David Purdum, ESPN Staff Writer 4y

Holzhauer's run on Jeopardy! ends shy of record

One of the most dominant competitive performances ever witnessed on TV is over -- James Holzhauer has been defeated, his remarkable run on "Jeopardy!" stopped just short of the iconic game show's all-time winnings record.

Emma Boettcher, a user-experience librarian from Chicago, won $46,801 to defeat Holzhauer on Monday's episode, ending his prolific, 32-game winning streak that captivated the nation. 

In 33 games, Holzhauer won $2,464,216. He was poised to take over the top spot in the show's all-time, regular-play winnings list with one more big win, but he'll settle for second -- $56,484 behind computer scientist and author Ken Jennings, who won $2,520,700 during an epic, 74-game winning streak in 2004.

"I never really believed I could win 75 shows, but I definitely thought I had a great shot at Ken's cash winnings record," Holzhauer said in a statement put out by the show. He later tweeted:

On Monday's show, which was taped in March, Boettcher grabbed the lead in the Double Jeopardy round and put the champ away with a $20,000 wager and the correct response of "Who is Christopher Marlowe?" in Final Jeopardy.

"Oh, gosh. What a payday," host Alex Trebek exclaimed, as a smiling Holzhauer walked across the stage to give Boettcher a congratulatory high-five.

Boettcher was quick on the buzzer and took a slim lead into Final Jeopardy with $26,600. Holzhauer had $23,400, and Jay Sexton, in third place, had $11,000.

The category was "Shakespeare's Time." The clue: "The line 'a great reckonings in a little room' in 'As You Like It' is usually taken to refer to this author's premature death." All three contestants provided the correct response of Christopher Marlowe, an English playwright from the 1500s.

Holzhauer wagered $1,399, enough to win if Boettcher misfired and hold off Sexton if he doubled up. Boettcher wagered $20,000 to win comfortably. Even if Holzhauer had wagered it all, he would have lost by $1.

"I was a little shook during Double Jeopardy," Holzhauer wrote in an email, "because I was playing from behind and constantly getting beaten on the buzzer by Emma. By the time Final Jeopardy rolled around, I knew I could only win if Emma answered incorrectly. It felt like needing a team to miss a last-second field goal. She didn't miss, but I was still proud of my performance the whole way. I gave her a high five and smiled at how far I'd come."

Boettcher, 27, works for the University of Chicago. She told the Chicago Tribune that she wrote her master's thesis at the University of North Carolina in 2016 "on predicting the difficulty of trivia questions using 'Jeopardy!' clues." She wrote her undergraduate thesis at Princeton on Shakespeare's plays -- which came in handy on the final question.

"It's been remarkable as a fan to have watched his run. James is such a great player," Boettcher told the Tribune. "And for me, it would have been an honor to have played him regardless of how the game had turned out. It's been nice having watched the show for so long and to feel like I've kind of made my mark on the 'Jeopardy!' history in that way."

Though he came up shy of Jennings' winnings record, Holzhauer's mark on the game won't soon be forgotten. In fact, many "Jeopardy!" diehards believe he changed how the game will be played going forward.

Holzhauer's episodes were taped beginning in February. His run began airing on TV on April 4. Over the next three months, the 34-year-old professional sports bettor from Las Vegas exploded into mainstream pop culture with an all-in, high-stakes gambling approach to "Jeopardy!"

He rarely missed -- including Monday, when he went 25-for-25 on answers -- and routinely wagered large amounts on the 76 Daily Doubles that he found. He finished with 1,186 correct answers and only 36 incorrect. His average margin of victory was $64,903.

When it was over, he had authored the 16 most prolific performances in the show's 35 seasons, and 23 of the top 27 overall. On April 9's show, his fourth episode, Holzhauer shattered the previous single game winnings mark with $110,914, besting the previous mark of $77,000 set in 2010 by Roger Craig.

Holzhauer eclipsed his own record twice, highlighted by a $131,127 performance on April 17, and repeatedly put away his competitors before Final Jeopardy. Only three times in 32 shows was a competitor in striking distance entering the final round. Monday's episode was a different story, though.

Boettcher didn't miss, either, correctly responding to 22 clues. She went head-to-head with Holzhauer on the buzzer, too. According to data, Holzhauer buzzed in first on 42.11 percent of clues, his worst performance since his second game on April. 5.

"I'm a person who really hates losing," Holzhauer wrote, "but I learned that I'm proud of my place in the show's history, even if it's not at the absolute top of the pyramid."

Holzhauer's dominance caught the attention of the sports world. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tweeted about "Jeopardy James," and executives for Major League Baseball franchises publicly expressed interest in his skills. Holzhauer became a national sensation and watched it all play out on TV. He was bound by a standard nondisclosure agreement to keep the final result a secret.

Last week at Caesars Palace, while speaking at a gaming conference hosted by UNLV, Holzhauer joked with a member of the audience from Canada, asking about any potential tax breaks for winnings if he were to move north.

Throughout his appearances, Holzhauer had colorful, back-and-forth banter with Trebek about everything from sports betting to getting married in his bathing suit.

"[Trebek] always shakes the champ's hand first [after the show], and it was weird when he didn't head straight for me," Holzhauer added. "Back in the green room, one of the producers called out, 'Champ!' to get Emma's attention, and I reflexively turned my head to respond. That was when it really hit me that I'm not "champ" anymore."

^ Back to Top ^