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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: James Holzhauer

Holzhauer, aka “Jeopardy James,” is the current “Jeopardy!” champion and game show phenomenon. The 34-year-old professional sports gambler from Las Vegas is currently the game’s second winningest contestant — Ken Jennings won $2,520,700 in 2004, over the course of 74 games — and holds the 25-year-old show’s single-day earnings record. As of May 29, James has won 30 games, with a grand total of $2,323,971.

Where do you come up with your best ideas?
I tend to come up with an audacious goal and then figure out whether it is feasible.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received?
The ability to think critically.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given?
One day I will teach that ability to my kid, and that will be the best one I’ve given.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
My wife recently had her first vacation from being a mom and I (barely) survived being a single parent for a week.

“The top five strange experiences have all happened in the past two months. Today someone asked me to appear at her family reunion.”

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do?
It might be fun to write about sports or life through a gambling lens, or to work for a pro team. But I don’t think I would like anything better than what I’m doing now.

What is the most useful mistake you’ve made?
I learned very early on that emotion has no place in betting and you have to work your ass off to make a profit. Most people never take that step.

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had?
The top five strange experiences have all happened in the past two months. Today someone asked me to appear at her family reunion.

What opportunity do you regret passing up?
No real regrets.

How do you relax?
I try to stay even-keeled by closing my eyes and picturing a happy family memory, but I function best when I’m not relaxed.

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
I’d probably go to Japan, but I’d wait until the cherry blossoms are blooming or the Japanese maples are in their fall glory.

What is your most indelible childhood memory?
Telling my dad that I wanted to stay a child forever, as being an adult seemed like a raw deal.

What’s the most valuable thing you learned in school?
I skipped classes in college to read books by Bill James and David Sklansky that taught me how to think and strategize for myself. Does that count?

When you’re stuck how do you get unstuck?
Is this “stuck” in gambling vernacular? It’s dangerous to your bankroll to focus on getting out of the hole. My goal is just to play my best at all times.

What is your proudest moment?
See my biggest challenge answer above.

What would you like to experience before you die?
I want to see my kid grow up and have a fulfilling life. Everything else is window dressing.

For more, visit our Experience Questionnaire archive page.

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