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The Loop

Professional sports gambler smashes one-day Jeopardy! record with hammer made of money

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, please allow us to introduce you to James Holzhauer. Holzhauer is an ordinary guy just like you and me, except for the fact that he is currently in the throes on what those in his industry—professional sports gambling, to be exact—call a hot streak. Over the past four days, America has watched slack-jawed as Holzhauer has opened up a can of high-stakes whoop-ass on the gameshow grandaddy known as Jeopardy!. Tallying a whopping $244,365 over the course of his unlikely run, Holzhauer looks poised for a lengthy stay as long as the categories continue breaking his way. Regardless of what happens, however, Holzhauer etched his name in the history books on Wednesday with the single largest one-game cash total in Jeopardy!'s 55-year run.

How much you ask? $110,914...pre-Uncle Sam, of course.

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If you're even a casual Jeopardy! viewer, you probably have a general sense of how insane that number is. If you're a die-hard, you might have just turned off the TV and retired the show forever. This is Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game and Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games streak. This is Cy Young's 511 career wins and Secretariat's 31-length Kentucky Derby victory. The only way it will ever be topped, is if Holzhauer comes out on Thursday and does it himself.

Smashing the previous mark of $77,000 set in 2010 by Roger Craig, Holzhauer accomplished the feat by simply applying the principles of his wheeling/dealing day job to the Jeopardy! format. When he landed his first Daily Double, he wagered $14,600 and answered correctly. When he found his second, he stepped up to $25,000 and nailed that too. When Final Jeopardy rolled around, he wagered a cool $38,314, answering "quantum leap" (while also wishing "Booger" a happy birthday) and surging past Craig down the backstretch. Just watch the highlights if you don't believe us, which you might not.

Suffice to say, Holzhauer is the closest thing to a disruptor, in Silicon Valley speak, that Jeopardy! has ever seen. Sure he has a diverse category base and some serious buzzer chops—and you need both of those in spades if you even want to sniff 40K—but where Holzhauer differs from past Jeopardy! champions is that he isn't afraid to go big when the opportunities fall his way. You're only $25,000 in the hole if you answer it wrong, after all. That extreme confidence—nay, hubris—and comfort with putting the roof over his head on the line Monday through Friday has led to Holzhauer to Jeopardy! peaks never before seen, let alone summited, and has left us with one simple question:

Who are you taking at the Masters this week, James?