- James Holzhauer just won the 2019 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions
- Holzhauer is now the third-winningest Jeopardy! contestant of all-time behind Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings
- The three legends will meet in a “Greatest of All-Time Tournament” in January, and Holzhauer is favored
To no one’s surprise, professional sports bettor and trivia savant James Holzhauer won the 2019 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions (“TOC”). Now Holzhauer will take on the two winningest Jeopardy! contestants ever – Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter – in a “Greatest of All-Time” tournament, starting January 7th, 2020.
Oddsmakers have established Holzhauer as a slight favorite over Jennings, with Rutter a distant third-choice.
Who is the best bet in this epic showdown?
2020 Jeopardy! Greatest of All-Time Tournament Odds
Odds taken November 18th, 2019.
The tournament is a first-to-three contest, so it doesn’t have a definitive end date. If no player wins three games in the first week (Tuesday, Jan. 7 – Friday, Jan. 10), they will return for a second week, starting on Tuesday, Jan 14. The latest it could possibly end is Thursday, Jan. 16.
Holzhauer Returns, Dominates
James Holzhauer was back on Jeopardy! last week and he did exactly what most people expected him to do: dominate. Using his usual aggressive strategy, he cruised to another big payday. He blew past Steve Grade and Rachel Lindgren in the semifinals and then beat Emma Boettcher and Francois Barcomb in the finals to claim the $250,000 grand prize. Boettcher is the contestant who ended his previous winning streak at 32 games.
Holzhauer’s early wins in the TOC were small peas as he only finished with $30,156 in the semis and $30,000 in the quarterfinals. Those proved to be his third and second-lowest totals in a win. But that’s not a concerning sign. The TOC is about surviving and advancing; players don’t actually pocket the money they accumulate in the individual games, only the $250,000 grand prize for winning the tournament.
His next major task will be to take on Ken Jennings, the computer scientist who owns the longest winning streak of all time (74). Holzhauer and Jennings went back-and-forth on Twitter in some trash talking. We’ll see if Holzhauer can challenge him in the showdown.
Who Is Brad Rutter?
Rutter is one of the most successful American game show contestants and the winningest Jeopardy! player ever. He’s collected $4.78 million in his time on the show. While he’s a bit overshadowed by the other two in this contest, he’s actually never lost to a human on Jeopardy!
You might recall that he was worked over (along with Jennings) by IBM’s computer, Watson, back in 2011. But his performance against humans is unprecedented. Rutter went 5-0 in his initial run on the show, back when contestants were “retired” after five straight wins. He’s also won four all star-type tournaments on his own and another as part of a three-person team.
- Tournament of Champions (2001)
- Million Dollar Masters (2002)
- Ultimate Tournament of Champions (2005)
- Battle of the Decades (2014)
- All Star-Games (2019 team competition)
He defeated Jennings in the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions and 2014 Battle of the Decades. Jennings finished second in both.
What’s The Best Bet?
This is more of a toss up than you might think. Holzhauer is the flavor of the moment but keep in mind that the other two players have had very impressive, successful runs. Holzhauer has an edge in terms of his betting strategy and the fact that he might be able to out-do the others in that realm.
At the same time, the other two have had longer winning streaks than him and have won more money overall. They’ve also had time to study his staking strategy and, as we saw with Boettcher, mirroring Holzhauer is the best way to beat him. Jennings and Rutter should be on even footing with him by the time January rolls around.
I actually don’t mind taking a shot with Rutter as the longest shot here. I think all three are on even footing and the odds merely reflect the name people recognize the most. That being the case, I’ll take a flier on the bigger dog.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.