James Holzhauer extends ‘Jeopardy!’ winning streak to 16 days. Here’s how he did it

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“Jeopardy!” contestant James Holzhauer broke the show’s single-game winning record. Then, he broke his own record a week later.
USA TODAY

“Jeopardy!” legend-in-the-making James Holzhauer is revealing the secret sauce that’s made his exciting winning streak possible. 

Holzhauer, 34, a professional sports gambler from Las Vegas, kept his streak alive on Thursday’s episode, bringing home $90,812 in a runaway victory.

He has won a total of $1,225,987 over 16 days, second only to computer programmer-turned-author Ken Jennings, who made off with $2,520,700 over 74 games in 2004. 

In a Q&A with The New York Times that published online Wednesday, the professional sports gambler shared how his experience helps him keep a firm grip on the game show. 

“There are big advantages to having a lot of chips early on in a poker tournament,” he told the Times. “You can make plays that other people can’t.”

Holzhauer, who goes “$1,000-1,000-1,000 whenever I can,” said he conceived of the strategy of aiming for the high-value clues “right away.”

“You can see as soon as I get control of the board in the first game I’m going for the $1,000 clues whenever I have the opportunity,” he said.

Holzhauer believes his “comfort zone is very different than the typical contestant,” which he hails as “a huge advantage.”

He tells the outlet: “The fact that I win and lose money all the time helps desensitize me, so I can write down $60,000 as the Final Jeopardy wager and not be trembling at the thought of losing that money.”

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Describing the typical way the game show is played as “too risk-averse,” he explained the advantage of his strategy. 

“The funny thing is, my strategy actually minimizes the risk of me losing a game,” he said. “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.”

Holzhauer’s strategy is backed by knowledge he said he picked up from children’s literature.  

“I’ve found that in an adult reference book, if it’s not a subject I’m interested in, I just can’t get into it,” he told the Times. “I was thinking, what is the place in the library I can go to to get books tailored to make things interesting for uninterested readers? Boom. The children’s section.”

He crossed the $1 million mark during Tuesday’s episode, becoming only the second person in the game show’s 35-year history to reach the feat in regular-season (non-tournament) play.

Contributing: Patrick Ryan

More: Ken Jennings ‘gobsmacked’ by ‘Jeopardy!’ champ James Holzhauer: ‘It’s absolutely insane’

More: ‘Jeopardy’ winner James Holzhauer is likely shaking up the game show’s budget

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