James Holzhauer is The Favorite to Win Jeopardy Tournament of Champions

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Prepare to see James Holzhauer’s signature “all-in” hand gesture when the popular “Jeopardy” champ returns to the game show in the fall to compete in Tournament of Champions.

Holzhauer, who won more than $2.4 million playing “Jeopardy,” is the obvious favorite to win as he faces 14 former champions from Seasons 34 and 35, including the college and teachers’ tournaments. The 10-day contest will air Nov. 4-15.

Odds already are being offered on this pop culture clash of brainiacs at several of SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks.

Among the past winners, the professional gambler from Las Vegas will face the contestant who beat him in his 33rd game, Chicago librarian Emma Boettcher. She won $97,002 before losing.

Holzhauer’s competitors are:

  • Josh Hill (North Little Rock, Ark.), whose 7-game winnings totaled $163,721
  • Ryan Fenster (Seatac, Wash.), whose 7-game winnings totaled $156,497
  • Kyle Jones (Aurora, Colo.), whose 7-game winnings totaled $145,403
  • Rob Worman (Edina, Minn.), whose 6-game winnings totaled $133,900
  • Alan Dunn (Johns Creek, Ga.), whose 5-game winnings totaled $120,802
  • Steven Grade (Atlanta, Ga.), whose 5-game winnings totaled $115,501
  • Eric R. Backes (Round Rock, Texas), whose 4-game winnings totaled $105,602
  • Anneke Garcia (Salt Lake City, Utah), whose 4-game winnings totaled $104,497
  • Lindsey Shultz (Pittsburgh, Penn.), whose 4-game winnings totaled $101,002
  • Emma Boettcher, (Chicago), whose three-game winnings totaled $97,002
  • Gilbert Collins (Princeton, N.J.), whose 5-game winnings totaled $84,201
  • Rachel Lindgren (Bend, Ore.), whose 5-game winnings totaled $75,999
  • Dhruv Gaur (Gainesville, Ga.), the Season 34 College Champion
  • Francis Barcomb (New Paltz, N.Y.), the Season 35 Teachers Champion

Some fans questioned if Boettcher should be included in the tournament since she only won three games, but she did beat Holzhauer and that’s enough.  And “Jeopardy” James wants her there: “Am I eager for revenge? You Boettcher a** I am,” Holzhauer tweeted.

The question is if Holzhauer will add the Tournament of Champions to his list of accomplishments. In the “Jeopardy” Hall of Fame, he is at the top of the list as having the “Most Single Game Winnings” at $131,127. Actually, he’s the whole list of the Top 10 largest payouts.

Holzhauer is second in “Consecutive Games Won” (32 games) and second again in “Highest Winnings for Regular Season” ($2.462,216).

Number 1 in both of those categories goes to 2004 Super Champ Ken Jennings, who won 74 consecutive games and took home $2,520,700 in regular-season play. The computer scientist and author is No. 2 on the All-Time Winnings list which includes tournament earnings behind 2001 champ Brad Rutter who has won a whopping $4,688,436.

Many fans want Holzhauer to play Jennings and Rutter, but for now will have to be satisfied with the champions tournament where we’re likely to see Holzhauer’s command of the board, expert buzzer skills, taking advantage of Daily Doubles and his “odd” Final Jeopardy bets based on birthdays or anniversaries.

With his consistent runaway wins, viewers might not remember there were a few times he could have lost. For example, Nate Scheffey came close in May, hitting a couple of the Daily Doubles before James, but not going for the kill. In a see-saw battle, Holzhauer came back from behind and in Final Jeopardy, they both had the correct answer. It was only “Jeopardy” James’ expert betting which gave him the win, which he punctuated with a wipe of his brow and a large sigh of relief.

And obviously, with all the competitors being former champs, Holzhauer could meet his match yet again. Beyond Boettcher, the top giant killers could be:

  • Josh Hill, a network engineer from North Little Rock, Ark., is a seven-time “Jeopardy” winner. He won $163,721 and his best subjects are history, geography and science. He is known for his signature celebratory “tiger-claw” gesture which host Alex Trebek mimicked on the show.
  • Ryan Fenster won seven games taking home $156,497, and holds a rare moment in “Jeopardy” history – he was given a second chance. In his fourth game he gave the answer “What is the Great Schism?” to the question: “St. Thomas Aquinas died traveling to Lyon, France while attempting to heal this rift between the Latin & Greek churches.” It was ruled incorrect, but a “Jeopardy” content manager watching from home thought the answer was actually right. When Matthew Sherman pointed this out to his game show colleagues, Fenster was given a chance to come back and he stretched his streak to seven wins.

The 36th season of “Jeopardy” begins Sept. 9.

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