The Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions is must-watch TV for game show fans who want to see some high-level trivia knowledge and signaling device skills amongst the show’s best contestants. But this year one of those champions in particular looms as the obvious attraction for the two-week tournament.
James Holzhauer, who won more than $2.4 million on the show over 32 episodes earlier in the year is the overwhelming favorite for the tournament and definitely the biggest name out there because of the way he aggressively attacked the show, building up huge leads and wagering big on Daily Doubles to put games out of reach early and rack up record-breaking single game totals. How he plays is jarring, and very much the opposite way the people who write Jeopardy! would hope you play. Rather than run a category from its lowest question amount to its highest, Holzhauer would frantically pick off the top dollar value question, build up a lead and then hunt for Daily Doubles in the second and third-highest dollar amount categories, where they are statistically found most often.
The result was often dominant runaway victories, sometimes even before the first commercial break. But even during Holzhauer’s reign on the show, Jeopardy! fans openly wondered how well his strategy would work against more experienced players. And during the Tournament of Champions, which starts on Monday and runs until November 15, we’ll see exactly how he stacks up against those who have all won multiple games and have put up some impressive totals as well.
By now you know all about Holzhauer and his 32 wins split over two seasons of the syndicated show, but let’s get to know the other 14 contestants vying for a $250,000 grand prize. Missing from this list is Jason Zuffranieri, who won more than $500,000 this year over 19 episodes. Zuffranieri missed the Tournament of Champions cut, as his run continued into Season 36 and ended in late September. But there are certainly a number of excellent Jeopardy! players who could take Holzhauer down. We know who will play whom in the tournament’s first five days, so let’s get you ready for those matchups, including who Holzhauer will compete against.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Instructional Design Consultant
Princeton, New Jersey
Student at Brown University
Las Vegas, Nevada
Professional Sports Gamblier
Johns Creek, Georgia
Software Development Manager
Physician Healthcare Analyst
North Little Rock, Arkansas
Attorney Government Relations Professional
User Experience Library
Sports Industry Consultant
New Paltz, New York
11th Grade Physics Teacher
The obvious wild cards here are Barcomb and Gaur, winners of the Teacher’s Tournament and College Tournament, respectively. Winning a tournament is obviously a huge achievement and sets them up nicely for this tournament, though it’s important to note that this is yet another Tournament of Champions where the Teen Tournament winner is left out in the cold, a cowardly decision by all parties involved.
Fenster’s most notable moment for some Jeopardy! fans might be when he and two other contestants whiffed on an entire Football category in the Jeopardy! round. But he’s one of the most formidable champions entering the tournament, as he, Hill and Jones each won seven games during their streaks. The player invited with the fewest regular season victories is Boettcher, with just three victories. But you may also know Emma as the woman who took down James Holzhauer, a fact the advertisements for the tournament has made explicitly clear. Many fans would love to see Emma and James go head-to-head again here, but we won’t know the lineups for the quarterfinals until everyone plays. The winner of each day’s contests gets one of those spots, with a few wild cards given out for the highest non-winning totals.
Holzhauer is obviously the favorite here, but the beauty of the Tournament of Champions is that everyone knows how to play and is familiar with the stage. There’s no shock about the conditions, nothing intimidating about facing a returning champion or how to time out answering using a signaling device. It’s a fair fight, and everyone has the chops to justify their spot on the stage. Whether Holzhauer can repeat his success against Jeopardy! veterans will be fascinating to watch but, no matter how he does, we’re in for a really entertaining tournament.