James Holzhauer went on a 32-game winning streak on ‘Jeopardy!’ in 2019 and now he’s gearing up to go against two more of the show’s best contestants in a game set to determine whose the greatest of all time. Here are five things about him.
James Holzhauer, 36, became the third-highest-earning American game show contestant of all time after he went on a 32-game winning streak on Jeopardy! from April to June 2019 and won again in the Tournament of Champions in November 2019. In addition to earning a whopping total of $2,714,416 in the Jeopardy! games, he won an additional $250, 000 for the Tournament of Champions and it’s led him to compete for the ultimate win in the Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time contest, which starts on Jan. 7. The impressive young man will be competing against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the other two top contestants from Jeopardy!, in the highly anticipated competition.
Ken leads the pack in the number one spot of all time after he won 74 consecutive Jeopardy! games in 2004 earning him $2,520,700 . James’ winnings put him in the number two spot, and Brad caps it off in the number three spot due to winning five consecutive games back in 2000, when they were limited to five game wins at a time. He still, however, has the most earnings at $4.7 million due to tournaments.
James’ success on Jeopardy!, which is hosted by Alex Trebek, last year helped him become the contestant who broke the record for most money won during a single episode of the long running game show on Apr. 17 so his participation in the upcoming GOAT contest is sure to be impressive. As we all get ready to excitingly watch in anticipation of which intelligent contestant will win the ultimate prize, here are five things you should know about James.
1. He’s a professional gambler from Las Vegas. James grew up in Naperville, Illinois, according to Heavy.com, where he developed a competitive spirit and a love for games. He reportedly helped lead the Naperville North High School to a first-place finish in the Illinois State Finals Academic Challenge. James has turned his talents and skills into a lucrative career as a competitive bridge player. In 2016, he moved to Las Vegas to become a professional sports gambler.
2. This isn’t the first time he was on a game show. His record-shattering run on Jeopardy! is not the first time the game show world has gotten a look at James. He appeared on The Chase in 2014, an adaptation of a British game show. “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 Naperville Sun.
3. His wife was also on a game show. James’s spouse, Melissa Holzhauer, won $28k during an appearance on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in 2014, according to Heavy.com. The money must have bought a lot of diapers, as he and Melissa have a five-year-old daughter.
4. He has a distinctive playing style. “My theory is that you need to be betting very aggressively on Daily Doubles and in Final Jeopardy,” James told Vulture. “I guess I’d call it strategically aggressive. I didn’t model my strategy after anyone in particular. My basic thoughts going in were, ‘Okay, I want to have some money before Daily Doubles, and if this helps take my opponents off [their] game, that’s just a bonus.’ Some players in the past have said they bounced from category from category on purpose to throw everyone. I wasn’t trying to do that at all, it wasn’t my goal. I was just trying to get as much money I could before the big bets came in to leverage that.”
However, as Wired notes, his style of “darting around the board” is a variation of what Jeopardy! fans know as the “Forrest Bounce,” named for Chuck Forrest, who pioneered the technique to throw his opponents off their game.
5. He sends messages to his family with his bets. James bet $38,314 on the April 16th episode (which was odd since he had $72, 600 going into Final Jeopardy) but there was a hidden message in that. Adding up his winnings from the first two rounds, it came out to $110, 914 – which is his daughter’s birthday (11/09/14) “What Is Berlin <3 Happy Anniversary M!” James wrote in Final Jeopardy on the April 12 episode, a message to his wife. He also bet $3,268, which was a shout-out to his nephew, Jack, who was born on March 26, 2008.
“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,” he said.
Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time premieres on ABC on Jan. 7 at 8/7c.