“Jeopardy!” champ James Holzhauer notched his 26th straight victory despite stiff opposition from another contestant.
The professional gambler from Las Vegas ended Thursday night’s match with $52,108, bringing his total to $1,991,135.
Host Alex Trebek opened the broadcast by pointing out just how historic Holzhauer’s winning streak is.
“About a month and a half ago, the one-day record for winnings in an episode of ‘Jeopardy!’ was $77,000,” Trebek said, gesturing firmly. “That record had stood for many, many years. Our current champion, James, is averaging more than $77,000 per show. Every. Day. Scary stuff.”
Holzhauer, 34, triumphed in the latest episode despite a serious challenge from opponent Nate Scheffey, a technology consultant from New York City.
“The gentlemen have owned the game [but] the game is not over yet,” Trebek said as the competition heated up. “It’s not a runaway for a change.”
If Scheffey had wagered more during a Daily Double, he would have had accumulated enough money to derail Holzhahuer’s lucrative long run.
In the end, Scheffey went into Final Jeopardy with $25,800, trailing Holzhauer’s $31,200 — but not by much. And while both contestants wrote down the correct last-round answer, Holzhauer bet enough money to beat Scheffey with a final score of $52,108 to $35,800.
Holzhauer remains second fiddle to “Jeopardy” hero Ken Jennings in two major “Jeopardy!” categories. Jennings won 74 games during his epic run in 2004; Holzhauer is more then one-third of the way there. During those games, Jennings racked up the all-time record high of $2,520,700 during regular-season play. Holzhauer has about $530,000 to go on that front before he can assume the top spot.
But Jennings himself is cheering Holzhauer on, drowning out a chorus of online critics blaming him for making the game “boring.”
“I’m the only person alive who knows firsthand how difficult it is to do what Holzhauer is doing, and that’s why I’m rooting him on,” he wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “I may hold a bunch of ‘Jeopardy!’ records, but at heart I’m just a fan of the show. And for any real ‘Jeopardy!’ fan, this streak is something special.”
Additional reporting by Keith Williams