In the end, the Jeopardy!’s long-reigning king stayed the king. As you very likely had spoiled for you—unless you were able to catch the 9:30 a.m. CT screening in Montgomery, Alabama—James Holzhauer’s freight-train winning-streak came to an end yesterday at 32 wins and $2,462,216. That meant Holzhauer fell just shy of breaking Ken Jennings’ winnings total of $2,520,700, and never came even close to his truly titanic total of 74 wins. But, while Jennings retained his records, he expressed nothing but admiration for the efforts of the first person to legitimately challenge his place as Jeopardy!’s greatest player, posting a fitting tribute to Holzhauer on Twitter.
The comparison to Thanos is not inapt, at least in syndicated game show terms. While Holzhauer was ultimately unable to capture either of Jennings records, the fact that he won nearly as much money in fewer than half as many games tells you just how dominant he was. Holzhauer now holds the top 16 highest individual game win totals, and his strategy may well change the way the game is played moving forward.
Holzhauer was not the first player to try to focus on high-value clues to build a surplus of cash before seeking out the Daily Doubles on the board and betting big, but he was the first player of his rare caliber to do so, and it paid off for him massively. There’s no doubt future players will try to replicate his strategy, and, in fact, current champ Emma Boettcher used a similar strategy to knock Holzhauer off, though it’s unlikely many will find the same sort of success. (Jeopardy! producers, on the other hand, have stated in the past that they would prefer players go in a more viewer-friendly top-to-bottom order.)
In defeat, Holzhauer was highly complimentary of both the man he was chasing and the woman who caused him to fall short. He also changed his Twitter avatar to a highly appropriate photo of Weird Al.
As for who would win in some kind of Jeopardy! head-to-head showdown, Jennings addressed that topic this morning in his weekly “Tuesday Trivia” newsletter.
... the amazing run of Mr. James Holzhauer on Jeopardy! in recent weeks has given me plenty of chances to consider the fact that I no longer have every trivia answer on the tip of my tongue the way I used to. The answer to “How would you do against James?”, which I am getting asked a lot, depends on which version of my brain gets to play.
BRIGHT-EYED 2004 KEN: I like my odds.
BROKEN-DOWN 2019 KEN: I might need some breaks.
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