Emma Boettcher is the University of Chicago librarian who beat James Holzhauer on “Jeopardy” during the June 3 episode, ending his streak at 32 games and $2,464,216 won. Boettcher used a bold strategy that matched Holzhauer stride for stride and beat him by more than $22,000, taking home $46,801.
Holzhauer, a professional sports gambler from Las Vegas who grew up in the Chicago area, fell $58,484 short of Ken Jennings’ record for most money won on the regular season episodes of the game show. He has the second most wins, but was well short of Jennings’ 74-game streak. Holzhauer does hold the record for most money won in a single game by a wide margin.
Boettcher entered Final Jeopardy with $26,000, ahead of Holzhauer’s $23,400. Jay Sexton, a research engineer from Atlanta, had $11,000. Holzhauer bet $1,399, and was correct, and moved to $24,799. Trebek called the wager, “A modest one for the first time.” Boettcher was also correct and wagered a substantial $20,201.
The 27-year-old Boettcher shocked Holzhauer, “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek and the crowd with her victory. “What a game!” Trebek said after her win. “Oh my gosh!”
Here’s what you need to know about Emma Boettcher, the woman who beat James Holzhauer on “Jeopardy”:
1. James Holzhauer Says Emma Boettcher Is a ‘Top-Level Competitor’ Who Played a ‘Perfect Game’
James Holzhauer told The New York Times, “Nobody likes to lose. But I’m very proud of how I did, and I really exceeded my own expectations for the show. So I don’t feel bad about it.”
About Emma Boettcher, Holzhauer told The Times, “I lost to a really top-level competitor. She played a perfect game. And that was what it took to beat me.”
Boettcher told The Times she is a longtime “Jeopardy” fan who has played along at home, tracking her scores in a notebook and using a homemade buzzer for practice.
On Twitter, Boettcher wrote about herself, “UX Resident Librarian at UChicago. Also into books, theater, and trivia. My last name rhymes with ‘stretcher.'”
2. Boettcher Wrote Her Master’s Thesis on the ‘Jeopardy’ Archive
Boettcher grew up in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area. She also has ties to Iowa, where her parents, Kevin Boettcher and Kristine Krenzke Boettcher, are from. Some family members still live in Storm Lake, Iowa. She also has a sister.
Boettcher attended Princeton University from 2010 to 2014, graduating with a degree in English Langauge and Literature/Letters. From 2014 to 2016, she studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning her master’s degree in information science.
While at UNC, she wrote her master’s thesis on the “Jeopardy” archive, known as the “J! Archive,” a fan-created database of past clues on the game show. She titled her thesis, “What is Difficulty?: Estimating the Difficulty of Fact-Finding Questions Using the ‘Jeopardy’ Archive.” The archive is often used by competitors to prepare for being on the show.
She wrote in the synopsis, “In numerous contexts, including community question answering systems, school exams, and trivia competitions, a need to assess the difficulty of questions arises. This study examines what features predict difficulty in the realm of trivia questions, considering features related to readability and the question’s topic as potential contributors. Using clues from the game show Jeopardy!, the study finds that features relating to a trivia question’s length, the inclusion of audiovisual media, and its constituent noun and verb phrases have a significant impact on the clue’s difficulty. Based on these findings, this study proposes that finding more nuanced ways to depict the amount of information in a trivia question would lead to further advancements.”
She was awarded the Elfreda Chatman Research Award and the Dean’s Achievement Award for her thesis work.
3. She Has Worked as the User Experience Resident Librarian at the University of Chicago Since 2016
Emma Boettcher has worked as a user experience resident librarian at the University of Chicago since 2016, according to her Linkedin profile.
Boettcher describes her job as, “coordinate usability testing and research for the University of Chicago Library. Employ methods such as card sorting, focus groups, surveys, interviews, and think-aloud usability testing to evaluate library web interfaces. Conduct interviews with staff to document staff workflows. Run reports using Google Analytics to identify potential research areas and site usage.”
She added, “As product owner for FOLIO (part-time appointment, 2018-present), manage product backlog for loans and item state. Facilitate remote focus group discussions with subject matter experts to determine system requirements. Test development work from three different teams and convey feedback.”
Before working at the University of Chicago, Boettcher was a librarian at the University of North Carolina from 2014 to 2016. She also worked from 2014 to 2015 as a circulation assistant at the Orange County Public Library in Hillsborough, North Carolina, and was an intern at the Duke University library.
4. Boettcher Tried Out for ‘Jeopardy’s’ College Tournament While at Princeton
While she was a student at Princeton University, she tried out for “Jeopardy’s” College Championship, but did not make the cut, according to a 2014 article in The Daily Princetonian. But one of her friends, Theresa O’Shea, did and she cheered her on.
“She’s such a perfect candidate for the show because she’s obviously incredibly smart and also very personable,” Boettcher told The Daily Princetonian. “Sometimes you get kind of arrogant people in Jeopardy that are just obsessed with showing off how smart they are, and Terry’s not like that all.”
5. She Says When She Bet It All on a Daily Double & Won, She Thought ‘I’ve Got a Shot Now’
Emma Boettcher said she came into the game with a strategy of trying to find the Daily Doubles on the board, which Holzhauer had used to his advantage throughout his run.
“I knew going in that Daily Double hunting was something that I could do and feel confident doing,” she told The New York Times. “I don’t need to be cautious around that.”
When she got a Daily Double and was behind James, she bet it all, and was correct. After that, she told the newspaper she thought to herself, “I’ve got a shot now.”
Holzhauer told The Times, “A lot of the opponents have adjusted to the strategy, but not all of them have had the guts to actually back it up with a big bet.”