James Holzhauer has ran up the score during his time as Jeopardy! champion. Through eight dominant performances, Holzhauer has racked up a ridiculous $460,479, making him second to only Ken Jennings for the most money ever won on the show, with his $110,914 outing serving as the best individual performance on one episode in history.
Watching Holzhauer’s aggressive approach to the game has been a blast, as he’s looked to use his experience as a professional gambler to his advantage en route to his success on the show. It’s a strategy that has obviously paid off, and it’s one that Holzhauer laid out to the folks at Variety.
Holzhauer explained his strategy as “strategically aggressive,” and pointed to Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy as the places where he can build up a cushion. He cites his experience as a sports bettor of teaching him to try and find the edges where the average player may not be, and how he capitalizes on that by being more aggressive than most are willing to be.
From there, Holzhauer used a sports comparison to rationalize why he thinks those specific areas work best for building a big lead.
My theory is that you need to be betting very aggressively on Daily Doubles and in Final Jeopardy. A lot of people bet big when their backs are against the wall, but people don’t realize … everyone thinks, Oh, I want to go into Final Jeopardy with some chance of winning. But that’s not the best strategy. I bet on sports, and as an example, there comes a time in a football game where a team is down three points with a minute left, so they’re going to try a field goal to tie and go into overtime. But really the best chance of winning is to go all-out for the touchdown. Players need to be playing more aggressively when they get Daily Doubles in “regulation time,” so to speak. Maybe it’s just the mind-set of football teams doing this, but in my job, I have to bet very large amounts of money from time to time. I know life goes on if you make a big bet and you lose. But if you don’t give yourself the best chance of winning, you’re going to kick yourself tomorrow. I’m used to gambling. To me, these are just points on the scoreboard and not actual dollars. That mind-set was very helpful for me.
Holzhauer is on one heck of a run, and he has a strategy that works really well for him. The question, at this point, is whether it’s good enough to help him set even more Jeopardy! records.