Another Jeopardy! streak bites the dust. Professional gambler James Holzhauer was on track to overtake the Jeopardy! earnings record with his 32-game streak, but he was taken down on Monday’s episode when he made an uncharacteristically conservative bid on Final Jeopardy and was edged out by 27-year-old librarian Emma Boettcher.
In the final round, all three contestants had the correct response but Emma’s $20, 201 bid landed her a solid win ahead of James and third contestant research engineer Jay Sexton. Sexton was trailing going into the final round and Holzhauer had bet a modest $1,399 against his $23,400 total. Boettcher ended the game with $46,801.
“Oh God, what a payday!” Alex Trebek exclaimed after revealing Emma’s bid. “What a game.” Nice to know that after all these years, he can still be surprised.
While Holzhauer had a great record, finishing with only 36 incorrect responses and a total of 1,186 correct, Boettcher had an edge coming in. The Chicago librarian isn’t just a huge Jeopardy! fan, she actually did her masters thesis on the game show and the possibility of predicting the difficulty of trivia questions based on clue length, syntax and other distinctions. She told Alex that what she discovered was, “That it’s really hard to do.”
Not only did Boettcher have the academic upper-hand in that respect, the final question was on the topic of her undergraduate thesis. Emma had written her paper on Shakespeare’s plays and told the Chicago Tribune that she was “delighted” when she saw the final category was “Shakespeare’s Time.”
We have a new champion! Congratulations, Emma Boettcher!
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) June 4, 2019
Boettcher told the paper she would be using her earnings to pay off student loans and donate to the University of North Carolina’s School of Information and Library Science where she earned her master’s degree. She added that she was thankful to become a part of Jeopardy! history.
“It’s been remarkable as a fan to have watched his run. James is such a great player. And for me, it would have been an honor to have played him regardless of how the game had turned out,” she said. “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.”
Before he was ousted, Holzhauer was poised to challenge the all-time earnings record set by Ken Jennings in 2004. Jennings completed a 74-game streak with $2,520,700 and Holzhauer was hot on his tail with earnings of $2,462,216 over his 32 games. Being a gambler, Holzhauer’s strategy since he first appeared on the game show on April 4th has been to bet high, which clearly paid off by getting him so close to the earnings record in nearly half the games. He shared in a statement that he didn’t expect to challenge the streak, but the earnings felt in reach.
“I never really believed I could win 75 shows, but I definitely thought I had a great shot at Ken’s cash winnings record,” he said. He also tweeted a very topical dig at Drake and his losing curse. Coming off of Sunday night, that one hurt a little.
— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) June 3, 2019
Holzhauer may have left the game without breaking the record, but he’s certainly left his mark on the game. Viewers have speculated that his high-stakes gambling approach may have permanently altered how people bet on the show. “My approach isn’t complicated: Get some money, hit the Daily Doubles, bet big, and hope I run hot,” he told Wired early in his streak. The same article posits that Boettcher, who used Holshauer’s own tactics against him, will employ the same strategy in her forthcoming appearances.