In a interview, the "Jeopardy!" record-holder describes what makes Holzhauer great—and what would happen if the two confronted off.

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'Jeopardy!' record-holder Ken Jennings says he is "just gobsmacked" by just how James Holzhauer is playing the gameshow.Ben Hider/Getty Images

In his 11-game run, James Holzhauer has conquered Jeopardy! choose no one before. It is no exaggeration. He currently holds the four highest-scoring games in the show’s history, and also his $771,920 regular-season winnings surpass all however one player in the Jeopardy! firmament: Ken Jennings.

You mental Jennings. In 2004, the went on a 74-game, $2,520,700 romp, shattering Jeopardy! records along the way. No one because has lasted more than 20 games, and also no one has actually come almost everywhere near together close to the money record, specifically not this quickly. In fact, at this same allude in his own streak, Jennings had accumulated less than fifty percent of Holzhauer’s haul so far. At this rate, Holzhauer will certainly surpass Jennings by the end of May.

Statistically speaking, Jennings and also Holzhauer are near mirrors. Jeopardy! home players keep tabs ~ above what’s well-known as their Coryat score, called after two-day champion knife Coryat. In a blog article written soon after his 1996 appearance, Coryat suggested the best means to measure up one’s progression was to exclude wagers—in day-to-day Doubles and the final Jeopardy round, players have the right to bet a part of your winnings—from last tallies. V 11 games, Jennings and also Holzhauer have actually average Coryat scores that $29,127 and also $29,400, respectively.

In the 15 years because his streak, Jennings has written books, introduced a podcast, and cultivated a vivid Twitter presence. spoke through the former champ around Holzhauer’s run, what provides a an excellent Jeopardy! player, and also what might happen once the two inevitably confront off in some future Jeopardy! All-Star tournament. This interview has been lightly edited because that clarity. as someone who has played an ext Jeopardy! than literally anyone, what are you see in James Holzhauer’s gameplay?

Ken Jennings: an initial of all, I’m just gobsmacked by James. It's for sure insane what he's doing. Like, I thought I had actually seen everything on Jeopardy!. And this is something ns would have thought was just impossible, this numbers. Statistically1, he’s play at as high a level as anyone who’s ever played the game. And also then he’s obtained these very confident wagers. He’s maximizing money. He deserve to make 2 or 3 times what any type of other player ever before has with that exact same level that play, i beg your pardon again is top-shelf. He is as an excellent as anybody.

I’ve always wanted to check out somebody play that way, girlfriend know? ns remember as a boy doing the math and also figuring out how much somebody could win on Jeopardy!, if they obtained every question, and got every the daily Doubles last, and they bet every little thing on them. Like, wow, watch at that number2. Walk I actually think we would view someone shot that? No, i did not.

Buzzy Cohen said something similar: world know the Jeopardy! playbook. It’s just watching someone do it. And you had more chances 보다 anyone to execute that. Ns guess why—

Why no me?

Yeah, why no go as big3, offered that friend knew the was the means to perform it?

James is maximizing outcomes, he is maximizing winnings. The weird, however in hindsight that might not have actually been further from mine mind. The fact that there to be going to it is in a check, the didn’t seem genuine to me. I was playing a game display like I had on my couch. My peak priority no maximizing winnings; it to be to feel comfortable and also have fun yelling answers at Alex , choose I perform at home.

I would never ever have had the stomach for those kinds of bets. You’re going to have to be comfortable with losing the typical American earnings on a single trivia concern a most the time, and also then need to come back five minutes later and play another game with that in the ago of your mind.4 Psychologically, my tranquility of mental was built on just playing mine game—a lot reduced stakes, funny game, let’s pretend we’re all below to have actually fun. James is under no together illusion.

You mentioned coming earlier five minutes later to play the next game. Execute you mind talk a little bit around what happens together these gamings rack up? just how does that impact your gameplay? Is there a fatigue factor? Ten or 20 gamings feels different from five.

There’s two points going on. The an initial is that you're acquiring stronger the longer you play. You're getting more comfortable, much less stage fright, more buzzer experience. And every work they simply keep bringing in the truck complete of fresh meat. Yes a very strong home-field advantage the longer you play.

That's honestly one of the smartest points James is doing, going for the high dollar values early. No just because it allows bigger wagers, but since he’s taking money off the plank while he's the many comfortable player, and everybody rather is quiet finding your legs. The really, yes, really smart. I've never ever seen that before.

