After James Holzhauer’s winning streak on “Jeopardy!” came to an end yesterday (well, technically in March, when the episode was recorded), several idiots on Twitter claimed — without evidence, of course — that he had thrown the game because he was tired of winning. These are many of the same nitwits who last week were sure that Holzhauer was somehow cheating, a near impossibility with the security measures the producers have in place to guarantee the integrity of the game.
The fact is, Holzhauer was outplayed by Emma Boettcher, a librarian from the University of Chicago, who was faster on the buzzer, knew a lot of answers and, like James, was willing to risk everything on a Daily Double in Double Jeopardy. Once she got that one right, she pulled ahead of him and never looked back.
One of the arguments the conspiracy theorists make to support their “James lost on purpose” theory is that he bet so little in Final Jeopardy. But that was the 100% correct strategy, and here’s why. Emma had more money than James. If they both bet it all and got it right, she’d win. If they both bet it all and got it wrong, the third player (who’s name I’ve forgotten) would have won. So, James had to bet enough to cover the third player’s possible double-up, get the answer right, and hope that Emma got it wrong. That didn’t happen (all three answered correctly), and because Emma had made a big enough wager to cover a possible James double-up, she won and knocked him out of the champion’s throne.
I thought he handled it with class, too, applauding for her at the end of Double Jeopardy, then going over to give her a high-five when she won the whole thing. Kudos, too, to everyone on the show and behind the scenes who kept the suspense going without leaking the details of last night’s episode for more than two months.
While Holzhauer didn’t break Ken Jennings’ single-season record of over $2.5 million, he’ll certainly have the opportunity to earn more when he’s invited back for a Tournament Of Champions. I’m sure the “Jeopardy!” producers are already working on other showdowns between Holzhauer, Jennings, Brad Rutter, and others who each “broke the game” by introducing new, aggressive playing styles.
The real question is how much of his winnings Holzhauer holds on to. I’ve known plenty of poker players and other gamblers who made big scores one year and were broke the next. Something tells me he won’t be like them, but only time will tell.