Why I’m rooting for James Holzhauer on ‘Jeopardy!’

When James Holzhauer returns to “Jeopardy!” Monday night after a two-week hiatus, he will already be the second-longest-running contestant in the venerable quiz show’s history. During his 22-game winning streak, he has amassed almost $1.7 million, getting within spitting distance of the $2.5 million all-time cash record. All right, fine, if you insist: my all-time cash record.

It’s impossible to overstate what a statistical outlier Holzhauer has been during his “Jeopardy!” rampage — even for a fellow “Jeopardy!” outlier like me. Let me put it this way: When I set the one-day “Jeopardy!” earnings record back in 2004, my total that night was $75,000. Over his first 22 games on the show, Holzhauer is averaging $76,864 per game. Nice work, if you can get it.

We are seeing history made in front of our eyes, the “Jeopardy!” equivalent of a basketball player notching 70-point games for an entire season or a baseball player hitting for the cycle in every game. Even casual fans of the show have probably heard by now how Holzhauer is doing it: He’s a sports bettor who feels supremely comfortable wagering aggressively, and he cannily plays the game board from the bottom up, starting with the highest dollar values and amassing cash before the Daily Doubles have been found and while his poor opponents are still finding their feet.

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