Jeopardy! Destroyer James Holzhauer to Play in WSOP

The other poker players at the 2019 World Series of Poker had better hope that James Holzhauer has some catching up to do with his poker skills because if he is as good at poker as he is at trivia, the record-setting Jeopardy! champion is about to burn the Rio to the ground this coming week. According to a report from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Holzhauer will be competing in not one, but two events on Monday: the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Super Turbo Bounty event and the $1,000 Tag Team No-Limit Hold’em event.

James Holzhauer going all-in with Alex Trebek
Photo credit: @James_Holzhauer Twitter

Holzhauer Was Appointment Television

Holzhauer captured the attention of Americans, and really the world, when he went on one of the most impressive runs in gameshow history. From April 4th through June 3rd, Holzhauer won 32 consecutive episodes of Jeopardy!, second only to Ken Jennings (74) in show history. Though Jennings outpaced Holzhauer significantly in terms of games won, the sheer dominance of Holzhauer was arguably more impressive.

Prior to Holzhauer, the single-game winnings record was $77,000, set by Roger Craig in 2010. Craig now ranks 17th; Holzhauer beat his record an astounding 16 times during his stay as Jeopardy! champion. He eclipsed $100,000 six times, setting the new single-game record at $131,127.

Holzhauer also has the largest successful Daily Double wager ($25,000), largest successful Final Jeopardy! wager ($60,013), and most winnings in a five-day stretch ($298,687).

Though Holzhauer came up just short of Jennings’ total winnings record (regular season, not counting tournaments) – $2,520,700 to $2,462,216 – his average per game was much higher, $74,673 to $34,063. Holzhauer achieved such insane numbers by being aggressive. He went for the high dollar value answers first, which served two purposes: Daily Doubles were more likely to be behind high dollar amounts and he could build up more money before landing on a Daily Double. He was also quite aggressive with his wagers. It certainly helps that he rarely got a question wrong.

Poker Player Turned Sports Bettor

Lest one think he is just throwing around a little bit of his winnings at the WSOP, Holzhauer is a former serious poker player. He used to post frequently on Two Plus Two under the screen name “crockpot” and met several of his friends on the poker forum. One of his best friends is three-time WSOP bracelet winner Ben Yu.

On the show, Holzhauer even mentioned his former poker days, joking that he majored in poker at the University of Illinois. He is now a successful professional sports bettor.

“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 told the 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,” he added. “Honestly, my poker skills are so rusty that my main goal is to get lucky.”

Holzhauer still has a fondness for his poker roots. After his loss finally aired (Jeopardy! tapes five episodes a day, so he had known his fate long before the telecast), “crockpot” dropped into Two Plus Two’s thread about the show, joking simply, “new computer. who dis?”

Considering Holzhauer is entering two tournaments on the same day, he might not have a ton of confidence in his chances, but there have been people who have bounced from table to table playing two events at the same time, so who knows? Then again, considering the two tournaments, it might work. The first is the Super Turbo Bounty, with levels lasting just 20 minutes. It starts at 11:00am, three hours before the second tournament, the Tag Team event, and will go on dinner break before 6:00pm, so he could theoretically skip dinner and play in the Tag Team event. Additionally, Holzhauer needs only to play one round of blinds in the Tag Team event, so he could do that and leave the rest up to his partner. In fact, now that I have worked through it all, if he is still alive in the first event at the dinner break, he could use that opportunity to play his orbit in the Tag Team event.

That partner that he would tag-in for is Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton. He told the Review-Journal that Sexton contact him and offered to sponsor his buy-ins; it sounds like he was not really considering playing in the World Series of Poker otherwise.

Holzhauer is going to donate half of his World Series of Poker winnings, if any, to charity. He and his wife have already donated $300,000 to charity.


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