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One-on-one with ‘Jeopardy!’ phenom James Holzhauer after losing game

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — All good things must come to an end, and on Thursday night, the run of “‘Jeopardy!’ James” as he’s lovingly called was over.  James Holzhauer captivated jeopardy watchers with his big bets and Vegas Strong remembrances, but during his last episode of the trivia game show, he met his match. 

Alex Trebek, ‘Jeopardy!’ host: “His wager?  (James shows wager) A modest one for the first time. Let’s go over to Emma.  Did you come up with the correct response?  (Emma shows answer) You did.  Your wager? (Emma shows wager) Oh gosh.  20,000.  What a payday!” 

The odds are, it was a finish that millions of ‘Jeopardy!’ viewers didn’t bet on for James Holzhauer who was in the hunt for setting the all-time record winnings in the least amount of games for one of American’s favorite game show. 

“I did expect to do pretty well when I was on the show, but I thought maybe I could win maybe six, seven episodes; certainly not 32, and certainly not this level of money,” Holzhauer said. “Gosh, it was really mind-blowing.  If I had to go out, I wanted to go out against a top player who beat me in a straight up contest.”

Thirty-two games of mind-blowing risky bets and right answers racked up a final second place grand total of $2,464,216. He has become a Jeopardy phenomenon.

“I think the amount of attention its gotten has surprised me,” Holzhauer said. “I will say once the introductions started getting into the millions of dollars you can see my honest reactions of things like this are (motions that his head explodes) as they read off the money.”

So what was his secret ace in the hole? 

“I’d say the biggest preparation was the buzzer, but just kind of keeping it in my head that this is game, money, it’s gambling; just like you do at work,” Holzhauer said.

Holzhauer says his signature moves weren’t always by the ‘Jeopardy!’ rule book either.

“I liked it as an opportunity to let my personality shine up there,” he said. 

And viewers loved it. The more Holzhauer won, the bigger the following the show and James gained. 

When he was asked about not being able to break Ken Jennings’ record for the all-time number one spot at just over $2.5 million, Holzhauer said, “You know, I’m no less proud of myself than if I had made it there. I know Ken’s achievements are incredible and it would have been no less incredible if I had won a couple of extra games.”

The one thing James didn’t know was that Thursday was his big ‘Jeopardy!’ payday. 8 News NOW’s Sherry Swensk had the honor of showing him the money. 

Sherry Swensk: “I can’t tell you how privileged I am to have this honor after watching you for 33 games, James. But on behalf of Jeopardy, it is the honor of 8 News NOW in Las Vegas to hand you your check for over two million dollars and to say congratulations!  You have more than earned that check, and we are so proud of you. 
Holzhauer: “Thank you, Sherry.”

Sherry had one “final ‘Jeopardy!'” question for James. It was a two-part question: Has he changed the game of ‘Jeopardy!’ forever? And will he always be known as “‘Jeopardy!’ James?”

“I think among the people who know me best I’ll go back to being James or Uncle Jamie to my nephews and nieces, but I think there will always be a segment of the population who doesn’t forget about this,” he said.  “I don’t think I’ve changed the game of Jeopardy forever, but I’ll have to watch future episodes to see if everyone is playing this style now.”

Before the interview wrapped up, Holzhauer had one last message for the community that has supported him.

“Las Vegas, thank you for the support. It’s been a great ride. Go Knights, Go!”

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