Holzhauer ended his 33-day run on Jeopardy! with $2,464,216, plus his $2,000 second-prize prize earnings and numerous records after falling to Chicago librarian Emma Boettcher Monday night. "Let us take a moment to note how astounding it is that, on Monday, Jeopardy! became the sort of show that is subject to spoilers and spoiler alerts," says Claire McNear of Holzhauer's remarkable winning streak. "That, too, is a credit to how impressive Holzhauer’s reign was. (Ken) Jennings’s loss in Game 75 was famously leaked, too—and 15 years later, we still know his name and talk about what he managed to do. Holzhauer is a veritable sensation and all but sure to remain one for years to come." McNear adds: "It’s difficult to put Holzhauer’s Jeopardy! skill in context, if only because the closest comparisons aren’t actually that close. The simplest way of thinking about his success is to consider that before his run, the highest-ever one-day record was $77,000, set by Roger Craig in 2010 and held up in the years since as a dizzyingly spectacular achievement; pre-Holzhauer, only seven players ever had topped $60,000 in regular competition. Holzhauer dominated so thoroughly that his average daily winnings over his run came in at $77,006.75, a simply staggering accomplishment. He owns the top 16 one-day records, plus 21 of the top 25, with a high of $131,127 reached in his 10th game. In terms of racking up money quickly, he’s the best Jeopardy! has ever seen, and the competition isn’t even close. But in both all-time regular-season winnings and number of games won, he’s in second place to Ken Jennings, who won $2,522,700 over 74 games in 2004—a run that, until now, had never been even roughly challenged on either count."
James Holzhauer made peace with his fate before the final Jeopardy! clue: “By the time Final Jeopardy rolled around I knew my goose was cooked if Emma (Boettcher) answered correctly," he told The Atlantic via email. "It’s a little like needing a team to miss a last-second field goal—nothing you can really do but watch. I made peace with my fate before the clue for Final was even revealed.” He adds: "My only real goals were: Win $110,914 on an episode to honor my daughter’s birthday, and play my absolute best every game. I achieved both, and I’m very proud of myself for that."
Holzhauer approached Jeopardy! like a sport: "The distinction matters," says Brian Barrett. "Think of it like bowling: You know that to roll a strike, you need to knock down all of the pins. You’ve even bowled plenty of strikes yourself. But to string 12 strikes together requires preparation, dedication, and endurance. Holzhauer exhibited all three."
Holzhauer explains his final bet: “I knew I could only win if Emma missed Final Jeopardy, as there was no way she wouldn’t bet to cover my all-in bet. So my only concern was getting overtaken by third place, and I bet just enough to make sure of locking him out. Betting big would have looked good for the cameras, but now I turn my straight bet (Emma misses) into a parlay (Emma misses and I get it right).”