You have to admit, the life of a Jeopardy! streaker seems pretty sweet. Two days of work a week, taping five episodes where you get to talk to Alex Trebek and win some money. If you play long enough, Ken Jennings and the rest of the world takes notice for a bit and marvels at how good you are at buzzing in quickly and recalling information in the form of a question.
James Holzhauer is currently having a moment on Jeopardy!, crushing the competition and putting up huge numbers in a dozen games won thus far. He owns five of the game show’s highest single-game performances ever, a remarkable feat in and of itself. And it’s got guys like Jennings — the winningest player in Jeopardy! history — excited about his performances.
Jennings has talked about Holzhauer on Twitter and explained what makes his strategy so effective given how the show operates. And he’s also said Holzhauer has a legitimate shot to go on a 74-game run like Jennings did nearly a decade ago. But the trivia whiz and multi-millionaire thanks to his success on the show also thinks his success will change the way Jeopardy! is played in the future.
Jennings spoke to Wired about Holzhauer and the show and pointed out that, now that the aggressive strategy Holzhauer utilized has been successful, more people will try it for themselves.
You didn’t used to see people hunting for Daily Doubles until Roger Craig, and then all the champions started doing it. Now during regular-season Jeopardy! you’re going to see a lot of people trying that Moneyball stuff. That changes the game. Now that James has shown people that it really works to hit the big dollar values early and make the big wagers, I think we’re going to see a lot of people trying his methods.
As Ken Jennings told Wired, it’s not like his approach is revolutionary. And one interesting note is that Jennings doesn’t think his play will be as effective if they go head to head or other champions.
In a tournament scenario, James loses some of his edge. He can’t take a lot of money off the board and put his competitors out of commission before the first commercial. So that’s not a strategy you can count on anymore.
Jennings has been highly complimentary of Holzhauer, and for good reason. He says the aggressive strategy only works if you have the knowledge Holzhauer does. And he’s right — he knows a lot. And he also knows exactly how Jeopardy! should be played.