If you don’t want to read about what exactly will happen to James tonight, you should stop reading here…
I’m a big fan of game shows and trivia and loved watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire back in the Regis Philbin days. Documenteries about those who beat the games, like Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal and Perfect Bid: The Contestant Who Knew Too Much are right up my alley as well.
Jeopardy is also a favorite of mine and Rafi (my 7 year-old) and I have have been avidly watching James Holzhauer do the incredible night after night. In 32 games he has won $2,462,216, averaging $76,944.25 per win. He holds all of the top-10 spots for winnings in a single game. With one more win at his average nightly winnings he would have won the most money on Jeopardy regular season play ever.
Before James there was Ken Jennings, who in 2004 won 74 games and $2,520,700, or $34,063.51 per win.
I don’t feel I get enough credit for making small, sensible Jeopardy wagers, which helped the show with its prize budget.
— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) April 23, 2019
The difference is that James knows nearly all of the answers (they’re actually questions in Jeopardy speak) and is a professional sports gambler. That means he can risk huge sums and get away with it as he is only wrong 3% of the time.
Ken was far more conservative, but he was also wrong 9% of the time. That meant he couldn’t gamble as aggressively as James does.
But James’ betting is more sophisticated than just betting big. He factors in his opponents scores and their ability to challenge him in Final Jeopardy and nearly always succeeds in entering Final Jeopardy with a runaway score that can’t be caught. Then he just has to bet the most he can so that even if he’s wrong he won’t lose, though he often rounds to a lower number that is meaningful in his life.
Cheddar does a good job showing exactly how several strategies have worked for James, but the main thing is that he knows and can quickly recall nearly everything that is asked.
His breadth of knowledge is simply astounding.
Alas, all good things need to come to an end.
Here is the ending of tonight’s episode:
BREAKING: Jeopardy! champ James Holzhauer loses on Monday’s episode: pic.twitter.com/yqRqdl2zp0
— Random Intel (@TheRandomIntel) June 2, 2019
The comments there surprised me greatly:
That is certainly incorrect. James as usual made the perfect wager. The only difference is that James usually bets from a position of power and now he was betting from behind.
Going into final Jeopardy, Jim has $11,000, James has $23,400, and Emma has $26,600.
- He knew that Emma would bet enough so that if she was right, she would beat him. James would have $46,800 if he bet everything and was right, so Emma had to bet $20,201 to ensure victory if she was correct. James’ only hope of winning is if Emma was wrong.
- Since James could also be wrong, he had to bet little enough so that Emma would have less than him if they were both wrong. James needed to bet less than $17,001 to win in this scenario, as a $17,000 bet would leave him with $6,400 while Emma would fall to $6,399.
- However, James knew he also had to watch out for Jay. So he had to bet just enough to make sure that that Jay couldn’t catch him even if he bet $11,000 and got it right. That meant James had to finish with at least $22,001, which is exactly why he only bet $1,399, so that he would wind up with no less than $22,001. That bet ensured that Jim was eliminated from winning.
James bet perfectly, but unfortunately for James, Emma did get it right and of course she bet enough to ensure that she could not be caught even if James bet everything. And thus ends a truly incredible run of Jeopardy.
So no, James didn’t throw the game and Ken is still the all-time Jeopardy leader for total wins and cash winnings, excluding tournaments.
Have you been following James’ run on Jeopardy?