James Holzhauer is still evaluating an array of offers he’s received as a result of his record-setting run on “Jeopardy!” But the chance to be a presenter at Wednesday’s NHL Awards at Mandalay Bay was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“The NHL Awards show is definitely one of the most exciting offers I’ve gotten,” Holzhauer wrote in an email to the Review-Journal. “But having never been part of something like this before, I had no idea what I signed up for. They want me to walk a red carpet. Me!”
The self-deprecating Las Vegas professional sports bettor would prefer to walk the red carpet dressed in the Golden Knights’ Mark Stone jersey he wore when he was presented the key to the Strip during a May ceremony at the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.
But Holzhauer is leaning to something more formal for the occasion, where his fellow presenters will include Hockey Hall of Famers Mark Messier and Willie O’Ree, “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek, actor Jon Hamm and NASCAR driver and Las Vegas native Kurt Busch.
“I still want to show up in a jersey and ill-fitting necktie like Stone Cold Steve Austin would,” Holzhauer wrote above a shirtless photo of the retired pro wrestler in a leather vest and tie. “But probably I will cave to peer pressure and wear a suit jacket.”
The Golden Knights fan made references to the team on the game show and sounded the rally siren at T-Mobile Arena before one of Vegas’ playoff games.
Stone is a finalist for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defensive forward.
“I still don’t know what award I’m presenting, but hopefully we figure that out before the dress rehearsal,” Holzhauer said.
Beyond Wednesday’s show, the “Jeopardy!” sensation said he’s still figuring out his future.
“I have no concrete plans to do anything this fall other than gamble on sports, but I am still responding to a variety of exciting offers,” he said. “I expect to take vacations for a large chunk of the summer to get out of the Vegas heat.”
Holzhauer is expected to appear on the next “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions, but details have yet to be announced. He said “Jeopardy!” owns his game-show rights for the near future.
“I’m no lawyer, but my understanding is I can’t do any knowledge-based competition shows until six months after the TOC airs,” he said.
An email to a “Jeopardy!” spokesperson requesting information about the Tournament of Champions wasn’t returned.
The Tournament of Champions has aired in 28 of the past 34 years, most recently in 2017. It features the longest-running champions and biggest money winners from the past season or seasons of the show.
“The typical TOC invites the top 15 players from the past couple of seasons, including the winners of the Teachers and College Tournaments,” Holzhauer said. “Compared to a standard game of Jeopardy, the questions are harder, the contestants are better and the payouts are fixed.
“I think only the third point will affect my strategy: No sense gambling with a lead if it won’t affect my take-home pay.”
On the subject of take-home pay, Holzhauer said he expects to take home a little more than half of his winnings from the show — an estimated $1.29 million — after paying federal and California taxes.
“I’m responsible for California taxes since the show was taped there. I think the total tax bill will be almost half the winnings,” he said. “But not if I keep giving the money away!”
Holzhauer said he and his wife, Melissa, have given away about $300,000 in charitable donations.
He averaged $74,673 per show and finished less than $57,000 short of breaking the regular-play winnings record of $2.52 million set by Ken Jennings of Edmonds, Washington, during his record 74-game win streak in 2004.
Brad Rutter of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has the overall “Jeopardy!” earnings mark, including tournaments, of $4.78 million.
“I’m sure I will have a showdown with Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter someday,” Holzhauer said. “If Jeopardy won’t stage it, I hereby challenge either Ken or Brad to fight me in the octagon on pay-per-view.”
During his run, Holzhauer tweeted that his 4-year-old daughter cried about the possibility of her dad losing, so he told her they could have a party the day after it inevitably happened.
“Most of my friends are busy playing the WSOP, so we ended up having a small family party after I lost. My daughter got a cupcake anyway, so she was satisfied,” he said. “I haven’t really celebrated in style yet, but I did have my favorite shrimp enchiladas for Father’s Day brunch, so my needs are met.”