[MUSIC] This is Jeopardy.
And this is James Holzhauer. [MUSIC]
What is Black Jack Pershing?
Who is Mario? What is Greece?
Who is David Cameron? What is tho Lusitania?
He’s a contestant on the show who is currently on an unprecedented win streak.
He’s destroying his opponents and winning a bunch of money in the process.
As of May 21st, 2019,
he holds the record for the most money won in a single game,
as well as the record for the other nine spots in the top 10.
He trails only all-time Jeopardy great Ken Jennings in most wins and total winnings.
His current pace has him set to overtake Ken Jennings’
$2.5 million in earnings in half as many games.
But what makes his run so extraordinary is his high-octane play style.
What is My Fair Lady Godiva?
What are toads?
What is granola bar mitzvah?
Yes. [APPLAUSE] James Holzhauer,
a great player and a nice guy.
Here’s a breakdown of how James’ strategy has made him so
successful and what it’s gonna take to beat him.
[MUSIC] I called up former Jeopardy champion Fritz Holznagel,
author of Secrets of the Buzzer.
I don’t know if we can see this very well or not.
It’s an e-book that teaches techniques to master
the Jeopardy buzzer to get some insights into James Holzhauer game.
He’s put all facets of the game together in a way that nobody else ever quite has.
From the beginning, James totally flips how the game is supposed to be played literally.
James, where do we start?
World of sport, a thousand.
He starts from the bottom of the board.
The Jeopardy board is comprised of
six columns of clues that increase in value from top to bottom.
This is intentional.
When you go on the show,
Jeopardy staff tells you,
“We prefer it if you start at the top and work your way down
to the harder questions,” partly because it’s easier for the people at home,
ah, but also because there may be clues
in these- the top ones that will help you answer the ones further down.
But James works the bottom of the board from the beginning of the round,
choosing the high dollar questions from different categories seemingly at random.
This looks a lot like the notorious Jeopardy strategy known as the Forrest bounce.
The strategy is named after Jeopardy champion Chuck Forrest,
who threw his opponents off balance by moving randomly around the board,
disrupting the natural rhythm of the game by denying
other players the opportunity to work through the categories.
But James isn’t moving around the board to psych out his opponents.
He’s on the hunt for something.
Lesser known names, 12.
And so there is the daily double. [APPLAUSE]
He’s trying to gather money up and then you know- and then find the daily double.
James Holzhauer is a professional gambler,
and you can see it in his gameplay.
He views the Jeopardy board as a grid of wagers
of where these daily doubles are most likely to be hiding.
His strategy isn’t about beating his opponents.
It’s about maximizing his winnings.
On its face, the goal of Jeopardy is to be the most knowledgeable player in the game.
That’s been its draw for the past 35 years.
Players and viewers at home could put their retention and recall skills to the test.
The amount of money won wasn’t really important,
as long as it was more than your opponents.
But with the rise of data mining and analytics,
new strategies have emerged to maximize the amount of money a contestant can win.
Online fan websites like J Archive and The Jeopardy Fan have cataloged
every single game and every single question since Jeopardy began.
Players have taken this information and mapped out
where daily doubles are most likely to be hiding.
They most often appear near the bottom, in the fourth row.
FiveThirtyEight has found that over the past 20 years,
daily doubles had been uncovered around the 16th or 17th clue.
But through his first 13 games,
James has hit the daily double around clue 12.
By starting at the bottom, James can uncover these high value clues early
while simultaneously collecting large sums of money from the bottom of the board.
He is one of the first people that kind of realized that if you aggressively
pile up money and at the same time hunt for those daily doubles,
then you’re gonna have a big edge.
But to execute this strategy,
James has to control the board.
James is buzzing in first 59 percent of the time.
That’s way more than the 33 percent random chance a Jeopardy contestant normally has.
This is where Fritz Holznagel’s buzzer technique comes in,
a technique that James has plugged in interviews.
I read an e-book called Secrets of the Buzzer,
go check Amazon, that had a lot of helpful advice.
Contestants can only buzz in after Alex Trebek
finishes reading the clue and a light above the scoreboard turns on.
Only the players, ah, in the studio can see it.
People at home can’t see it.
Ken Jennings tried to time his buzzes by
anticipating Trebek saying the last syllable of a clue.
But this can be difficult and dangerous.
It’s very hard to tell when he is officially ending a word.
Like when he says kick,
he will say kick-kah, kick-kah.
If a player jumps the gun and buzzes too early,
their buzzer is locked out for a quarter of a second.
A quarter of a second can be a lifetime in Jeopardy.
Fritz realized shaving off fractions of a second
to your reaction time could be a huge advantage.
He timed himself using a series of different buzzer techniques to find the fastest.
You know, you can hold your hand this way or you can kind of hold your hand that way.
Poise it over the desk,
over the podium and then when the light goes on,
[NOISE] ram it down.
He discovered that most contestants waste time by aggressively pressing the buzzer.
And when they buzz, you can kind of see ’em swinging their arm.
That whole time that you’re swinging your arm, you’re losing time.
But James just looks like he’s standing there with his arms crossed.
And that’s, ah, precisely the- the,
ah, suggestion I make in the book.
James is limiting unnecessary movement by gripping the buzzer
at waist level and bracing his buzzer hand with his free hand.
Fritz claims this technique could reduce buzzer reaction time by half,
from about 268 to 126 milliseconds.
It also has the added benefit of comfort,
helping the player remain relaxed while
the other competitors frantically spam the buzzer.
You can see that in their hand motions,
strangling at it or look like they wou- would like
to strangle it and you can understand why.
Coz he’s, coz he’s so fast.
His control of the board essentially neutralizes his opponents.
But what catapults James’ earnings into
the stratosphere is the huge wagers he makes on daily doubles.
Eleven thousand nine fourteen.
According to FiveThirtyEight, a typical daily double wager is just under $2,500.
Ken Jennings averaged slightly higher around $2,900.
But James Holzhauer is betting an average of $9,200.
Most people have not bet at all on daily doubles.
He knows that he’s got
seven in 10 or eight in 10 chance of answering any individual daily doubles,
so he should be betting it all.
He’s earning almost twice as much on daily doubles
alone than his opponents earned throughout the course of an entire game.
James has been on lock to win the game
90 percent of the time going into the final Jeopardy round.
He has such a sizable lead that his opponents have no chance in overtaking him.
He capitalizes on this by betting even more money.
He’s so far ahead that he can make large wagers without
the fear of losing if he gets the final Jeopardy question wrong.
And he rarely gets them wrong.
For all the high level trivia talent Jeopardy has seen over the years,
James has been exceptional at correctly answering daily double and Final Jeopardy clues.
His whole strategy wouldn’t work if James didn’t have the trivia chops to back it up.
Beating James Holzhauer is going to be tough mainly because
the only player that seems capable of beating James is James.
James has admitted that the most likely scenario that will end his run is him missing
one of those high wager daily doubles and another player jumping out ahead of him.
But to fend off James,
that player would have to play the same high stakes
aggressive play style to build an unassailable lead.
James’ aggressive style in wild success could set
a new precedent for how Jeopardy is meant to be played.
Yeah. I do think he’s changing the way the game is gonna be played in the future.
More people are gonna play more aggre- aggressive game,
start at the bottom a lot more,
and bet a lot more on daily doubles.
What do you think of James Holzhauer playstyle?
Is it fun to watch or is it ruining the game of Jeopardy?
Let us know in the comments below,
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