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How James Holzhauer broke more than one ‘Jeopardy’ record

Last night, besides winning more money in a single game of “Jeopardy!” than any other contestant, James Holzhauer, the raging “Jeopardy!” champion, quietly smashed a second record.

What most people might not realize: Over the course of 10 games, no other player in the history of the show has managed to average a nightly cash-in of more than $69,000 per game.

He did it while storming to a 10-day total of $697,787. Plus, Holzhauer managed Wednesday to log a perfect game: He answered 41 out of 41 questions correctly. It’s unclear whether or not he is the first to do it; but, certainly, no one in recent memory has answered that many questions right without getting one wrong.

As a professional gambler who specializes in sports betting, the Las Vegas native is doing what comes natural to anyone in his line of work: Maximizing wins without worrying excessively about the downside.

Professional sports bettor Blair Rodman, author of the poker how-to “Kill Phil” and an upcoming book focused on sports betting, sees Holzhauer employing a betting strategy that would be second nature to most any pro.

“Gamblers go in there willing to gamble,” says Rodman. “You play as aggressively as you can. You see people overjoyed at winning $8,000 on ‘Jeopardy’ but, a serious sports bettor is used to winning and losing much larger sums.”

So, in other words, he will not get attached to the money (thus missing out on opportunities to leverage it) or freak out about losing the dough.

James Holzhauer
James HolzhauerAP

Further, his overall aggressive approach is what would be expected of anyone who successfully beats sports for a living. “If you think your edge is better than 50 percent, I don’t think you should even bother reading the questions ahead of time,” says Rodman. “You should just be trying to buzz in first so that you give yourself every opportunity to accumulate money. You will be more likely than not to answer the question correctly.”

And if you don’t, appearing on a show like “Jeopardy!” is what gamblers describe as a “free roll.” It costs nothing to enter, so there is no financial downside. Hence, contestants ought to maximize the upside more aggressively than they would if it cost him money to get on the show.

Additionally, as a pro gambler, Holzhauer recognizes that losing is part of the game (successful sports bettors routinely fail 45 percent of the time while winning 55 percent of the time).

He’s accustomed to being in bad spots and digging out without losing his cool. “Dropping money will emotionally hurt everyone, but it will be less impactful for a professional gambler,” says Rodman, recalling Holzhauer blowing the maximum on at least one Daily Double near the start of a show and seeming unfazed. “If you think your strategy is working, you keep pushing forward and do not change things.”

Of course, maintaining Holzhauer’s win-rate helps. “Last night he was 41 out of 41,” says Rodman. “His edge is way higher at ‘Jeopardy!’ than it is at sports. If a sports bettor was right 90 percent of the time, he could gamble the way this kid gambles on the show. He’s a beast!”

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