JAMES HOLZHAUER THE RECORD-SETTING JEOPARDY! CHAMP—$1.69 MILLION AND COUNTING—ON HOW HE CLEANS UP IN HIS DAY JOB TOO
SI: You're introduced on Jeopardy! as a sports gambler. What does that entail?
Holzhauer: The day-to-day is often spent checking odds for upcoming events. It's not like the stock exchange, where you get the best price anytime you want to buy. You have to shop around and find who's giving you the best odds on the team you want to bet on. That's really the bulk of the day, plus doing the trading itself and staying up to date on news, too. If there's injury news, there's very little time to react on the market before someone else does.
SI: Do you have a go-to sport or team or type of wager?
Holzhauer: One of the things I specialize in that not many people do is the futures markets, trying to find teams that are underpriced there. Sometimes I bet so much in futures on a team that I'll end up betting against them when the playoffs start. It's kind of like running a long-short hedge fund. There's definitely times where I'll take one side of the game on the spread and the other on the money line. A big part of it is handicapping teams right, but possibly an even bigger part is knowing the math and finding the edges that exist.
SI: Where do you have the biggest success?
Holzhauer: Halftime and in-game bets. The less time a bookmaker has to set odds, the softer the odds are going to be. At halftime he has five minutes. If every time there's a commercial break they're putting up new odds, they're going to make a mistake.
SI: When did you start sports gambling?
Holzhauer: In college [at Illinois] I was an online poker player and I ran a poker strategy website. And I played fantasy sports heavily, so analyzing numbers was already something I was doing. I turned 21 in 2005, and the World Baseball Classic the next year was a big event for me—I did very well on that. That season I bet a lot of baseball futures and won two big ones. I bet [Phillies first baseman] Ryan Howard would win the home run title at 40-to-1 odds, and he did. I then got 100-to-1 odds on the Tigers to win the AL pennant, and they did.
SI: What from your gambling career did you apply to Jeopardy!
Holzhauer: People should be betting big [on Daily Doubles], and people who have a normal day job may not feel as comfortable betting this much money. I think there's a mental block for betting big amounts that doesn't exist for me.
SI: Have you set any goals for your Jeopardy! run?
Holzhauer: I was hoping to win one game—that seems a little silly now, but that was the goal. Though I did want to win exactly $110,914 because that's my daughter's birthday.