How James Holzhauer Broke Jeopardy!

May 21, 2019

James Holzhauer is on track to be the highest winning Jeopardy contestant of all time. How is he doing this? James is professional gambler and his game-play strategy proves it. Cheddar explains how James is controlling the Jeopardy board.


MALE_1: And this is James Holzhauer.

MALE_2: [MUSIC] James.

JAMES: Was Black [inaudible 00:00:07].

MALE_2: James.

JAMES: Was Mario. Was Greece.

JAMES: Was David Cameron. Where's Lusitania?

MALE_1: [MUSIC] He's a contestant on the show who is

MALE_1: currently on an unprecedented win streak.

MALE_1: He's destroying his opponents

MALE_1: and winning a bunch of money in the process.

MALE_1: As of May 21st, 2019,

MALE_1: he holds the record for the most money

MALE_1: won in a single game,

MALE_1: as well as the record for

MALE_1: the other nine spots in the top 10.

MALE_1: He trails only all time Jeopardy

MALE_1: great Ken Jennings in most wins and total winnings.

MALE_1: [NOISE] His current pace has him set to overtake

MALE_1: Ken Jennings $2.5 million

MALE_1: in earnings in half as many games.

MALE_1: But what makes his run so

MALE_1: extraordinary is his high octane play-style.

JAMES: What is my fair lady Godiva.

MALE_2: James.

JAMES: What [inaudible 00:00:50]. What is a granola [inaudible 00:00:52].

MALE_2: Yes. James Holzhauer.

MALE_2: A great player and a nice guy.

MALE_1: Here's a breakdown of how James's

MALE_1: strategy has made him so

MALE_1: successful and what it's going to take to beat him.

MALE_1: [MUSIC] I called up

MALE_1: former Jeopardy champion Fritz Holznagel,

MALE_1: author of Secrets of the Buzzer.

FRITZ: I don't know if we can see this very well or not.

MALE_1: It's an e-book that teaches

MALE_1: techniques to master the Jeopardy buzzer,

MALE_1: to get some insights into James Holzhauer's game.

FRITZ: He's put all facets of the game

FRITZ: together in a way that nobody else ever quite has.

MALE_1: From the beginning James totally flips

MALE_1: how the game is supposed to be played, literally.

MALE_2: James where do we start?

JAMES: World of sport a thousand.

MALE_1: He starts from the bottom of the board.

MALE_1: The Jeopardy board is comprised of

MALE_1: six columns of clues that

MALE_1: increase in value from top to bottom.

MALE_1: This is intentional.

FRITZ: When you go on the show Jeopardy staff tells you,

FRITZ: we prefer it if you start at the top

FRITZ: and work your way down to the harder questions.

FRITZ: Partly because it's easier for the people at

FRITZ: home but also because

FRITZ: there may be clues in this-

FRITZ: the top ones that will help

FRITZ: you answer the ones further down.

MALE_1: But James works the bottom of

MALE_1: the board from the beginning of the round.

MALE_1: Choosing the high dollar questions from

MALE_1: different categories seemingly at random.

MALE_1: This looks a lot like the notorious Jeopardy strategy

MALE_1: known as the Forrest bounce.

MALE_1: The strategy is named after

MALE_1: Jeopardy champion Chuck Forest,

MALE_1: who threw his opponents off balance by moving

MALE_1: randomly around the board disrupting

MALE_1: the natural rhythm of the game by denying

MALE_1: other players the opportunity

MALE_1: to work through the categories.

MALE_1: But James isn't moving

MALE_1: around the board to psych out his opponents.

MALE_1: He's on the hunt for something.

JAMES: Lesser-known names 12?


MALE_2: For there the daily double.

FRITZ: He's trying to gather money up and then you know,

FRITZ: and then find the daily double.

MALE_1: James Holzhauer is a professional gambler

MALE_1: and you can see it in his game-play.

MALE_1: He's used the Jeopardy board as a grid of wagers of

MALE_1: where these daily doubles are most likely to be hiding.

MALE_1: His strategy isn't about beating

MALE_1: his opponents it's about maximizing his winnings.

MALE_1: On its face the goal of jeopardy is to

MALE_1: be the most knowledgeable player in the game.

MALE_1: That's been its draw for the past 35 years.

MALE_1: Players and viewers at home could put

MALE_1: their retention and recall skills to the test.

MALE_1: The amount of money won wasn't really

MALE_1: important as long as it was more than your opponents.

MALE_1: But with the rise of data mining

MALE_1: and analytics new strategies

MALE_1: have emerged to maximize

MALE_1: the amount of money a contestant can win,

MALE_1: online fan websites like

MALE_1: J archive and the Jeopardy fan have

MALE_1: cataloged every single game in

MALE_1: every single question since Jeopardy began.

MALE_1: Players have taken this information and mapped out

MALE_1: weird Daily Doubles are most likely to be hiding.

MALE_1: They most often appear near the bottom in the fourth row.

MALE 1: 538 has found that over the past 20 years,

MALE 1: Daily Doubles have been uncovered around

MALE 1: the 16th or 17th clue.

MALE 1: But, through his first 13 games,

MALE 1: James has hit the Daily Doubles around clue 12.

MALE 1: By starting at the bottom, James can

MALE 1: uncover these high value clues early

MALE 1: while simultaneously collecting large sums

MALE 1: of money from the bottom of the board.

MALE 2: He is one of the first people to kind of realize

MALE 2: that if you aggressively pile up money,

MALE 2: and at the same time hunt for those Daily Doubles,

MALE 2: then you're going to have a big edge.

