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James Holzhauer Plays His Final Game

On Monday, June 3rd, Jeopardy phenomenon James Holzhauer saw his journey come to a close. During his 33rd game, less than $60,000 away from beating the record set by Ken Jennings, another famous Jeopardy contestant, he was defeated by librarian Emma Boettcher. His unexpected loss came as a shock to Jeopardy viewers and set the internet on fire with articles and videos and blogs regarding his defeat. Win or lose, James has managed to catch the attention of the world with his incredible strategies and his prodigious intelligence.


James’ first game was, without doubt, an unanticipated situation for Jeopardy viewers. He not only managed to find all three Daily Doubles that day but also racked up over $110,000 in a single game. People were astonished. A 34-year-old sports bettor from Las Vegas was the last person anyone expected to have so much success on Jeopardy. Over his next 32 games, he developed a 97% response accuracy rate, meaning it was nearly impossible for him to answer a question incorrectly. His success continued for so long that it began feeling like it couldn’t end. But, as unfortunate as it may be, all good things must come to an end.


NHS Journalism teacher, Ms. Karen Greco, has been watching Jeopardy since she was a kid, and her students know her to be something of a Jeopardy connoisseur. Upon seeing James’ performance in his first appearance on the show, Ms. Greco was amazed, not only at his intelligence but also at his playing strategies. He would ravage the board in search of Daily Doubles and place outrageous wagers, surprising not only the viewers of the show but his fellow contestants as well. That is, at least until Emma Boettcher came along. Boettcher used strategies similar to those that allowed James to rack up so many wins and was, simultaneously, extraordinarily intelligent.


The game was back and forth, possibly one of the most enticing and nerve-racking games played in Jeopardy history, but at the end of the excitement, it was Emma who came out on top. “They were both tremendously intelligent people with great strategies,” Ms. Greco says.“The game could have gone either way.”  Viewers were astonished that James’ Jeopardy career came to such an unanticipated end.


Although he lost so suddenly, he left the show with his signature positive disposition. He was, above all else, proud of his accomplishments and how far he had gone. “Nobody likes to lose,” Holzhauer said in an interview following his defeat, “But I’m very proud of how I did, and I really exceeded my own expectations for the show. So I don’t feel bad about it.” And he truly has nothing to feel bad about, especially considering he left the show with over $2.5 million in his pocket.


No matter who wins or loses, It is important to remember that Jeopardy not only provides us with great entertainment but also teaches us important lessons. “I think what I learned is how much having a strategy plays into Jeopardy,” Ms. Greco says, “It’s not just about knowing the right answers, it’s also about managing your money.”


James Holzhauer’s journey has given us hope that bravery, determination, and strategic thinking are skills that we should strive to have in every aspect of our lives… even if we don’t plan on competing in game shows.