July 18, 2019

Facing James Holzhauer

“There are many ways to prepare to be on Jeopardy: watch the show, figure out a wagering strategy, practice buzzing in with a pen or a toilet paper holder. What you can’t prepare for is challenging a 10+ day champion on a multimillion-dollar warpath, armed with a career as a sports better and a unique strategy honed by past experiences on other game shows.

That champ is James Holzhauer, an instant Jeopardy legend whose 20+ day win record places him second behind Ken Jennings, who currently holds the record for the longest winning streak. Holzhauer’s aggressive betting strategy and impressive knowledge base have helped him earn more than $1 million in the blink of an eye, leading many to call him a wizard who may turn Ken Jennings into a footnote in history.

It all makes for really great TV. It’s also a nightmare scenario for contestants who’ve waited their whole lives to go on the show, only to run into a buzzsaw.

As a three-time Jeopardy contestant in October 2014, I can confirm: Nobody expects a buzzsaw. You don’t find out who the reigning champ is until you arrive at the Culver City Sony lot the morning of your tape day, about two hours or so before the cameras roll. My reigning champ had won two episodes — more than most people win, but nothing compared to Julia Collins, who now holds the third place record for her 20-game streak. I was able to relax a little.”

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