MALE 1: But to execute this strategy,

MALE 1: James has to control the board.

MALE 1: James is buzzing in first 59 percent of the time.

MALE 1: That's way more than the 33 percent random chance

MALE 1: a Jeopardy contestant normally has.

MALE 1: This is where fritz haute snuggles

MALE 1: buzzer technique comes in,

MALE 1: a technique that James has plugged in interviews.

MALE 3: I read an e-book called Secrets of the Buzzer,

MALE 3: go check Amazon that had a lot of helpful advice.

MALE 1: Contestants can only buzz in after

MALE 1: Alex Trebek finishes reading the clue,

MALE 1: and a light above the scoreboard turns on.

MALE 2: Only the players, uh, in the studio can see it.

MALE 2: People at home can't see it.

MALE 1: Ken Jennings tried to time his buzzes by anticipating

MALE 1: Trebek saying the last syllable of a clue.

MALE 1: But this can be difficult and dangerous.

MALE 2: It's very hard to tell when

MALE 2: he is officially ending a word, like when he says,

MALE 2: "kick", he will say, "kick- kah, kick-kah".

MALE 1: If a player jumps the gun and buzzes too early,

MALE 1: their buzzer is locked out for a quarter of a second.

MALE 1: A quarter of a second can be a lifetime in Jeopardy.

MALE 1: Fritz realized shaving off fractions of a second

MALE 1: to your reaction time could be a huge advantage.

MALE 1: He timed himself using a series of

MALE 1: different buzzer techniques to find the fastest.

MALE 2: You know, you can hold your hand this way,

MALE 2: or you can kind of hold your hand that way,

MALE 2: poise it over the desk, over the podium,

MALE 2: and then when the light goes on,

MALE 2: [NOISE] ram it down.

MALE 1: He discovered that most contestants

MALE 1: waste time by aggressively pressing the buzzer.

MALE 2: When they buzz, you can kind of see

MALE 2: them swinging their arm.

MALE 2: That whole time that you're swinging

MALE 2: your arm, you're losing time.

MALE 1: But, James just looks like

MALE 1: he's standing there with his arms crossed.

MALE 2: That's precisely the suggestion I make in the book.

MALE 1: James is limiting unnecessary movement

MALE 1: by gripping the buzzer at waist level,

MALE 1: and bracing his buzzer hand with his free hand.

MALE 1: Fritz claims this technique could

MALE 1: reduce buzzer reaction time by half,

MALE 1: from about 268 to 126 milliseconds.

MALE 1: [MUSIC]. It also has the added benefit of comfort,

MALE 1: helping the player remain relaxed,

MALE 1: while the other competitors frantically spam the buzzer.


MALE 2: You can see that in their hand motions,

MALE 2: strangling it or look like

MALE 2: they would like to strangle it.

MALE 2: You can understand why, cause he's so fast.

MALE 1: His control of the board essentially

MALE 1: neutralizes his opponents.

MALE 1: But what catapults James's earnings

MALE 1: into the stratosphere is

MALE 1: a huge wagers he makes on Daily Doubles. [APPLAUSE].

MALE 4: Eleven thousand nine fourteen.

MALE 1: According to 538, a typical Daily Doubles wager

MALE 1: is just under $2,500.

MALE 1: Ken Jennings average slightly higher around 2,900,

MALE 1: but James holzhauer is betting an average of $9,200.

MALE 2: Most people have not bet at all on Daily Doubles.

MALE 2: He knows that he's got seven in 10,

MALE 2: or eight in 10 chance of

MALE 2: answering any individual Daily Doubles,

MALE 2: so he should be betting at all.

MALE 1: He's earning almost twice as much on Daily Doubles alone,

MALE 1: than his opponents earned throughout

MALE 1: the course of an entire game.

MALE 1: James has been a lock to win the game

MALE 1: 90 percent of the time going

MALE 1: into the final Jeopardy round.

MALE 1: He has such a sizable lead that

MALE 1: his opponents have no chance in overtaking him.

MALE 1: He capitalizes on this by betting even more money.

MALE 1: He's so far ahead that he can make

MALE 1: large wagers without the fear of losing,

MALE 1: if he gets the final Jeopardy question wrong.

MALE 1: And he rarely gets them wrong.

MALE 1: For all the high level trivia

MALE 1: talent Jeopardy is seen over the years,

MALE 1: James has been exceptional at correctly

MALE 1: answering Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy clues.

MALE 1: His whole strategy wouldn't work if

MALE 1: James didn't have the trivia chops to back it up.

MALE 1: Beating James holzhauer is going to be tough,

MALE 1: mainly because the only player that seems

MALE 1: capable of beating James, is James.

MALE 1: James has admitted that,

MALE 1: the most likely scenario that will end his run is

MALE 1: him missing one of those high wager Daily Doubles,

MALE 1: and another player jumping out ahead of him.

MALE 1: But to fend off James,

MALE 1: that player would have to play the same high stakes

MALE 1: aggressive play style to build an unassailable lead.

MALE 1: James's aggressive style in wild success could set

MALE 1: a new precedent for how Jeopardy is meant to be played.

MALE 2: Yeah, I do think he's changing

MALE 2: the way the game is can be played the future.

MALE 2: More people are going to play more aggressive game,

MALE 2: start at the bottom a lot more,

MALE 2: and bet a lot more on Daily Doubles [MUSIC].