If you missed Jeopardy! last night, you missed history. In his fourth consecutive appearance, professional gambler James Holzhauer emerged from Final Jeopardy with $110,914, over 40 percent more than the previous record sum of $77,000. His secret? Reading information-dense children’s books.
The Washington Post reports that the only subjects the Illinois native has studied extensively are Led Zeppelin lyrics and all-time home run leaders. Neither has come up so far in his run, and Jeopardy! is a game that rewards general knowledge more than specific expertise.
That’s why reading those children’s books has been so helpful. “They are chock-full of infographics, pictures and all kinds of stuff to keep the reader engaged,” he told the Post. “I couldn’t make it through a chapter of an actual Dickens novel without falling asleep.”
Of course, reading children’s books isn’t the only way he prepared. In some ways, Holzhauer has been getting ready for Jeopardy! for decades. He excelled in high school quiz competitions and has appeared on other game shows. He also watched hours of Jeopardy! in a row, standing in dress shoes to more closely approximate the experience of being a contestant.
His background in mathematics and physics also proved helpful, particularly in yesterday’s pivotal Final Jeopardy round. The category was Physics Terms. The clue: “Ironically, a metaphor meaning a huge step forward, but this 2-word process only occurs on a subatomic scale.”
“What is quantum leap?” was the correct response. Holzhauer wrote it on his screen above his wager of $38,314 and a note that read “Happy birthday, Booger <3″
Both the note and the amount were messages to his daughter. After winning with sums referencing his wedding anniversary and the birthdays of other family members in his previous appearances, his record-breaking $110,914 sum was a nod to 11/09/14, his daughter’s birthday.
“Since I could have bet more on Final Jeopardy,” he told the Post, with more than a little cockiness. “It’ll end up being the most expensive birthday gift I ever get my daughter.”
There’s a lot of speculation among Jeopardy! superfans that Holzhauer is on his way to joining legends like Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. And with the confidence he’s shown in his first appearances, along with Tuesday’s record-breaking sum, we’d be surprised if “the next great champion” in the video below was anyone besides the avid children’s book reader.
Who will it be … ? pic.twitter.com/UiuiljNCOh
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) April 8, 2019
With the confidence and domination he’s demonstrated so far, we’d be surprised if “the next great champion” was anyone besides Holzhauer. And if you head to the library this weekend, don’t be surprised to find Jeopardy! aspirants clogging the children’s book section.