‘Jeopardy!’: The Librarian Who Finally Dethroned James Holzhauer in His Incredible 2019 Run on the Show

In his eight-week visit in 2019 on Jeopardy!, James Holzhauer staggeringly amassed over $2 million.

By his final appearance on the show, the Las Vegas resident was eventually upended by an opponent who used his very own game tactics to end his reign.

James Holzhauer (far right) with fellow contestants Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on 'Jeopardy!'
James Holzhauer (far right) with fellow contestants Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on ‘Jeopardy!’ | Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images

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Holzhauer was a memorable ‘Jeopardy!’ champ

Holzhauer held a streak of thirty-two games on Jeopardy! in 2019. The Illinois-born professional gambler had the perfect skill set for playing on the fast-paced quiz show. Laid-back and utterly collected, Holzhauer explained to The New York Times at that time that demeanor and composure go a long way for contestants.

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“You have to be comfortable,” he said. “Some of the opponents I’ve been playing, you can see they are visibly shaken by what’s going on onstage. Of course, you’re not going to play well if you’re up there trembling. And if you make yourself tremble by playing more aggressively than you are comfortable with, that’s so much the worse.”

James Holzhauer’s board-jumping strategy

As much as many fans of the show don’t like it, board-jumping – choosing clues from all over the board instead of working through each category – works for some players. And Holzhauer is one of those players.

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“I definitely had the idea right away,” he continued in his conversation with The Times. “You can see as soon as I get control of the board in the first game I’m going for the $1,000 clues whenever I have the opportunity.”

“Hitting a Daily Double on the first clue is nice I guess, but you can do a lot more damage if you have $5,000 in front of you already.”

The day Holzhauer lost his streak on the quiz show

The 35-year-old Holzhauer, who has said he relied on visiting libraries to beef up on trivia before his stint on Jeopardy!, was ironically beaten out in the end by a librarian.

Emma Boettcher, who show host Alex Trebek dubbed “the Giant Killer” for ending Holzhauer’s reign, stopped the champ, just barely, from breaking all-time Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings’ winnings total of $2.52 million set in his 74-game appearance in 2004.

“I pretty much did what I planned to do when I came in,” she told Vulture in 2019, “to be honest, which was to jump around the board a little bit so the higher-value clues were taken care of first … I knew jumping around the board was a tried-and-true success on the show.”

A die-hard trivia fan, the 27-year-old even wrote her master’s thesis on “Predicting the Difficulty of Trivia Questions Using Text Features.”

“It’s an amazing feeling, truly. Just being on Jeopardy! was one dream for me. And then to be on and hold my own was another dream,” Boettcher said. “And then to be on and hold my own and then win was just way beyond anything I ever expected.”

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