Sports

James Holzhauer Returned To ‘Jeopardy!’ And Dominated The Tournament Of Champions

James Holzhauer’s return to the Jeopardy! stage looked a lot like his first 32 episodes on the syndicated trivia game show, Tournament of Champions or not.

The two-week tournament kicked off on Monday, but Wednesday’s episode marked the return of Holzhhauer, who won more than $2.4 million during a dazzling run that featured record-breaking single-game cash hauls and some extremely aggressive bets on Daily Doubles.

Much of the hype surrounding the Tournament of Champions isn’t the $250,000 grand prize but just how Holzhauer would do against proven Jeopardy! veterans, as his shock and awe strategy could falter when matched up against strong players. But Wednesday’s episode showed Holzhauer is far from a very bright flash in the pan.

Facing Alan Dunn, a 5-game winner, and Lindsey Shultz, who won four games during her time on the show, Holzhauer was his old self. He jumped out to an early lead in the Jeopardy round and led the whole way to a victory that secured him a spot in the Tournament of Champions semifinals. Holzhauer was in his familiar far-left position on the stage, and the first round even had an “All In” category, referencing Holzhauer’s tendency to bet it all on a Daily Double.

Trebek joked knowingly that Holzhauer would start with a $1,000 question, and he did, getting it right. But despite leading in the first round it was far from an early blowout. Questions Holzhauer undoubtedly knew — like who won the 2016 NBA title, for example — went to other players, though this tweet about it from the Cavaliers account doesn’t make much sense.

He did lead heading into the first commercial break with $5,600 while Alan had 2,000 and Lindsey had 3,600. He expanded that lead to end the round with $8,800 while his two competitors sat with $4,000 each.

In Double Jeopardy, however, Holzhauer found another gear and made it a runaway. The match showed, if anything, that Holzhauer was far more than just someone who bet big and got lucky during his 32-game winning streak. Both Lindsey and Alan found Daily Doubles and doubled their scores (though Alan found his to start Double Jeopardy), but by the time Holzhauer found the third Daily Double in Double Jeopardy, he was so far ahead it wasn’t necessary for him to bet big.

“Let’s make it a truly disappointing $1,109,” Holzhauer joked when he found the last Daily Double, drawing laughter from the crowd and Trebek, who said Holzhauer simply wanted to “toy” with him.

Holzhauer had $17,600 when the other two champions sat at $5,600. At that point, it was a game of minimizing mistakes rather than betting huge totals.

By the time it was over, Holzhauer had a whopping $30,309. There’s no need to bet big when you can still answer questions right and control the board, especially when the values are doubled.

Holzhauer’s semifinals game will start next week. While Dunn’s incorrect Final Jeopardy answer and score of $1 left him out in the cold on the wild card spots, Shultz is still in decent position to snag one of the spots with her second place finish of $14,000. We won’t know who Holzhauer faces in the semifinals until Friday’s episode airs, but it’s clear he intends to play the same way that was so successful during regular play.

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