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Man or cyborg? 'Jeopardy!' champ passes $ 1 million mark



There's no truth to the rumor that James Holzhauer is a cyborg created to be the perfect "Jeopardy!" contestant

But given how he made a level of excellence rarely seen on the television quiz show appearing almost mundane, it sometimes seems that way. Holzhauer eclipsed the $ 1 million mark in winnings Tuesday on his 14th appearance. Not only has he won $ 131,127 to the program's previous one-day record of $ 77,000, already has the top five one-day scores in the history of a game that has aired regularly since 1984.

The professional gambler from Las Vegas is quick on his feet and quick with the buzzer, displays and extraordinary breadth of knowledge and ̵

1; true to his profession – is cold-blooded in his willingness to risk big sums of money.

The show's most hallowed records, set in 2004 when Ken Jennings won 74 games in a row and earned more than $ 2.5 million, seem like a plausible goal.

"James is just a perfect" Jeopardy! " machine, "Jennings told The Associated Press this week.

Like most of the game's best players, he did his share of studying in advance, finding that books geared to young people were a good way to learn about unfamiliar topics. He built a replica of the show's buzzer and practiced while playing along on TV, standing in his living room like he has to do now in front of a podium. Holzhauer says he rarely guesses – he doesn't like those odds – but never seems to have forgotten.

"My goal was just to be less nervous than the other players," he said. "Whenever I felt overwhelmed, I snapped my fingers three times and pictured a fun snow festival with my daughter." He did have one audacious goal: to honor his daughter by winning $ 110,914 in a single episode, since her birthday was Nov. . 9, 2014. He accomplished that on his fourth show.

His strategy is to start games with the highest-value clues, hoping to quickly build winnings and land on the one "Daily Double" in the first round. When he does, he usually bets everything, punctuates it with a motion that makes it seem like he's pushing into all his chips. If he's wrong, there's enough time to earn more money. But he's rarely wrong

The two "Daily Doubles" in the game's second round are also coveted. Holzhauer said show host Alex Trebek once told him that he doesn't gamble because he could win $ 1,000 and not care, but losing $ 20 annoys him. .

"I'm not surprised that the contestants don't gamble the way I do," he said. "Loss aversion is a very real factor."

The Final Jeopardy round gives him one more chance to place a big bet. On the show that aired April 17, Holzhauer bet $ 60,000 on the category of 20th Century literary figures. The clue was: His first name refers to the ancient district in which you'd find the Greek capital; his surname is a bird.

He correctly answered: Who is Atticus Finch?

"Most" Jeopardy! " Players never think about maximizing winnings, "Jennings said. "I never did. I just wanted to survive the game and get to play again. But he's a sports bettor. Maximizing winnings is everything to him. I wouldn't have to pay $ 60,000 on a Final Jeopardy clue. What if you get that wrong, and you have to come back in five minutes and play another game that you just got a year on a single trivia question? Psychologically, I doubt that I could have rattled off a long streak doing that. He is a cool customer. "

Yen can envision future players trying to imitate Holzhauer's strategy of building up big winnings. But in a lesser player, that could be disastrous.

"I don't really know any more than I already have," Holzhauer said. "I can keep track of the accelerator, though."

For a show with a long history, his single-day achievements begin for some perspective. Consider it this way: It's like a young Major League baseball player hitting 95 home runs in a season (the record is 73 by Barry Bonds), then following it up with a couple of seasons in the 80s.

Holzhauer often watches with friends as his streak shows on weekday evenings (shows are taped well in advance). "People seem to think it is really cool to watch someone on your side next to them," he said.

He hopes his celebrity stays low-key. He gets recognized in public now but said most people are respectful, save one of "who got a little too handy with my bicep" at a hockey game.

With his style of play, Holzhauer is Jennings' earning record and more achievable goal than the 74-game winning streak. Given the show's schedule, which includes tournaments and reruns, fans would not know until September if the standard of consecutive shows. Since the show's ratings are already spiking, producers won't mind if he sticks around.

"I've been waiting 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."


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