But the other factor is that it’s no a sprint, the a marathon. She going to be in ~ Jeopardy! every day. She going to be play all afternoon. Her head’s going to hurt indigenous the holy ghost taxing aspects of playing a game, your feet are going come hurt indigenous standing top top the stage for hours and hours.

I remember walking all out on every game when I very first started playing, and just being a destructive at the end of the day. After ~ a couple of weeks that that ns realized, I want to have actually something left in the tank. Native that allude I wasn’t fairly so all-out on every game, due to the fact that I knew I might be doing it every afternoon.

You have actually the Jeopardy! money record and the longevity record. Exactly how much room you watching James with an eye top top your very own legacy?

I’m extremely interested in James’ streak, not just as a fan but since those are my records. Yet honestly it’s more than likely for the opposite factor that friend think. I’ve constantly been ~ above the document as believing that my streak was replicable. It’s just mystified me the nobody has made much of a run at it in 15 years. The factor I’m so confident in that is that ns was the one who did it! i was there. I understand it deserve to be done.

So I’m very excited. As a pan of the show, I’m actually rooting because that James or everyone who have the right to take a totter at that record. The bizarre to me that it’s tho a one-off.

What advice would certainly you give to who going up against him? what’s their finest hope of survival?

The key thing is not to take yourself out of the game. I remember getting here at the Sony parking garage come play in the morning after ~ my gamings had started running. That was the only time the Jeopardy! contestants might show up and also see the return champion be the human being they observed on TV. Ns would present up, and also their deals with would just fall. Honestly, it is a huge part of the streak: world thinking Well, i can’t win this guy. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But everybody’s beatable. When I lost, ns just had to obtain a couple Daily Doubles in a heat wrong and also not understand a final Jeopardy answer. That happens every the time. There’s a law of averages v Jeopardy! just since there’s so much risk involved. The in the location of the show.

Do you anticipate dealing with off versus James in a tournament? What happens when everyone he’s going up against has a fast buzzer and that deep well of knowledge?

In a tournament scenario, James loses several of his edge. He can’t take it a many money turn off the board and put his rivals out that commission before the first commercial. Therefore that’s no a strategy you deserve to count ~ above anymore.

It’s certainly feasible that at some allude they’re walking to desire me and also James ~ above the same show. Honestly? that’s going to be a actual uphill battle for me. If you compare my stats come James’, they’re virtually identical. However here’s the thing: That’s no me, that’s Ken indigenous 15 year ago, that was 29, quiet super holy ghost acute. It’s type of a young who game. I’m 45. At part point, I’m simply a generation behind the new crop of players, and also they’re walking to be a small bit sharper, a tiny bit faster than me, and there’s nothing I have the right to do about it. There’s a factor why also Tim Duncan eventually retired.

Using another sports analogy: that feels favor there are particular breakthrough moment when world realize you can hit 60 house runs in a season, you have the right to run a four-minute mile, and also then lots of world eventually follow. Is Jeopardy! witnessing one of those moments?

You didn’t supplied to see human being hunting for day-to-day Doubles till Roger Craig5, and then all the champions started doing it. Now throughout regular-season Jeopardy! you’re walk to view a lot of of world trying that Moneyball stuff. That changes the game. Now that James has shown human being that it really functions to fight the huge dollar worths early and make the big wagers, ns think we’re walk to view a many of people trying his methods.

I’m pretty confident the strategy only works if you have a James Holzhauer level of Jeopardy! knowledge. And also of every the an extremely smart world who show up on the display every night, a tiny portion are James Holzhauer–level talent. His is a strategy that functions amazingly well because that a tiny, tiny group of people. Right currently it seems like it’s a group of one.

1 there are numerous ways to slice this, yet a site dubbed The Jeopardy! Fan has actually maintained a running comparison between Jennings and Holzhauer that helps illustrate their dominance.2 The highest possible single-game Jeopardy! score is $566,400.3 through 11 games, Holzhauer has actually averaged $9,993 every Daily dual wager. At that same allude in his run, Jennings average $2,533.4 Jeopardy! tapes 5 episodes in a solitary day, 2 days a week.5 roger Craig held the single-game Jeopardy! document ($77,000) for over eight years. Holzhauer has actually beaten it four times already.

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Brian Barrett is executive Editor, News at, overseeing day to day coverage across the site. Prior to he was the editor in cook of the technology and society site Gizmodo and also was a service reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest day-to-day newspaper.

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