James Holzhauer is a 34-year-old native of Naperville, IL who now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada as a professional sports bettor. The Jeopardy! champion graduated from Naperville North High School in 2001. After high school, he attended and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelors degree in math in 2005.
James Holzhauer education
Holzhauer took his childhood passions into college. He was a member of the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering team that won the state competition while in college. It’s no surprise that his contribution was winning first place in physics and second place in math.
Holzhauer told the Naperville Sun: “I have a B.S. in mathematics, but my real major was online poker.” His poker skill helped pave the way for Holzhauer’s current line of work as a professional sports bettor.
After college, he spent time running a poker strategy website. He told ESPN that “Now, I focus largely on in-game betting, where the oddsmaker often struggles to put an accurate line with only a few seconds to think about it.” He continued, “I think my work is similar to an investment bank, except that I’m the analyst, trader, fund manager and day trader all into one.”
James Holzahuer’s wife
Holzhauer and Melissa Sassin were married in 2012 and today they live in Las Vegas with their four-year-old daughter. It’s probably not much of a coincidence that his wife is also sort of a trivia buff having appeared on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” in 2014.
The most shocking revelation about Holzhauer is that his wife revealed that he doesn’t like dogs. GASP!
How James Holzhauer got on Jeopardy!
Holzhauer told Jeopardy! that being on the show has been a dream since he was a child watching the show with his grandmother. He followed his dream by taking the Jeopardy! online test for six years before he was finally asked to audition for the show in person.
He tried out for Jeopardy! twice before being accepted to the show. Holzhauer told the New York Times that the best piece of advice he received for his audition was to smile. That tip worked as viewers have seen James Holzhauer smile to a variety of records during his epic Jeopardy! run.
James Holzhauer tracker: daily updates and records
Holzhauer set a new bar for Jeopardy! contestants. He now holds every slot for the Top 10 Single Game earnings list. Holzhauer crushed his opponents by an average of more than $60,000. His average winnings per game were more than $70,000. The $131,127 won on April 17 is the most money ever won in a single game of Jeopardy!
His 32 consecutive wins ranked second behind Ken Jennings’ record of 74. He also amassed $2,462,216 in winnings, also behind only Jennings.
Did Jeopardy James win today?
No. James Holzhauer’s streak ended on Monday, June 3. His last Jeopardy win came on Friday, May 31. Holzhauer’s 32-day total finished at $2,462,216 — only $58,484 behind Ken Jennings’ all-time record.
The Chase for Ken Jennings
Ken Jennings is a legend in Jeopardy! His 74 consecutive wins for $2,520,700 in 2004 captivated the country. Both accomplishments are more than any other Jeopardy! player before him. Many thought these achievements were untouchable…until Holzhauer.
Holzhauer became only the second contestant to earn more than $1 million from traditional Jeopardy! shows. The two players are both great and Holzhauer has a great comparison. Holzhauer says Jennings was a great singles hitter like Ichiro Suzuki while he’s a home run hitter like Bryce Harper. Holzhauer was on pace to catch Jennings money total in just half the wins but fell just short.
Holzhauer had a different strategy but it wasn’t totally unique. Players before have hunted for Daily Doubles but his strategy took “fishing” to another level.
He started with the high-value questions at the bottom of the board. The correct answers gave him more money to risk when he found a Daily Double. That allowed him to win larger Daily Doubles than someone that starts with the lower denomination questions. This aggressive gameplay was crucial to his success.
While some see the strategy of going for big bets often as risky, Holzhauer feels differently. His logic is that most players are too conservative and don’t risk their money often enough when they have an edge. That’s one of the ways betting on sports has helped Holzhauer’s Jeopardy! experience.
Prior to appearing on Jeopardy!, Holzhauer had some interesting reading. It’s not a surprise that he read the book “Secrets of the Buzzer.” Tips from the book have helped him act quicker on the buzzer than other players.
The more surprising reading material might be the children’s books he read on topics he needed help with. He told the Naperville Sun “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.”
Jeopardy James controversy
Holzhauer is a different Jeopardy! player. He doesn’t follow traditional gameplay. While this is helping him win games and money, not everyone is a fan of his strategy. Longtime fans of the game show are used to the top-down manner most people play. The bottom-up style is throwing some fans for a loop.
His new approach to the game may have changed how Jeopardy! is played. It’s also changing how people watch the show. While many viewers enjoy his style there are those that think that having a big lead so often makes the game less competitive and boring.
Game show history
Holzhauer is not new to game shows. In 2014 he appeared on the American version of the British gameshow called The Chase on the Game Show Network. His team won $175,000 in the quick response trivia game. More importantly, it appears as though this show was just training for his phenomenal run at Jeopardy!
He also appeared on the third episode of ABC’s “500 Questions” in 2015. He was defeated in that episode and didn’t take home any winnings.