to $29,200. Later in the same round, he bet $25,000 on the second Daily Double and again was correct. Holzhauer entered Final Jeopardy with a total of $72,600. He wagered $38,314, and finished with the record-breaking total of $110,914. Holzhauer won the game by more than $98,000.
Holzhauer told the Naperville Sun, “My big secret for studying subjects I find uninteresting is to check out the children’s section of the library. The books there are filled with pictures and fun facts, and they’re a great way to learn the nuts and bolts of any subject. I have a reputation for only pursuing things I enjoy, but working very hard to be the best at those. Thus I could go to the national finals in MATHCOUNTS in junior high while earning a C in my math class for refusing to do homework.”
Holzhauer used big bets on Daily Doubles to build dominant leads heading into Final Jeopardy during all three of his games. On the April 8 show, Holzhauer fell behind early, but then went “all in” on a Daily Double during the Double Jeopardy round while tied at $10,000 and never looked back.
Holzhauer won $43,680 on April 4, $38,926 on April 5 and $50,845 on April 8 for a shocking three-day total of $133,451. Holzhauer has nailed the Final Jeopardy question during each of his three appearances on the show. The record for most money won through three games is held by Roger Craig, at $138,401, according to The Jeopardy Fan.
“James has the knowledge, buzzer skills, is willing to gamble and understands the strategy of the game. He is without question the ‘next great champion’ the show has been teasing in its promos,” wrote u/jaysjep2, the moderator of Reddit’s popular “Jeopardy!” community, in his recap of Holzhauer’s first appearance.
On Friday, ahead of Holzhauer’s second game, Trebek told the audience, “I wish on yesterday’s program, James, you had not turned that into a runaway. Because if it had been a close game, you’d have been forced to wager a lot more money, and you could have set the new one-day record.”
In an interview on April 8, Holzhauer told USBets.com, “I’ve dreamed of being on the show since childhood, so it feels great to finally be on that stage. I feel that I prepared for ‘Jeopardy!’ as well as I could have, but I also know that one bad bounce is all it takes to lose a great bet. I felt very good about my chances, but so much of the game comes down to buzzer timing, luck, and the ‘home-field advantage’ of being the defending champ. I would have made myself -200 to win game 1, but a heavier favorite with each successive win.”
Holzhauer told USBets his background as a gambler helps him on the show. “I think that proper strategy calls for aggressive wagering on Daily Doubles. I had no hesitation betting big when I needed to — and felt no extra pressure knowing how much was at stake — because I gamble all the time,” he said.
2. He Has a History of Appearing on Game Shows, Including a Dominant Performance on ‘The Chase’ in 2014
“Jeopardy!” isn’t the first game show that James Holzhauer has dominated. In 2014, Holzhauer appeared on “The Chase,” the American version of a British game show that aired for four seasons on the Game Show Network.
According to the Game Show Network, “In US version of THE CHASE, a team of three contestants attempts to amass as much money as possible by answering quick-fire questions in their individual 60-second rounds. Contestants will then face off against the Beast in their individual Chaser rounds. If successful, the money earned will go towards a team bank. If they’re caught, they’re out of the game. Contestants who make it through, will face off as a team against the Beast in a final chase.”
You can watch his appearance on “The Chase” above. On Twitter, Mark Labbett, aka “the Beast,” said when asked who the toughest competitor he is has ever faced is, “toss up between him and James Holzhauer, both world class and that is not hyperbole.”
He told the Naperville Sun that his appearance on “The Chase” set him up for “Jeopardy” success. “I think being on ‘The Chase’ made me better prepared for the pressure of the cameras and lights, and it boosted my confidence going in to ‘Jeopardy!’ since I knew I was capable of winning on a big stage,” he told the newspaper.
Holzhauer also appeared on the short-lived game show “500 Questions” in 2015, and could not unseat trivia master Steve Bahnaman.
