Jeopardy! Legend Ken Jennings on James Holzhauer: ‘It’s Absolutely Insane’

In his 11 -game run, James Holzhauer has reigned Jeopardy ! like no one before. That’s no exaggeration. He already harbours the four highest-scoring games in the show’s record, and his $771,920 regular-season triumphs surpass all but one actor in the Jeopardy ! firmament: Ken Jennings.

You retain Jennings. In 2004, he went on a 74 -game, $2,520, 700 cavort, crushing Jeopardy ! records along the way. No one since has lasted more than 20 sports, and no one has come anywhere near as close to the money record, extremely not this quickly. In reality, at this same level in his own flash, Jennings had accumulated less than half of Holzhauer’s haul so far. At this pace, Holzhauer will outstrip Jennings by the end of May.

Statistically speaking, Jennings and Holzhauer are near reflects. Jeopardy ! dwelling players keep tabs on what’s known as their Coryat score, referred after two-day supporter Karl Coryat. In a blog affix written shortly after his 1996 impression, Coryat intimated the most wonderful route to meter one’s progress was to omit wagers–in Daily Doubles and the Final Jeopardy round, participates can bet a portion of their winnings–from final tallies. Through 11 activities, Jennings and Holzhauer have average Coryat scores of $29,127 and $29,400, respectively.

In the 15 times since his blotch, Jennings has written records, propelled a podcast, and grew a lively Twitter proximity. WIRED spoke with the former champ about Holzhauer’s run, what makes a great Jeopardy ! player, and what might happen when the two surely face off in some future Jeopardy ! All-Star tournament. This interview has been thinly edited for clarity.

WIRED: As someone who has played more Jeopardy ! than literally anyone, what are you looking in James Holzhauer’s gameplay ?

Ken Jennings : First of all, I’m just gobsmacked by James. It &# x27; s perfectly insane what he &# x27; s doing. Like, I believed I had pictured everything on Jeopardy !. And this is something I would have thought was just impossible, these numerals. Statistically 1 , he’s playing at as high a position as anyone who’s ever played video games. And then he’s got these fantastically confident gambles. He’s maximizing fund. He can conclude two or three times what any other actor ever has with that same statu of represent, which again is top-shelf. He’s as good as anybody.

I’ve always wanted to see somebody frolic that route, you know? I recollect as a kid doing the math and figuring out how much someone could win on Jeopardy !, if they got every question, and got all the Daily Doubles last-place, and they potted everything on them. Like, wow, look at that multitude 2 . Did I actually think we would ascertain someone try that? No, I did not.

Buzzy Cohen[ the 2017 Tournament of Champions winner] said something similar: Beings know the Jeopardy ! playbook. It’s just watching someone get it on. And you had more occasions than anyone to do that. I approximate why —

Why not me?

Yeah, why not go as large-hearted 3 , given that you knew that was the way to do it ?

James is maximizing outcomes, he’s maximizing triumphs. It’s weird, but in hindsight that could not have been further from my attention. The point that there was going to be a check, that didn’t seem real to me. I was frisking a game show like I had on my lounge. My identified priority wasn’t maximizing triumphs; it was to feel comfy and have fun cry refutes at Alex[ Trebek ], like I do at home.

I would never have had the gut for those kinds of speculations. You’re going to have to be comfortable with losing the average American income on a single trivia question a lot of the time, and then have to come back five minutes later and play another activity with that in the back of your imagination.< sup> 4 Psychologically, my peace of mind was built on merely playing my game–a lot lower posts, amusing recreation, let’s suppose we’re all here to have fun. James is under no such illusion.

You mentioned was coming five minutes later to play the next play. Do you mind talking a little bit about what happens as these sports rack up? How does that affect your gameplay? Is there a wearines point? Ten or 20 competitions feels different from five .

There’s two things going on. The first is that you &# x27; re get stronger the longer “youre playing”. You &# x27; re getting more comfortable, less stage fright, more buzzer experience. And every day they just retain bring back the truck full of fresh flesh. There’s a very strong home-field advantage the longer you play.

That &# x27; s honestly one of the smartest things James is doing, going for the high dollar prices early. Not time because it allows big gamblings, but because he’s taking fund off the board while he &# x27; s the most comfortable actor, and everybody else is still noting their legs. It’s actually, extremely smart. I &# x27; ve ever seen it before.

