As of Monday’s night episode, James Holzhauer has the fourth-longest winning streak in Jeopardy! history, and he’s made the second most money ($942,738). What makes everything after the “and” in that sentence so amazing is everything before it: he’s won nearly $1 million in 13 episodes. It took 19 wins for David Madden, third on the earner list, to bank a mere $430,400. Jeopardy! has never seen a contestant like Holzhauer before (the Las Vegas resident isn’t playing dirty, though), and he has Ken Jennings’ record in his sights.
Jennings famously won 74 consecutive games in 2004 for a grand total of $2,520,700 (that does NOT include $2,000 for his second-place finish in game #75 when his streak was stopped by Nancy Zerg); that’s approximately $34,000 per episode. If Holzhauer, who’s averaging an absurd $72,518/episode, keeps up his current pace, he’ll usurp Jennings in 35 episodes. Think about that: it will only take Holzhauer 35 episodes to make as much as Jennings did in 74.
You said it, Trebek.
To his credit, Jennings praised Holzhauer’s current run, calling it “insane” (which is one word to describe the guy who has five of the top-five single-game winnings ever). “I would never have had the stomach for those kinds of bets,” Jennings said, referring to Holzhauer’s penchant for Daily Doubles. “You’re going to have to be comfortable with losing the average American income on a single trivia question a lot of the time, and then have to come back five minutes later and play another game with that in the back of your mind. Psychologically, my peace of mind was built on just playing my game — a lot lower stakes, fun game, let’s pretend we’re all here to have fun. James is under no such illusion.”
Holzhauer will try to extend his streak during tonight’s episode against Claudia Walters, a grant writer from Mesa, Arizona, and Kevin Donohue, a principal from Los Angeles, California. Good luck, suckers, I mean, other contestants.