The game show Jeopardy! has been on the air for decades, a staple in homes across America, but rarely has it been appointment viewing like it was this spring when professional sports bettor and former semi-pro poker player James Holzhauer went on a run the likes of which had only been seen a couple times before. He set records, completely dominating his opponents en route to winning 32 games in a row. On Monday, though, he was unable to find the same success at the poker tables, bowing out on the first day in two events at the 2019 World Series of Poker.
Didn’t Go Quite as Well as Jeopardy!
Holzhauer entered both Event #56: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Super Turbo Bounty and Event #57: $1,000 Tag Team No-Limit Hold’em. He was not originally planning on playing, but Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton contacted him and suggested that partypoker could sponsor him and Holzhauer, in turn, could donate half of any winnings to charity. The Jeopardy! champ has already donated large sums of money to causes.
“Like everyone, I was an avid fan of watching Jeopardy! when James was on his big run there,” Sexton said at a WSOP press conference. “I’m watching him – sports bettor from Vegas, online poker player back in his college days and all.”
Holzhauer decided to donate earnings to Project 150, an idea presented by his wife.
“There are 6,400 homeless teens and communities that really need assistance with everything,” he said. “Food, clothing, a place to sleep at night, basic essentials, toiletries. All the things that high schoolers take for granted. They are giving these teens a shot at breaking the cycle of poverty.”
Unfortunately, Holzhauer did not cash in either tournament, but somehow I think some money might be heading Project 150’s way, anyway.
In the Super Turbo Bounty event, Holzhauer did make some gains early on, but was eliminated just short of the money. Over in the Tag Team event, which started three hours later, he partnered with – you guessed it – Mike Sexton. The two never really found much of any traction.
Nobody Wanted to Face Holzhauer
As mentioned, Holzhauer reigned as Jeopardy! champion for 32 episodes, the second longest streak of all time. He didn’t come close to Ken Jennings’ record of 74 straight wins, but he came inches away from breaking Jennings’ all time money record, earning $2,462,216 to Jennings’ $2,520,700. Thus, Holzhauer’s per-game average was out of this world: $74,673.
To put that in perspective, before Holzhauer’s run, the most money anybody had won on a Jeopardy! episode was $77,000 (Roger Craig). Holzhauer almost averaged that in 32 victories. He beat Craig’s mark 16 times, winning more than $100,000 six times.
Not only did Holzhauer rarely get a question wrong, he was extremely aggressive in his play. He hunted Daily Doubles, starting with higher value answers. This enabled him to find the Daily Doubles before his opponents and have more money to wager when he found them. Holzhauer was also not shy when it came to his Daily Double and Final Jeopardy! wagers, which is how he amassed such high totals.