3. Holzhauer, Who Grew Up in Naperville, Illinois, & Graduated From Naperville High School in 2001, Has Given Shoutouts to Family Members With His Final Jeopardy Wagers
James “Jamie” Holzhauer is originally from Naperville, Illinois. According to local newspaper archives, Holzhauer graduated from Naperville North High School in 2001. He is the son of Juergen Holzhauer and Nachiko Ide Holzhauer and he has an older brother, Ian Holzhauer.
“It’s neat for Naperville to have a native son doing so well,” Ian Holzhauer, an Air Force veteran and attorney, told the Naperville Sun.
Holzhauer’s competitive skills started when he was young. In April 2001, he helped lead Naperville North High School to a first-place finish in the Illinois State Finals Academic Challenge. Holzhauer was also part of the first-place Junior Engineering Technological Society competition team for Naperville North in January 2001, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Holzhauer wrote an essay in the 2012 “Hardball Times,” about betting on baseball. The essay was titled, “Diary of a Mad Sports Bettor.” He wrote, “Placing winning sports bets often hinges on an information advantage. The problem is that most publicly available information is already factored into the betting odds. Holzhauer talked about finding information that most of the public doesn’t know to gain an advantage.
Holzhauer has been giving shout outs to his family members during Final Jeopardy, using a number that has meaning to him and writing a tribute below his answer. On his second show, Holzhauer’s Final Jeopardy wager was a tribute to his wife.
“My wife can never again claim I forgot our anniversary (9/8/12). By the way, honey, that counts as your gift for this year,” he wrote on Facebook. Holzhauer paid tribute to his nephew, Jack, with his first Final Jeopardy wager, $3,268, in honor of his March 26, 2008, birthday. And on Monday, April 8, he wished his father a happy birthday and wagered $7,030. His father was born July 30, 1941.
His record-breaking total paid tribute to his daughter, whom he called “Booger” in his shoutout. The total, 110,914, is a reference to her birthday, November 9, 2014.
“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 Sun.
4. Holzhauer Has Been Married to His Wife, Who Herself Was a Game Show Winner on ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,’ Since 2012 & They Have a 4-Year-Old Daughter
James Holzhauer lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his 37-year-old wife, Melissa Sassin Holzhauer, and their 4-year-old daughter. He and his wife were married September 8, 2012, and his daughter was born in November 2014.
Holzhauer isn’t the only impressive member of his family. His wife has also appeared on a game show. Melissa Holzhauer was on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” in 2012, and won $28,800. You can watch her appearance above.
Holzhauer’s wife, Melissa Holzhauer, also has an impressive academic background. She now works as a tutor at a test prep company. Holzhauer graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in classics and classical languages, literatures and linguistics and then completed her master’s degree in classics and classical languages at Brown University.
5. Holzhauer Is Also a Competitive Bridge Player Along With Being a Professional Sports Gambler
Along with being a game show master and a trivia champ, James Holzhauer is a competitive bridge player. Last July, he competed in the ACBL NABC Online Individual competition. During a bridge tournament in 2017, he was pictured wearing a jersey of his new hometown’s hockey team.
“Speaking of sports, James Holzhauer’s jersey was one you don’t see often: the Las Vegas Golden Knights, his hometown hockey team,” BridgeFeed wrote.
Holzhauer moved to Las Vegas in 2016 to become a professional sports gambler. During his first appearance on “Jeopardy!” he told host Alex Trebek that he will “bet on anything.”
Holzhauer told USBets.com he never considered keeping his profession quiet, “Not at all, I’m very proud of my work. Every sportsbook in town already knows my name, so I doubt I’m burning any bridges.” He said he has been placing sports bets in Vegas since 2006.
Holzhauer told the betting website he welcomes the shift of gambling into the mainstream as more states legalize betting, “I think it’s overdue but a welcome shift. I can’t see why there should be any stigma attached to sports betting in this day and age.”