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Entertainment & Arts

Is ‘Jeopardy!’ phenom James Holzhauer’s reign finally over?

James Holzhauer on “Jeopardy!”
James Holzhauer on the May 24 episode of “Jeopardy!”
(Jeopardy Productions)

James Holzhauer’s long reign on “Jeopardy!” appears to be heading for its finale on Monday’s episode of the game show, according to an apparently leaked video clip that circulated Sunday.

“My kid cried about the possibility of her dad losing, so I told her we could have a party the day after it inevitably happens. Now she cries when I win,” the Las Vegas resident tweeted Sunday as the video made the rounds on social media.

Holzhauer, a 34-year-old professional gambler, had racked up more than $2 million as of Friday and had done so at the fastest rate ever. He used a strategy that involved approaching the board out of order, hunting for Daily Doubles and handling high-dollar-value clues as soon as possible.

He also incorporated big-money bets on Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy that again and again put him over the top against his competitors. But in the video that circulated Sunday, he placed a smaller-than-usual bet on his Final Jeopardy, despite having the correct answer. Er, question. This is “Jeopardy!,” after all.

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Headlines have dubbed him the man who “broke” the game.

“All good professional gamblers are selectively aggressive. You need to pick your spots and bet big when you identify them,” Holzhauer told NPR in April. “That’s basically my Jeopardy strategy in a nutshell.”

On Monday morning, Holzhauer gave a clue about the outcome of tonight’s episode: “Knew I shouldn’t have invited @Drake to the @Jeopardy taping,” Holzhauer tweeted, referencing the singer’s recent appearances at the NBA Finals and the notion that he’s a bad-luck charm for teams.

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In the short video clip from the episode, which is expected to air Monday night, the contestants’ answers and bets on Final Jeopardy are revealed, and it comes down to second-place Holzhauer’s total against leader Emma Boettcher’s. With $23,400 in his pot, Holzhauer wagered only $1,399, surprising even host Alex Trebek.

“His wager, a modest one for the first time,” Trebek said as Holzhauer’s correct response — “Who is Kit Marlowe?” — was revealed. Holzhauer’s total was $24,799.

Then Trebek moves on to Boettcher, who it turns out bet $20,201 of her $26,600 pot and knew the right answer, hitting a total of $46,801 and taking over as “Jeopardy!” champion.

“Oh gosh! What a payday,” Trebek said. “What a game! Oh my gosh!” Holzhauer himself strolled across the stage to give Boettcher a high-five.

And so it appears Holzhauer’s historic reign will end after 32 consecutive wins and total winnings of $2,464,216, including his $2,000 prize for finishing second on Monday. And though he racked up the big bucks faster than any other champion in history, he still didn’t quite surpass all-time winner Ken Jennings, who over the course of 74 victories in 2004 took home $2,520,700.

Around the time the video was circulating, Las Vegas native Holzhauer had his mind on other things — like the taxes he’ll have to pay on his winnings.

cdz@latimes.com

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@theCDZ on Twitter and Instagram


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