SALT LAKE CITY — He’s being called a cyborg and a “perfect 'Jeopardy!' Machine,” according to Ken Jennings.
After crossing the $1 million mark during his 14th appearance on the trivia game show Tuesday night, James Holzhauer is also causing viewers to wonder: is this the contestant to unseat Jennings as the reigning "Jeopardy!" champion?
Holzhauer has already broken multiple records on the show. He busted the show’s one-day earnings record with $131,127 (the previous record was $77,000). He also has the top five one-day scores in the history of "Jeopardy!", according to The Associated Press.
Holzhauer’s strategy is to begin with the highest-valued clues to maximize the chance of winning a Daily Double and to make high-risk bets on those clues. Holzhauer, a professional gambler from Las Vegas, is using that gambling to his advantage.
So what would it take for Holzhauer to take the crown from Jennings?
Jennings won $2.5 million in 2004 after dominating in a 74-game streak on the show. According to Wired, no one since has lasted over 20 games or come as near to Jennings’ earning streak so quickly.
At day 14 of his own winning streak, Jennings had won $471,759. It’s less than half of Holzhauer’s current earnings of $1,061,554, according to TheJeopardyFan.com, which is currently tracking the statistics between the two champions.
Holzhauer has thus far answered 497 clues correctly. Jennings was at 490 on his 14th appearance. Holzhauer has only gotten 18 clues wrong. Compare that to Jennings, who at this point in his own streak had missed 33.
Holzhauer has played nine more Daily Doubles than Jennings and of the 35 he’s played, he’s only missed three. His average Daily Double risk is $9,879. Jennings’ was only $2,700. Holzhauer’s average Final Jeopardy wager is also $20,000 more than Jennings’.
While the two are pretty equally matched when it comes to trivia knowledge, Holzhauer’s strategy gives him an edge. Based on how quickly he’s earning and how large his earnings are, Holzhauer could surpass Jennings’ record by the end of May, according to Wired.
How does Jennings feel about Holzhauer? According to Wired, he’s in awe.
“I’m just gobsmacked by James. It's absolutely insane what he's doing. Like, I thought I had seen everything on 'Jeopardy!' And this is something I would have thought was just impossible, these numbers,” Jennings said.
Jennings said the way Holzhauer is playing is so much different than the way he played.1 comment on this story
“The fact that there was going to be a check, that didn’t seem real to me. I was playing a game show like I had on my couch. My top priority wasn’t maximizing winnings; it was to feel comfortable and have fun yelling answers at Alex (Trebek), like I do at home.
“Psychologically, my peace of mind was built on just playing my game — a lot lower stakes, fun game, let’s pretend we’re all here to have fun,” Jennings added. “James is under no such illusion.”
How does Jennings feel about his record being broken?
"I've been waiting 15 years for someone to make a run at me, and it's finally happening," Jennings said. "The closer he gets to the cash and game records, the closer I will be watching. I'm rooting for the guy."