Bob Bestler

This bold, magnetic personality has made me tune in to game show ‘Jeopardy’

Well, what are we to make of James Holzhauer, the all-but-unstoppable champion of “Jeopardy”?

The man has all the answers, literally, and, at last count, had won more than $2.4 million on a TV game show. How many can remember when winning “The $64,000 Question” after several weeks was a kind of monetary nirvana. Conceivably, Holzhauer could win $64,000 on one Final Jeopardy question.

I confess I’ve never been a regular Jeopardy viewer. I barely tuned in while Ken Jennings spent 74 days on the show. Jennings, as I recall, was a computer scientist and an extremely stable genius. Of course he would win at Jeopardy.

Holzhauer is something altogether different.

He has the bold magnetic personality of the professional gambler that he is. He and his family relocated from his hometown of Napier, Ill., to Las Vegas so he could be close to his regular job as a sports bettor.

TV trivia, by the way, is a family affair. His wife, Melissa, won $28,800 on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” in 2012.

Holzhauer says he was a C student, even through his days at the University of Illinois. He was bored with school and mostly neglected his homework — until it came time for tests.

One subject interested him, math, and in his junior year of high school he went to the national finals in the MATHCOUNTS competition “while earning a C in my math class for refusing to do homework.”

He did have one obsession in his youth: watching Jeopardy with his grandmother, who had come from Japan to look after her grandchildren.

“I promised her that one day I’d be on that stage for her,” he said in an interview. “I don’t promise anything unless I intend to fulfill it.”

So how did this C student, this sports guy, get so smart? Where did he find all those obscure bits of trivia that are making him a household name?

“My big secret for studying subjects I find uninteresting is to check out the children’s section of the library,” he said. “The books there are filled with pictures and fun facts, and they’re a great way to learn the nuts and bolts of any subject.”

Holzauer’s Jeopardy strategy is pretty simple: He bets aggressively in Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy while his opponents generally wade more timidly into the game.

“I have no hesitation to bet big when I need to — and feel no extra pressure knowing how much is at stake because I gamble all the time,” he said.

Other secrets to his success: “So much of the game comes down to buzzer timing, luck and the home-field advantage of being the defending champion” — a reason why he becomes “a heavier favorite with every game.”

I’m guessing those words would put a scare into future contestants and leave us with one question: Which will break first, James Holzhauer or the Jeopardy bankroll?

Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net.

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