Here’s What ‘Jeopardy!’ Champion James Holzhauer Bet On To Build His Gambling Career


James Holzhauer’s reign on Jeopardy! is on pause while the show gives out $100,000 in its annual teacher’s tournament. It’s a prize that seems paltry in comparison to the more than $1.4 million he’s won over the 22 episodes he’s appeared on thus far, but it’s a good opportunity to spotlight educators and their smarts while the show’s ratings are on the rise.

One person who perhaps doesn’t appreciate traditional education as much as other contestants is Holzhauer, who got a math degree at Illinois but mostly played online poker when he was supposed to be in class. Holzhauer has also said he mostly learned the information he needed to dominate the show by reading children’s books and comics to get a basis of knowledge, which is kind of the opposite of a heavy education in a classroom environment.

One interesting thing about Holzhauer is how he has used his gambling background to aggressively play Jeopardy! He’s said in the past built his strategy for the show from “the ground up” and included methods he learned while gambling. And recently he’s spoken more about the kinds of wagering he did to build his bankroll and eventually turn betting into a profession.

Holzhauer has done a number of interviews, including one with a relative on a podcast, but on Tuesday the Jeopardy! champion was asked by Sports Illustrated how he made his money sports betting and revealed an important detail: he loves in-game betting.

One thing I specialize in is halftime and in-game bets. As a general rule, the less time a bookmaker has to set his odds the softer the odds are going to be. At halftime he has five minutes to put a line up whereas the line for the whole game has been up all week. If every time there’s a commercial break they’re putting up new odds, they’re going to make a mistake. If you’re playing attention you can clean up for sure.

Holzhauer works very hard to expose ineffincies in Jeopardy! as well, so it’s no surprise that he’s no stranger to this line of thinking. He also spoke about how he would find major flaws in future bets for baseball to make some big money as well, and that’s part of his big Daily Double strategy. For example, about 70 percent of Jeopardy! players get Daily Doubles right when they find them, but the wager you make is a 1:1 bet to profit ratio. There aren’t many bets that good in the gambling world, which is part of why he’s so quick to jump all over it in the Jeopardy! one.

It’s fascinating to explore what Holzhauer is thinking when he approaches the game and where that logic came from. It’s impossible to know just how long he can last on the show with this strategy, but the more we learn about it and the roots it has with wagering, the more it makes sense why he’s so good at what he does.