Another Professional Gambler Is Dominating A TV Game Show, And You Shouldn’t Be Surprised

Chops April 15, 2019

In its 35-year history, nobody had won over $100,000 on one episode of Jeopardy!

In fact, nobody had won more than $77,000 in a single show.

That all changed on the April 9 episode. Las Vegas sports better James Holzhauer, 34, annihilated the single show prize record on Jeopardy by winning an eye-popping $110,914.

That previous single-day mark of $77,000, set by Roger Craig, had stood for almost nine years. The Jeopardy! total record was set by Ken Jennings in 2004. During his 74-game win streak, Jennings banked won more than $2.5M.

Holzhauer’s Jeopardy! winning streak

Holzhauer has been an unstoppable force even after setting the single-game record on April 9. On the April 17 show, he shattered his own single-game record with a score of $131,127, going a perfect 40 for 40 in his buzz-in answers.

As of April 18, he had a 11-game winning streak totaling $771,920. His next appearance will be on Friday, April 19, Holzhauer is already No. 2 on the all-time Jeopardy! winnings list behind Jennings.

Show DateWinning TotalTotal To Date
April 4$43,680$43,680
April 5$38,926$82,606
April 8$50,845$133,451
April 9$110,914$244,365
April 10$54,322$298,687
April 11$27,190 $325,877
April 12$89,158$415,035
April 15$45,444$460,479
April 16$106,181$566,660
April 17$131,127$697,787
April 18$74,133$771,920

Not Holzhauer’s first rodeo

In 2014, Holzhauer dominated GSN’s The Chase, earning his family $175,000.

Many of the same principles to Jeopardy! apply with The Chase. Contestants must quickly answer questions covering a wide-variety of topics. The difference, and what may set Holzhauer apart from his peers on Jeopardy!, is his ability to calculate risk and apply game theory to the competition.

Gamblers have history of doing well on game shows

Holzhauer isn’t the first person with a gambling background to do well on Jeopardy! In 2015, ex-poker-pro Alex Jacob won $151,802 on the game show. This earned him a spot in their Tournament of Champions, where he then went on to win $250,000.

To name just a few more:

  • In 2007, poker instructor/player Alex Outhred won $500,000 on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
  • Remember when Donald Trump was a game show host? Annie Duke sure does! In 2009, she rode her wits and game theory to a second place finish on Celebrity Apprentice (seriously, watch this video, it’s a mind-fuck).
  • Former poker pro and Duke graduate Vanessa Rousso game theory’d Big Brother 17 to a third-place finish after dominating most of the way.
  • Mark Herberholz, a former Pinnacle Sports line modeling and trading expert, as well as top-ranked Magic: The Gathering player, showed Bob Barker what’s up on Price is Right.

Herberholz, who went on to advise daily fantasy platform iTEAM Network and sports betting advice site, thinks it’s only natural gamblers do well on game shows.

“You get on Jeopardy by being great at trivia and having a wide range of knowledge,” Herberholz said. “But to win Jeopardy, you need so much more and that’s why you see guys with gambling and gaming backgrounds do well. It’s easy when you know the answer to a question, but what about when you have a good guess and are $100 behind the leader who seems strong in this category? Should you buzz in?”

Herberholz believes the practical application of what gamblers are already doing every single day makes a difference.

“Say you do and get a daily double, how much do you wager? Now take all of that and figure it out in seconds knowing that you are risking real money. That’s what poker players, sports bettors, and gamers do all day. They gather uncertain information and use it to minimize risk and maximize their chance to win.”

Whether or not Holzhauer goes on to break Ken Jennings’ $2.5M record remains to be seen. What’s not in question is whether future gamblers will have success on game shows. They already have a leg up on the competition.

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