There are no secrets anymore. Case in point: the leaked video that went viral over the weekend, showing James Holzhauer, the professional gambler who has won more than $2 million on Jeopardy!, finally losing.

Separately, the New York Times revealed in previously conducted interview today what Holzhauer had to say after he lost -- and also talked with the player who beat him.

Obviously, there are spoilers in the rest of this column, so if you're reading this before the show airs, and if you've been following Holzhauer and don't want to know what reportedly happens beforehand, be forewarned.

The leaked video

The video started circulating over the weekend, and brought with it rumors of deep fakes or other trickery. 

But the show has now aired in several cities in the U.S. as of this writing, so we can confirm it's legitimate: Holzhauer loses after 32 wins and just a bit less than $2.5 million in total winnings.

The new champion: Emma Boettcher, a user experience resident librarian at the University of Chicago who graduated from Princeton University in 2014 and earned a master's degree in information science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016 according to her website and LinkedIn page.

You can see the video embedded at the end of this column. 

It would appear that Boettcher won by playing the same high-risk strategy as Holzhauer -- and beating him at it.

As Holzhauer explained in a previous interview with the Times in April, he came to believe the traditional Jeopardy! strategy was too risk-averse. 

The winning strategy

"Really, the big risk is in never trying anything that looks like a big gamble," he said then, and added in the interview that ran Monday: "A lot of the opponents have adjusted to the strategy, but not all of them have had the guts to actually back it up with a big bet."

Boettcher, apparently, came to the exact same conclusion. Here's how the Times described the game:

During one turning point in the game, Holzhauer chose a $1,200 clue about state capitols -- but Boettcher beat him to the buzzer. She was behind at the time, but wagered everything on the Daily Double she found next, and answered correctly.

In Final Jeopardy, Boettcher was leading Holzhauer $26,600 to $23,400. All three contestants answered the final question correctly.

  • Question: The line "A great reckoning in a little room in "As You Like It" is usually taken to refer to this author's premature death.
  • Answer: Who is Christopher "Kit" Marlowe? (the 16th century English poet and playwright).

As host Alex Trebek says in the clip, Holzhauer's wager is "a modest one for the first time," just $1,399, which brings him to $24,799. 

However, Boettcher bet big -- $20,201 -- which means she winds up with $1 more than the maximum Holzhauer could have won even if he'd bet everything.

'A perfect game'

The Times interview paraphrases Boettcher saying she'd "watched 'Jeopardy!' religiously for years, playing along with a pen as a makeshift buzzer and documenting her scores in a notebook."

And when she had the chance, she took it. As it becomes clear that she wins in the clip, she breaks into a broad smile and Holzhauer walks over to high-five her and congratulate her for winning.

"I lost to a really top-level competitor," Holzhauer told the Times. "She played a perfect game. And that was what it took to beat me."

Here's the video that leaked over the weekend:

Published on: Jun 3, 2019
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