James Holzhauer Is Winning Jeopardy! Thanks To…Sports Betting?

Written By Marc Meltzer on May 30, 2019

Thanks in part to his sports betting experience, James Holzhauer is crushing all players in his path to becoming the greatest Jeopardy! player of all time.

After just 28 games, he’s won more than $2 million from his stint on the nightly game show. He’s just days away from dethroning Jeopardy! king Ken Jennings.

He’s read children’s books and a book on how to buzz in quickly but his math and analytical sports betting background might be helping the most. Holzhauer is turning Jeopardy! upside down thanks to a unique style of play that he’s taken from his experience playing poker and betting on sports.

James Holzhauer uses sports betting in Jeopardy!

Holzhauer is good with numbers. He’s always been good with numbers. The professional sports bettor graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelors degree in mathematics. He used those math skills to operate an online poker website before turning to sports betting for a living.

Today, Holzhauer lives in the betting capital of Las Vegas and uses his degree in math for his day job of betting on sports. While math was one of his favorite subjects in school, that wasn’t his only passion as a kid.

He was a sports fan and placed his first bet when he was only 10 years old, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Unfortunately, that wager was made with his heart instead of math. He bet classmates that his favorite team that year, the San Diego Chargers would defeat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX.

He no longer bets with his heart. Holzhauer uses his math skills to bet on sports regularly. He’s taken those mathematical and analytical skills to Jeopardy! He’s an unabashed sports bettor and not shy about dropping sports betting lingo on host Alex Trebek and the TV audience.

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Unique Jeopardy! gameplay

There have been players before Holzhauer that have bounced around the Jeopardy! board but nobody has attacked the game the same way.

A successful sports bettor fails about 45% of the time. A single loss doesn’t make or break a day for a sports bettor. That’s one of Holzhauer’s skills with Jeopardy!

He looks to build up his cash quickly by correctly responding to higher valued answers. This allows him to go for large Daily Doubles to get out to a big lead. One reason he’s taken this approach is detailed on the website fivethirtyeight.com. Their chart shows that the bottom 60% of the Jeopardy! board has the majority of Daily Doubles.

Building up his money in the bank quickly is useful to Holzhauer for two reasons. Similar to playing poker–another mathematical gambling game–a player with a large stack of money can intimidate other players.

On the rare occasion he doesn’t answer a Daily Double correctly, he still has plenty of time to recover to win money to replace what he lost.

This isn’t the only technique helping Holzhauer out. He’s been first to the buzzer more than 58% of the time according to The Jeopardy Fan.

The addition of buzzer skills and analytical gameplay have vaulted Holzhauer to the top of the Jeopardy! pyramid. Not bad for a guy that makes a living betting on sports.

Marc Meltzer Avatar
Written by
Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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