The Untold Truth Of Jeopardy! Champion James Holzhauer

This game show contestant is known for his 32-game winning streak on Jeopardy! Who is James Holzhauer? The American gambler is the third highest-earning game show contestant of all time, winning a total of $2,464,216 on Jeopardy! and falling just shy of Ken Jennings $2,520,700 record for the highest cumulative cash winnings on the iconic game show.

"For 15 years, I have thought somebody was gonna make a run at this record," Jennings, who set the record in 2004, told Good Morning America in May 2019 during Holzhauer's winning streak. "... What I did not expect was that somebody could make a run at the cash record in like a third [of] the time."

Holzhauer has made a name for himself as a modern game show genius, and for good reason. At the age of 4, the mathematician was featured in the Chicago Tribune as a child prodigy. His teachers told the outlet that he could add two-digit numbers in his head without batting an eye. According to the New York Times, Holzhauer was taking fifth grade math at age 7 and skipped the second grade entirely. But, despite his innate ability for academics, Holzhauer was not exactly a model student and often skipped class to play internet poker. "There were times in school where I would say, 'I should go to class,'" Holzhauer noted. "But I could make $100 playing online poker if I didn't go." Keep scrolling for more details about the Jeopardy! legend.

James Holzhauer's math skills definitely paid off

It seems like James Holzhauer was good at, well, everything. As he made his way through grade 12, he consistently took home first place trophies in a variety of academic competitions. The math whiz went on to graduate with a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Illinois. Yet, while there is no denying Holzhauer's intelligence, he struggled to land a stable job and instead set his sights on sports betting. It seemed to be the wise choice for him with his competitive edge as a math expert.

Before he stepped onto the Jeopardy! stage he tested the waters on a show called The Chaser, where he won $175,000 for him and his team, according to the New York Post. Of course, he set records on that show, as well, answering 12 questions correctly in the opening round, and 19 questions in the finals. While he was clearly ready to take on Jeopardy!, it actually took him six years to land a spot on the live show, according to the New York Times.

Once he got on the show, however, he devised the perfect strategy for success: to be just a little bit better than everyone else. "If you synthesize, like, ten different things, you do one or two percent better than someone else ... so I need at least some knowledge of every category," he told Vulture. "It was finding a little bit of an edge in every aspect of the game as I could."

James Holzhauer is sitting pretty following his winning streak

James Holzhauer's winning streak on Jeopardy! came to an end in June 2019, after losing to librarian Emma Boettcher, per the New York Times. Regardless of his loss, he made out pretty well, averaging a take home of $77,000 per episode. "Nobody likes to lose," he said at the time, "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."

These days, he lives in Las Vegas with his wife, Melissa Sassin Holzhauer, who is also a game show fanatic herself. In 2014, she took home $29,000 after a brief run on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, per Heavy. The couple shares one daughter and Holzhauer has dedicated several of his bets in her honor. "Family will always be more important to me than money or winning on Jeopardy!" he told the Naperville Sun. "The bets were a fun and unconventional way for me to show that." And to fans of the hit game show, Holzhauer will always be a winner in their eyes.