‘Jeopardy!’ Record Winner James Holzhauer Explains His Winning Strategy
James Holzhauer has dominated Jeopardy amassing over $1.3 million in earnings in 17 consecutive victories, about half the amount of Ken Jennings, who earned $2.5 million in consecutive 74 games.
Holzhauer’s strategy is to seek out the high-value questions first, and when he finds a daily double, which allows the contestant to bet as much of their earnings as they like, he bets big.
Holzhauer is no stranger to betting large sums of money due to his career as a sports bettor in Las Vegas. In a recent interview with the New York Times, he talked about his winning strategy and his method for learning trivia.
When asked about the attention his strategy has garnered, Holzhauer responded candidly, drawing a comparison to poker.
“You could make an analogy to sports betting or poker tournaments,” said Holzhauer. “There are big advantages to having a lot of chips early on in a poker tournament. You can make plays that other people can’t.”
When asked why other contestants don’t bet as aggressively as he does, he responds by saying you have to be comfortable.
“You have to be comfortable. Some of the opponents I’ve been playing, you can see they are visibly shaken by what’s going on onstage. Of course, you’re not going to play well if you’re up there trembling. And if you make yourself tremble by playing more aggressively than you are comfortable with, that’s so much the worse.”
Holzhauer also talked about the traditional way of playing Jeopardy and described it as too risk-averse.
“I would definitely say it’s too risk-averse. The funny thing is, my strategy actually minimizes the risk of me losing a game. There’s times in a football game where a team goes for a big TD pass. If you don’t take a risk like that, you’re not going to win. Really, the big risk is never trying anything that looks like a big gamble.”
Another interesting detail Holzhauer divulged was his method for learning trivia.
Despite appearances, Holzhauer isn’t an Ivy League intellectual, and he wasn’t a diligent student. He gains his knowledge by reading children’s books from the library because they’re much easier to get into compared to reference books found in the adult section.
If Holzhauer continues playing as he does, he’ll easily overtake Jennings’s record and he might even overtake Brad Rutter, who is the highest Jeopardy winner, earning over $4.35 million in winnings.