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James Holzhauer loses 3 mock games of ‘Jeopardy!’ at G2E

Updated October 15, 2019 - 7:52 pm

Emma Boettcher is no longer the only person to defeat James Holzhauer in a game of “Jeopardy!”

Three attendees at the Global Gaming Expo also beat the Las Vegas professional sports bettor in mock games of “Jeopardy!” on Tuesday at the Sands Expo and Convention Center — though the gracious Holzhauer appeared to ease off the buzzer in the fun event.

Holzhauer took on about 70 challengers, three questions at a time, at the International Game Technology booth to help celebrate the launch of two “Jeopardy!”-themed IGT slot machines.

The “Jeopardy!” game show set and podiums were authentic, complete with buzzers and sign-in screens. So were the clues, which were provided by the show. And every contestant received a souvenir photo with Holzhauer, a “Jeopardy!” trivia book and the clue cards that were used in their game.

Robert Martin of Las Vegas was one of the contestants to edge Holzhauer, correctly answering two clues to one for the “Jeopardy!” champion who won $2.46 million during a 32-game winning streak this year before losing to Boettcher, an Illinois librarian.

“I don’t know if he was pressing his buzzer or not,” said Martin, 48. “I think he just let us win because I know he could’ve gotten those answers.”

The answers in this case were Ray Lewis, a Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker, and Pikachu, a species of Pokemon with powerful electrical abilities.

Holzhauer, dressed in a suit and wearing an ever-present smile, wrote “James from Fabulous Las Vegas” in the shape of the city’s iconic sign on his sign-in screen before play started.

He shook hands with each competitor, showed them how to use the buzzer and screen, and posed for photos. He also appeared to wait for many opponents to buzz in first. Then, if they answered incorrectly, he would give the correct response.

“Boy, this is fun,” Henderson resident Dianne Davis, 76, remarked during a game against Holzhauer.

The experience of competing against the “Jeopardy!” phenom in front of a pack of photographers and hundreds of onlookers also was a bit overwhelming for Las Vegan Nicole Schultz.

“There were a lot of people, a lot of cameras and a lot of reporters,” said Schultz, 24. “I knew I wasn’t going to get up there and answer questions. I don’t know how you do that on live TV. I just wanted to be there for the photo op.”

In a case of life imitating art, longtime Sean Connery impersonator Dennis Keogh was on the set with Holzhauer dressed in a tuxedo. The scene was reminiscent of the old “Celebrity Jeopardy!” sketch on “Saturday Night Live” when Darrell Hammond portrayed the actor.

Keogh, 69, correctly shouted “Who is Wayne Gretzky?” but he hadn’t buzzed in yet. Affable host Jaymes Vaughan gave him credit anyway as Holzhauer laughed.

Joshua Herr of Oakhurst, California, grew up watching “Jeopardy!” and has thought about trying out for the show, as his mother and aunts did. If he does, he might want to mention that he beat Holzhauer 3-0.

“It’s surreal. I can’t even believe I rang in on any of them,” said Herr, 33. “I watched (‘Jeopardy!’) growing up, and my whole family always watches it.”

Holzhauer bantered with the host a bit during breaks, revealing that he tripped and fell four times on the “Jeopardy!” stage. He also said he read children’s books to help prepare for the show because their graphics and pictures made it easier for him to follow them.

“I have ADD,” he said, referring to Attention Deficit Disorder.

Ronald Favell was thrilled to answer one clue correctly against Holzhauer, saying it was more fun than watching his wife compete last year on “The Price is Right.” He’s a huge fan of “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek, a fellow Canadian who is battling pancreatic cancer.

“I’m pulling for him because I’m a pancreatic cancer survivor, and he’s going to be a survivor,” said Favell, 70. “You know what makes a cancer survivor a survivor? A positive attitude. Forget about everything, go forward, be positive and you’re going to win.”

Holzhauer won’t be on hand, but attendees can compete on the “Jeopardy!” set at the IGT booth from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, and from noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Holzhauer will compete on the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions from Nov. 4 to 15.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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