Wednesday, April 24, 2019

James Holzhauer breaks a million

So he's done it, and in only fourteen games.  It took Ken Jennings a whopping 74 games to win his 2.5 million.  At this rate, Hozhauer will get there in 34 games.  Ratings are off the scale.  Jeopardy! has beaten the NHL and NBA playoffs in the respective time slot.  And right now, on average, he is making more per game than Alex Trebek.

As this piece says, he's the man who broke Jeopardy!.  I already posted about him here.  It's something to watch.  Some have complained that it's almost cruel, the huge winnings he makes while the others are scratching by trying to break 10K. But as he already explained, it doesn't matter.  If he won with 50K and the 2nd place contestant came in with 48K, then that contestant still only gets 2000.00.  That's just waste.  In fact, that's just money that goes back to the Jeopardy! pot.  Not now.  

On any given day, with the current setup, Jeopardy! could assume it would pay out between 25K - 35K combined to all three contestants.  Sometimes less.  Now Hozhauer is averaging over 70,000 per game.  Almost double every day than the show was used to. 

Most assume there will be changes in the game once he's gone.  Already it's clear that the show is trying to adjust, stacking the clues with categories he doesn't seem strong in - and yet he still manages.  Likewise, his strategy of flying straight to the biggest clue values has led to the Daily Doubles being placed near the bottom, something that usually wasn't the case (the effect being it takes away from the higher dollar amount of the clue, reducing, at least by some, the amount he can wager). 

He's shattering almost every record there is.  His accuracy is stunning, and his ability to find those Daily Doubles almost as impressive.  So great are his skills that when he wins 73K, Alex refers to it as 'only', while a second place contestant can finish with almost 20K and it looks paltry.

Nope.  At this point, everyone admits the game will have to change.  How it will change can only be guessed.  But change it will. 


  1. I'll admit as someone designing a game and who loves games and game theory in general, part of me is just baffled by how you "break" jeopardy in the first place. (Other than being a robot sent from the future who knows everything.) It just seems like the most elegant and simple of designs that leaves most of it up to player choices.

    1. Like they say, it's a perfect storm. He has the buzzer speed and the broad knowledge plus fast recall. But he has the strategy down flat. Plus, as a pro gambler, he thinks nothing of betting it all. Given his high accuracy rate, there's a good chance he doubles his earnings. Some are saying they're starting to get bored. In most games, within a minute or two of the second round, he's already uncatchable. The only mystery is how much money he'll make at the end of the game.

    2. So he barely squeaked by last night, winning by 18.00. BTW, the second place fellow had 53K - the largest non-winning amount in the show's history. But we noticed something. After more than two weeks, you pick up on a contestant's strong and weak categories. James' weak spots are nature, pop culture, movies and literature. Not that he knows nothing, those are just where he is weakest. Likewise, sports and recreational topics are his strongest (naturally). Last night, probably 70% of the clues were in his weak categories. Nothing at all about sports. That cannot be a coincidence (remember, these are pre-recorded. The show would not know if this would be a positive for ratings or not).

      It's also worth noting that they are having the Daily Doubles almost always near the bottom of the boards now. Traditionally they seldom did that. This way James can't accumulate large amounts before getting those daily doubles.

      It's almost impossible to believe that the show isn't adjusting to at least minimize his winnings. So we'll see how this continues. Remember, they did the same to Austin.


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