Jeopardy Champ rewriting game show history
It’s hard to know when the best time is to write about James Holzhauer, the sports gambler turned extraordinary champion on Jeopardy. Do we wait till he breaks Ken Jennings record for earnings, which seems inevitable — and not too far away? Do we wait till he loses and reflect on his phenomenal run? Or do we do it now, in the midst of this remarkable performance, as most journalists, producers, social media writers and reporters are doing? The answer is clear — all three times — and many more!
Right now, we are witnessing a truly rare presentation of knowledge, speed and chutzpah. There have been many brilliant people on Jeopardy, and many who are quick on the buzzer. But there has never been a contestant who is so brazen — almost reckless, but of course he isn’t — with wagering. There has never been a contestant accumulate so much money at early moments in the game to bet so much, nor has had such an enormous lead going into Final Jeopardy, that a $50,000 wager, even if lost, still produces a substantial victory. And he has missed very few Final questions. Very few questions in general!
His method of tackling the big dollar questions early is also unprecedented. There have been quite a few players who jump around the board, either to search for a Daily Double or simply to keep the other competitors unbalanced. Holzhauer’s approach isn’t quite that. Actually, he is consistently working from the bottom up, but on occasion stays within a category.
As dominant as he is -and he is!- there have been a few contestants he has beaten who have built up a decent score — one that would have been impressive on virtually any other episode. He isn’t shutting out the competition — just blowing them away.
What will this extraordinary run mean to the future of the game?
· Will fans and viewers tire of him? As beloved as Ken Jennings is, there was a growing sentiment accepting his outrageous intelligence, but wearying, at least a little. There were those who though that it’s enough already as he went very deep.
· Will the Holzhauer method become commonplace? It’s unlikely that the ordinary contestant, as smart as he or she is, will be comfortable going all in or betting the big bucks, but not impossible. Will game play from the bottom up become the norm? Time will tell.
· Will Holzhauer come back in future All Star competitions and have the same results against Ken Jennings or Brad Rutter? Probably not — but who knows?
Holzhauer’s signature moves such as mimicking pushing all the chips in or saying “House limit” or adding greetings at the bottom of his Final Jeopardy responses increase his memorability and buzz factor, as if sheer earnings weren’t enough. No Jeopardy fan will likely forget him. We haven’t forgotten Buzzy Cohen or Austin Rogers who have had their fun and memorable features in addition to their brilliant play.
With James Holzhauer, however, it’s a whole new ballgame. One he will bet on big! (4)
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