Jeopardy! Champ James Holzhauer Unable to Strike Gold at WSOP

There is some level of luck involved in the television game show Jeopardy! in that you never know what categories will be on the board in any given contest. I would kick ass if I saw headings of Baseball, Video Games, College Mascots, and Superheroes, but I might as well leave the stage if I had to wade through 18th Century English Lit, Popes, and Opera. By and large, though, Jeopardy! is a skill game where the best players combine broad knowledge, quick thinking, calm nerves, and a lightning-fast buzzer finger. James Holzhauer was overflowing with all of those qualities, which is why he put together one of the most dominating runs in the history of the show. Poker is a completely different animal, though, and though Holzhauer was reportedly a skilled poker player back when he played regularly (and considering how damn smart he is, I don’t doubt it one bit), he was unable to keep up his god-like run at the 2019 World Series of Poker this week, falling short of the money in two events.

Holzhauer Played for the Kids

The WSOP was not in the cards for Holzhauer until recently (pun surprisingly not intended), when Poker Hall of Famer and long-time voice of the World Poker Tour, Mike Sexton, contacted him and brought up the idea of partypoker sponsoring his entries. He suggested, after hearing about Holzhauer’s generous donations to charity with some of his Jeopardy! winnings, that he donate half of any WSOP winnings. Holzhauer accepted the offer.

“Like everyone, I was an avid fan of watching Jeopardy! when James was on his big run there,” Sexton said at a press conference. “I’m watching him – sports bettor from Vegas, online poker player back in his college days and all.”

The cause Holzhauer targeted, at the suggestion of his wife, was Project 150. The organization helps homeless high school students at nearly 80 high schools in Southern Nevada and Reno, offering financial support as well as school supplies, clothing, food, and hygiene products.

“There are 6,400 homeless teens and communities that really need assistance with everything,” Holzhauer said of Project 150. “Food, clothing, a place to sleep at night, basic essentials, toiletries. All the things that high schoolers take for granted. They are giving these teens a shot at breaking the cycle of poverty.”

Holzhauer, now a professional sports bettor, was a serious poker player before Black Friday cramped many a player’s style in the United States.

“I played online poker semi-professionally in the early 2000s, but I don’t intend to make a career of it now, as I’m sure I wouldn’t be good enough at it to justify forgoing other opportunities,” he recently told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“I stopped playing online poker due to a combination of the UIGEA legislation and realizing that I could make more money with less effort by betting sports. Honestly, my poker skills are so rusty that my main goal is to get lucky.”

Holzhauer was a frequent poster on the Two Plus Two forum, using the alias “crockpot.” After his 32-game winning streak on Jeopardy! ended, he made a brief return appearance on the site to give everyone a shout-out.

The Jeopardy! champ entered two events on Monday. The first was Event #56: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Super Turbo Bounty, which started in the late morning. He started out pretty well, more than doubling his initial chip stack, but poker is poker and it wasn’t to be, as he hit the rail before the money.

Three hours after the Super Turbo Bounty start was Event #57: $1,000 Tag Team No-Limit Hold’em. His partner in that one, of course, was Sexton. In this tournament, each player of the tag team is required to play at least one orbit and though both did make their contributions, it didn’t matter, as they were knocked out with little fanfare.

Jaw-Dropping Jeopardy! Dominance

James Holzhauer went from professional sports bettor to household name this spring, when he won 32 straight episodes of Jeopardy!, the second-longest streak in the show’s history. He didn’t come close to sniffing Ken Jennings’ record of 74 wins, but even Jennings was wowed by what Holzhauer was able to do in his contests.

Before Holzhauer, the single-game record on Jeopardy! was $77,000, accomplished by Roger Craig in 2010. Holzhauer demolished that, earning $131,127 in one match and winning more than $100,000 six times in total. Half of his wins beat Craig’s mark.

By not winning that 33rd game, Holzhauer just missed Jennings’ total earnings record; Holzhauer ended up with $2,462,216, while Jennings won $2,520,700. But because he was so incredibly dominant day-to-day, Holzhauer’s per game average is far and away the best of all time, $74,673.

Lead photo credit: @James_Holzhauer Twitter


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