Sports bettor loses Jeopardy! game just shy of Ken Jennings’ record

James Holzhauer’s remarkable Jeopardy! run came to an end with an episode of the show broadcast on Monday.

Holzhauer, a professional sports bettor residing in Las Vegas, won $2,464,216 in 33 Jeopardy! games, $56,484 behind Ken Jennings for the all-time record.

Jennings needed 74 games to amass a little more than $2.5 million.

Holzhauer, who now claims 23 of the show’s 27 highest single-game winnings, took a much more aggressive, all-in approach. He attacked the $1,000 clues first, then hunted for Daily Doubles and many times risked all of his quickly-acquired in-game bankroll on them.

He read an e-book prior to coming on the show that suggested watching a set of lights that illuminated when the buzzers were activated, rather than trying to anticipate when host Alex Trebek finished reading clues.

He correctly answered 1,150 of 1,186 questions, or 97.0 percent.

But on Monday’s episode, a University of Chicago librarian named Emma Boettcher proved equally adept on the buzzer. Holzhauer correctly answered all 25 of his questions, but Boettcher correctly answered 22 — and built a $3,200 lead entering Final Jeopardy.

She correctly answered the Final Jeopardy, a question about an English playwright from the 1500s, securing a remarkable victory.

According to the 2019 federal tax brackets, Holzhauer will need to pay 37 percent of his winnings to the United States government, or $911,759.92. He also has given money to children’s charities in the Las Vegas area, and plans to take his family on a European vacation.

He’s probably taking home less than $1.5 million, which is still a remarkable boost to his betting bankroll and overall net worth.

He also has received fame and attention, including from die-hard Jeopardy! fans who think his aggressive, ruthless strategy could change the way the game has been played for decades.

In the end, though, he was left with a feeling that all of us experience at some point in our betting careers.

“I’m a person who really hates losing,” Holzhauer told ESPN. “But I learned that I’m proud of my place in the show’s history, even if it’s not at the absolute top of the pyramid.”

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