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Las Vegan James Holzhauer returns to ‘Jeopardy!’ this week

This former “Jeopardy!” champion inspired countless Halloween costumes five months after his record-setting run on the quiz show ended.

Who is James Holzhauer?

That is correct.

Holzhauer, who joked on his Twitter account Friday above a picture of himself wearing a sweater that it was the “first year I’ve ever dressed as a celebrity,” will return to the national spotlight Wednesday on the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions, which begins Monday with quarterfinal play.

The Las Vegas professional sports bettor captivated the country from April 4 to June 3 during a 32-game winning streak that was ended by Chicago librarian Emma Boettcher.

A possible Holzhauer-Boettcher rematch will have to wait until the semifinals, which take place Nov. 11 to 13. Boettcher’s quarterfinal match will air Thursday.

“I don’t feel any extra motivation to beat Emma for redemption’s sake, but I do think she is the toughest opponent in the field,” Holzhauer said in an email. “I’m glad that my streak was ended by an excellent player, not by the 2007 New York Giants.”

The 2007 Giants were a wild-card playoff team and 12-point underdogs in Super Bowl XLII when they upset New England 17-14 to end the Patriots’ bid for a perfect season.

‘Don’t dwell on the what-ifs’

Holzhauer, 35, was less than $60,000 shy of breaking Ken Jennings’ all-time “Jeopardy!” regular play winnings record of $2.52 million when Boettcher beat him. He won $2.46 million and said the loss doesn’t bother him.

“I don’t dwell on the what-ifs,” Holzhauer said. “After all, if I drew Emma in my first game, I’d never have won a single episode.”

The Tournament of Champions was taped in September, after which Holzhauer posted on Twitter that “great regular season teams don’t always win in the playoffs” above a graphic showing that Jennings and other prolific champions didn’t win the event.

James’ games

Win or lose, it appears that “Jeopardy James” will be appearing on another game show in the future.

“Some TV producers have pitched the idea of having me star in a game show once Jeopardy’s noncompete runs out,” he said. “I think that could be fun.”

Despite his cryptic tweet about the Tournament of Champions, Holzhauer said he was ready for the competition.

“I probably spent too much time betting football instead of studying,” he said. “But I felt well prepared for the tournament.”

On the subject of betting on football, Holzhauer told a Twitter follower who asked how his NFL season was going that “Some gamblers have Monday Night Football as their ‘hope I win so I can get even’ game. I have the Jeopardy ToC.”

Holzhauer has said his experience as a pro gambler made it easier for him to employ his wildly successful strategy of seeking out the high-value clues first and then betting big on Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy.

But he said his day job hasn’t been going well lately.

“Based on my results the first half of football season, I should quit trying to beat the NFL,” he said in the email. “Probably good advice for most of your readers!”

Fielding offers

Besides the game show proposal, Holzhauer has fielded a wide range of other offers since his sudden rise to fame.

Fittingly, he said the craziest one was from the Crazy Horse 3, the Las Vegas gentlemen’s club that in the spring invited him to host a victory party after his “Jeopardy!” run ended.

“I also got an email politely asking if I would leave my wife to be with the sender,” he said.

Holzhauer and his wife, Melissa, have been married for seven years and have a 4-year-old daughter, Natasha.

“I’ve talked with (general managers) from pro sports teams, but I’m not looking to relocate from Vegas,” Holzhauer said. “I’ve also wondered if I could use my data science skills to help with resource allocation at a local nonprofit.”

Donated more than $325,000

Holzhauer and his wife have donated more than $325,000 to charities and other entities, including a $25,000 donation in October to Rancho High School, which needs to replace its football field for safety reasons.

“I’ve said elsewhere that this is more money than I can possibly spend given my lifestyle,” he said. “Once we knew the magnitude of the winnings, my wife and I planned to invest in the Vegas community, with a particular focus on underprivileged kids.

“We believe there is so much potential there if the children are given the basic tools they need to thrive.”

When Holzhauer was a child growing up Naperville, Illinois, he would watch “Jeopardy!” after school with his beloved grandmother and promised her that one day he would be on that stage for her.

Now that Holzhauer has accomplished his goal, his focus is on his wife and daughter, who will turn 5 on Saturday. Holzhauer owns 23 of the 27 highest single-game totals on “Jeopardy!” He first set the single-game record with $110,914 — the date of his daughter’s birthday (11-09-14).

“’Jeopardy!’ was my dream as a young man — then I became a father,” he said. “I can’t speak for other parents of young kids, but I don’t often ask myself, ‘What am I going to do with all this free time?’”

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

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