Las Vegan James Holzhauer is halfway to being crowned the winner of the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions after dominating the first game Thursday in his much-anticipated rematch with Emma Boettcher.
Holzhauer, who had his 32-game win streak on the quiz show ended by Boettcher on June 3, won $49,326 to lead the Chicago librarian, who won $26,400.
The third finalist, Francois Barcomb, a New York high school physics teacher, won $1,800. The final game is at 7 p.m. Friday on KLAS-8. The champion will be determined by the two-day aggregate score.
The tournament winner will earn $250,000, the runner-up $100,000 and third place $50,000.
Holzhauer, a professional sports bettor, won $37,412 to Boettcher’s $13,200 entering Final Jeopardy. They both correctly answered the clue, with Boettcher doubling up and Holzhauer winning $11,914.
“I am indeed playing a different strategy against these two opponents, because they are both aggressive gamblers and I know they’re going to set the bar high,” Holzhauer said in an email. “The two-day nature of the final also means I have to be prepared for a potential big comeback in the second half.
“Emma was the contestant I feared most heading into the tournament, but Francois posted the best scores in both qualifying rounds and definitely showed he can ball with anyone.”
Barcomb had $7,800 before losing $6,000 on Final Jeopardy.
Holzhauer built his bankroll by going 2-for-3 on Daily Doubles. After losing $3,000 on the first one, he doubled up from $10,600 to $21,200 on the second one and won $9,812 on the third one to increase his total to $34,612.
“I felt very good taking a nice halftime lead, but I was uncertain how much to bet from ahead on the last Daily Double and Final Jeopardy,” he said. “Having nothing to lose can give the underdog a strategic advantage, just like in sports.”
Boettcher correctly answered 14 of 14 clues, but Holzhauer was first on the buzzer 47 percent of the time and correctly answered 28 of 31 clues, according to thejeopardyfan.com.
According to thejeopardyfan.com, three contestants have overcome larger deficits to win the Tournament of Champions.
Holzhauer earned $2.46 million during his regular-season win streak, falling less than $60,000 shy of Ken Jennings’ record earnings of $2.52 million during his 74-game win streak in 2004.
Holzhauer said that all three semifinals and the two final matches taped on the same day in September.