But the other part is that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You’re going to be at Jeopardy ! all day. You’re going to be playing all afternoon. Your head’s going to pained from the mentally charging aspects of dallying a game, your feet is to be able to jeopardize from standing on the stage for hours and hours.

I remember going all out on every play when I firstly started playing, and precisely being a wreck at the end of the day. After a few weeks of that I recognized, I want to have something left in the tank. From that moment I wasn’t relatively so all-out on every tournament, because I knew I might be doing it all afternoon.

You have the Jeopardy ! coin record and the longevity record. How much are you watching James with an see on your own bequest ?

I’m highly interested in James’ flash , not just as a supporter but because those are my records. But honestly it’s perhaps for the opposite reason that you think. I’ve always been on the record as be suggested that my fleck was replicable. It’s merely amazed me that no one has reached much of a run at it in 15 years. The intellect I’m so confident in that is that I was the one who did it! I was there. I know it can be done.

So I’m very excited. As a fan of the show, I’m actually springing for James or anybody who can take a change at that record. It’s bizarre to me that it’s still a one-off.

What admonition would you give to someone going up against him? What’s their best the expectations of existence ?

The main thing should not take yourself out of the game. I recollect picturing up at the Sony parking garage to play in the morning after my recreations had started moving. That was the only duration that Jeopardy ! contestants could show up and receive the returning supporter be the person they saw on TV. I would show up, and their faces would simply come. Honestly, that’s a huge part of the blotch: People concluding Well, I can’t drum this chap . It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But everybody’s beatable. When I lost, I time had to get a duet Daily Doubles in a row wrong and not know a Final Jeopardy answer. That happens all the time. There’s a law of averages with Jeopardy ! really because there’s so much better danger involved. It’s in the claim of the show.

Do you foresee facing off against James in a tournament? What happens when everyone he’s going up against has a speedy buzzer and that deep well of insight ?

In a tournament situation, James loses some of his line. He can’t take a lot of coin off members of the security council and place his contestants out of commission before the first commercial-grade. So that’s not a strategy you can count on anymore.

It’s certainly possible that at some quality they’re going to want me and James on the same indicate. Candidly? That’s going to be a real uphill battle for me. If you compare my stats to James’, they’re almost identical. But here’s the thing: That’s not me, that’s Ken from 15 years ago, who was 29, still super mentally acute. It’s kind of a young person’s tournament. I’m 45. At some level, I’m exactly a generation behind the brand-new crop of musicians, and they’re going to be a little bit sharper, a little bit faster than me, and there’s nothing I can do about it. There’s a is why even Tim Duncan eventually retired.

Using another sports resemblance: It feels like there are certain breakthrough moments when people realize you are able to stumble 60 home runs in a season, you can run a four-minute mile, and then lots of parties eventually follow. Is Jeopardy ! watching one of those times ?

You didn’t used to see people hunting for Daily Doubles until Roger Craig 5 , and then all the endorses started doing it. Now during regular-season Jeopardy ! you’re going to see a lot of beings trying that Moneyball substance. That changes the game. Now that James has shown people that it actually was working to affected the large-hearted dollar prices early and see the big wagers, I think we’re goes to a lot of beings trying his methods.

I’m quite confident that strategy only labours if you have a James Holzhauer level of Jeopardy ! lore. And of all the very smart people who appear on the support every night, a tiny fraction are James Holzhauer-level talent. His is a strategy that works amazingly well for a minuscule, tiny group of parties. Right now it seems like it’s a group of one.

1 There are lots of ways to slice this, but a area announced The Jeopardy! Fan has maintained a operating comparing between Jennings and Holzhauer that helps summarize their dominance.
2 The highest possible single-game Jeopardy ! value is $566,400.
3 Through 11 sports, Holzhauer has averaged $9,993 per Daily Double wager. At that same time in his run, Jennings averaged $2,533.
4 Jeopardy ! strips five occurrences in a single daytime, two days a week.
5 Roger Craig deemed the single-game Jeopardy ! record ($ 77,000) for over eight years. Holzhauer has drummed it three times already.

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