Why did James Holzhauer leave Jeopardy!? Did he throw it and lose on purpose?

James Holzhauer Jeopardy! contestant
Did Jeopardy! contestant, James Holzhauer lose on purpose? Pic credit: Jeopardy!/YouTube

James Holzhauer’s 32-game winning streak on Jeopardy! ended on Monday night when 27-year-old University of Chicago librarian, Emma Boettcher defeated him.

Although Holzhauer, 34, took the lead early in the game, Boettcher caught up with him and won with a total of $46,801 to $24,799.

Before the first airing on a CBS affiliate in Montgomery, Alabama, on Monday, a clip from Final Jeopardy! showing Boettcher,  an English major from Princeton, defeating Holzhauer, a professional sports gambler and math major from the University of Illinois, emerged on social media.

Holzhauer is now the third highest overall earning player ever on Jeopardy! surpassed only by Brad Rutter with $4,603,435 and Ken Jennings with $2,520,700.

Holzhauer lost the match after netting a total of $2,464,216 in his 33 appearances (April to June 2019) during which he set multiple single-game records.

His total of $2,464,216 in 33 appearances is about $56, 484 less than Jennings’ record regular-season win of $2,520,700 from 75 games in 2004.

The records show that in 32 straight games, Holzhauer got 97% of his answers correct, and 32 of 33 Final Jeopardy! clues right.

An analysis for USA Today by Syracuse University sports analytics professors Shane Sanders and Justin Ehrlich found that Holzhauer had more than 99.3% chances of winning at the start of any game and he would likely win 98 more games before losing.

Did Holzhauer lose on purpose?

Holzhauer’s apparent invincibility led some fans to question his surprisingly small wager of $1,399 on Monday night’s Final Jeopardy!, claiming he threw the game and lost on purpose — maybe because he thought he’d made enough money and did not want to continue playing.

Even Alex Trebek was taken aback by Holzhauer’s paltry Final Jeopardy! wager.

“A modest one, for the first time,” Trebek commented wonderingly.

Although many viewers thought he bet too low and others even came up with a conspiracy theory claiming he did it on purpose to lose, some have defended his move.

He entered Final Jeopardy! with $23,400 against Boettcher’s $26,600, and Jay Sexton in third with $11,000.

That was the only way he could have won since Boettcher had more money so he couldn’t expect to beat her if they both got their answers right.

Betting low also safeguarded him against coming in third if Sexton answered correctly while he and Boettcher answered incorrectly.

Holzhauer later explained the rationale behind his decision to bet low.

“I knew I could only win if Emma missed Final Jeopardy, as there was no way she wouldn’t bet to cover my all-in bet,” Holzhauer said in the interview with Action Network. “So my only concern was getting overtaken by third place, and I bet just enough to make sure of locking him out. Betting big would have looked good for the cameras, but now I turn my straight bet (Emma misses) into a parlay (Emma misses and I get it right).”

Who is James Holzhauer?

Holzhauer was born in July 1984 in Naperville, Illinois. He showed remarkable math abilities very early in life and was consistently getting A’s on math tests, although he was only a C student overall.

He was moved to a fifth-grade math class at the age of 7 and skipped second grade.

As a student at Naperville North High School, he often skipped classes and refused to do his homework because he was more interested in playing online poker. He soon began taking an interest in memorizing sports statistics and in sports gambling.

He was part of the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering team that won the state competition at UIUC. He graduated in 2005 from the University of Illinois with a degree in mathematics.

After college, he moved to Las Vegas and became a professional sports gambler. He is married to Melissa and has a 4-year-old daughter Natasha.

What are his plans for the future?

Holzhauer plans to return to his job as a sports gambler. He also said he would like to do sabermetrics for a baseball team.

He is expected to appear at the next Tournament of Champions or other Jeopardy! special events.

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