In a development that at many points over the last couple of months seemed impossible, Jeopardy phenom James Holzhauer was finally bested on what had become his home turf. And for those that were rooting for Holzhauer to beat the total winnings record set by fellow Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings, some bad news: He defied many expectations and fell short of the record, ending his 33rd episode of the show $58,484 shy and in second place.
The news of Holzhauer's loss spread rapidly on social media following an airing of the episode in question in Montgomery, Alabama, which evidently airs its new Jeopardy episodes earlier in the day than most other affiliates that carry the show. After that dam burst, Holzhauer spoke with sports betting site The Action Network (a logical choice given his career as a sports gambler) to talk about the loss.
The most surprising thing about Holzhauer's losing game, besides the fact that it ever happened at all, might be that it was filmed way back in March. That means that his whole historic winning streak was technically over and done with before his first appearance even aired on April 4th.
Holzhauer's defeat came at the hands of one Emma Boettcher, who had the lead going in to Final Jeopardy by $3,200. Instead of betting all or most of his $23,400, Holzhauer reportedly took the unusual (for him) step of a conservative wager, just $1,399. Why? Holzhauer says that he knew that if Boettcher got her question right he was sunk either way, provided she didn't make any mistake in her wagering. So James' gamble was to ensure he was able to walk away from the show with at least a second-place finish:
"I knew I could only win if Emma missed Final Jeopardy, as there was no way she wouldn't bet to cover my all-in bet…So my only concern was getting overtaken by third place, and I bet just enough to make sure of locking him out. Betting big would have looked good for the cameras, but now I turn my straight bet (Emma misses) into a parlay (Emma misses and I get it right)."
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It's all over but the crying now, and it probably stings a little that Holzhauer wasn't able to beat Jennings' total winnings record. But a nice big check in his name containing his total prize winnings ($2,462,216, minus federal taxes and a 13.3 percent slice for the state of California, where the episodes are filmed) probably takes some of that sting out, especially since his newfound celebrity allowed him to sidestep the usual four month waiting period that Jeopardy contestants usually have to follow before collecting their winnings – the producers of the show decided to give him his check early for publicity purposes, Holzhauer says.
And even if Holzhauer isn't the all-time Jeopardy champ, he still has a few top show records to his name. His single-game earnings of $131,127 is the most anyone has ever won during a single episode, and the second, third, and fourth-place slots for single show earnings belong to him as well.