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James Holzhauer praises Ken Jennings after ‘Jeopardy!’ watch party

Updated January 10, 2020 - 1:30 pm

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But James Holzhauer would have a better chance at winning “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” tournament if Ken Jennings would stop copying his aggressive betting strategy.

“People who have been watching every match of the G.O.A.T. tournament, you realize Ken and Brad (Rutter) are kind of coming in like, ‘Oh, this is a good strategy. We should probably be doing this,’ ” Holzhauer said Thursday night after a “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” watch party at The Space.

“It’s kind of harder to play against two other Jameses than two random people. But it’s the cost of doing business.”

Holzhauer, a Las Vegas-based professional sports bettor, revolutionized the way the game show is played last year when he played the high-priced clues first and bet big — many times going all-in — on Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy.

Jennings, who compiled a record 74-game win streak on “Jeopardy!” in 2004, has adopted the same strategy in the showdown of the show’s three all-time leading money winners, and it has helped him take a 2-1 lead over Holzhauer.

The first player to win three matches wins the tournament, which resumes at 8 p.m. Tuesday on KTNV-13.

Rutter has yet to win a game, but he also has implemented Holzhauer’s strategy, as all 18 Daily Doubles in the first three matches have resulted in 18 all-in wagers.

Jennings scored a true Daily Double in the first game Thursday to increase his points to 18,400, as the crowd of more than 100 at The Space booed. Jennings also went all-in on Final Jeopardy to double up to 51,200 en route to his second win in three nights.

“The guy knows his (stuff). He’s got an incredibly fast buzzer thumb, and now he’s armed with this all-in wagering weapon,” Holzhauer said. “That’s just the complete package right there.

“Coming into this, I liked my chances. But Ken’s just kind of crushing us under his boot right now. We’ll have to see how next week shakes out.”

Holzhauer and his wife, Melissa, planned the watch party to raise money for Project 150, a charity that helps homeless high school students in Southern Nevada. The couple donated 100 percent of the proceeds, which amounted to more than $10,000, to the charity.

“Once I realized it was going to be this episode, that lined up a little poorly in that regard. But the show of support was great, and it’s for a great organization,” Holzhauer said. “I couldn’t ask for a better night.”

Holzhauer, 35, has won $2.7 million on “Jeopardy!”, and he and his wife have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to good causes.

“When you see the great work these organizations do and the actual people they’re helping, it’s such a powerful feeling,” he said. “It makes you want to do even more.”

Las Vegas sportsbooks put up odds for entertainment purposes only on the “Jeopardy! G.O.A.T.” event, which was taped in December.

“Obviously you have to worry about potential leaks happening,” Holzhauer said. “There was a story that there was a leak in the online gambling marketplace. I don’t know if it was true or not.

“For pretaped things, I can see the problem with it. But if they were taping it live somewhere, it would be kind of awesome to have gambling on this type of thing.”

An audience member asked Holzhauer who he liked to win the Super Bowl, and the pro bettor pointed out Westgate sportsbook vice president Jay Kornegay in the crowd.

“I think Jay can attest that I’ve got some money on the Ravens,” he said. “I was bullish on the Ravens futures this year. But also the Rams and Patriots. So bet at your own risk.”

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

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