James Holzhauer still won’t be on Jeopardy! airwaves for another week, but that doesn’t make his time on the game show any less fascinating. The pro sports bettor has won 22 episodes to the tune of nearly $1.7 million, and he’s changed the way people think about the trivia show, maybe forever.
The way Holzhauer plays the game has been the topic of much debate, as his impressive totals and utter domination has grown over the last few weeks, and how he approaches the game has been fascinating to learn about. He’s spoken to the media a number of times since he made his Jeopardy! debut, but his latest interview is perhaps his most illuminating.
Holzhauer was interviewed on MLB Network earlier in the week, which was a fitting place to learn just how much baseball shaped his career and, as of late, his time on Jeopardy! He grew up a Cubs fan watching afternoon games and watching Jeopardy! around the same time, something he says is fitting for how his life has been shaped.
Perhaps the most interesting moment in the interview is when he talks about sabermetrics and how reading Bill James made him reconsider how he’d want to approach Jeopardy! as a contestant.
“I think I owe a hat tip to Bill James here: he never accepted maxims like ‘Pitching is 75 percent of the game. He actually went and looked and said ‘this is really helps teams win.’ So I kind of didn’t look at anyone else’s strategy for Jeopardy!. I’m going to build this from the ground up. What do I need to do to win at Jeopardy!?
If I’d never seen a Jeopardy! game played before, how would I play it to maximize my winnings? Maximize my chances of winning? And that incorporates a lot of gambling and a lot of things that people don’t think are the right way to play.”
And as he pointed out, the money he is making might be bad for the show’s budget, but those in charge likely aren’t complaining. He even compared his strategy to the baseball changes like instant replay and the focus on home runs to what’s watchable about baseball and his Jeopardy! run: some people might not like watching it, but it’s making everyone involved more money than ever.