Gasp! Family, friends in Naperville shocked as Holzhauer's "Jeopardy!" reign ends
His last Final Jeopardy round -- in the category of "Shakespeare's time" -- ironically hinted at the Shakespearean plot twists dooming James Holzhauer's dominant reign on the quiz show.
In his hometown of Naperville Monday, Holzhauer's family and fans enjoying his wild thrill ride on "Jeopardy!" packed the second floor of Two Brothers Barrel House, hoping to watch the encyclopedic mind make history. Holzhauer had collected more than $2.46 million over 32 games, needing only $58,485 to break the all-time regular season record held by Ken Jennings since 2004.
It didn't matter that video of Holzhauer's stunning defeat had already leaked online earlier Monday. The audience gave a collective gasp when Holzhauer had finally met his match in an unfazed Emma Boettcher, who beat him by nearly $22,000 in the Final Jeopardy round.
The normally unflappable Holzhauer seemed to be in a bit of a funk. He wasn't leading heading into Final Jeopardy. Boettcher, a University of Chicago librarian, held the edge with $26,600, while Holzhauer trailed with $23,400. The third contestant, Jay Sexton, had $11,000.
The final clue? "The line 'a great reckoning in a little room' in 'As You Like It' is usually taken to refer to this author's premature death."
Holzhauer gave the correct response: "Kit Marlowe." But he wagered only $1,399, a relatively small amount for the risk-taking professional sports gambler who lives in Las Vegas.
"A modest one for the first time," noted host Alex Trebek.
Boettcher also came up with the playwright for the correct answer and wagered $20,000 for a total of $46,801 in earnings -- more than enough to conquer Holzhauer.
"Losing to a Chicagoan, I don't know that he would have wanted it any other way," said his brother Ian Holzhauer, who still lives in Naperville. "I'm so proud of Emma. She did an amazing job today. I hope that she goes on and beats Ken Jennings' record."
"Emma dominated her warmup games that day, and I knew she would make an extremely tough challenger," James Holzhauer himself is quoted as saying in a news release from the show's production company. "I was still incredibly impressed by her courage on that 'True Daily Double.' I'm proud that it took a top-level player at her absolute best to eliminate me."
Boettcher found both Daily Doubles in the Double Jeopardy round -- a strategy that had brought Holzhauer success -- and in the first one she bet all of her winnings to that point.
"You can jump around in the categories a little bit," she told the Chicago Sun-Times. "It makes it a little more fun because of that variety."
Boettcher said she had to keep her emotions in check to dethrone the champ. "I was just trying to stay focused," she said.
"I never really believed I could win 75 shows, but I definitely thought I had a great shot at Ken's cash winnings record," Holzhauer said.
Onlookers in Naperville politely applauded the new "Jeopardy!" winner, and Ian Holzhauer thanked the crowd for supporting his brother.
"This was his life's dream to be on 'Jeopardy!' And for him or anyone to have this kind of historic, multimillion-dollar run is unbelievable," Ian Holzhauer said.
He didn't question his brother's final wager, calling the amount "totally the right move."
"That was actually the correct bet," Ian Holzhauer said. "He was down going into Final Jeopardy, and Emma would have beaten him with any wager he had placed. So what he was really hoping for there was for her to get the question wrong, and that would have given him a chance to win even if he had gotten the question wrong."
Holzhauer is apparently taking the loss in stride. The brothers have exchanged a few text messages, and Ian Holzhauer's kids have sent their uncle a video congratulating him.
"He responded and said first of all, 'LOL. That made my day,'" Ian Holzhauer said. "And second of all, he sent a video saying, 'Kids, I want you to know I'm OK. I'm just so happy I had this opportunity. This has been amazing.'"
His betting strategies and mastery of "Double Jeopardy" rounds put Holzhauer within reach of the record set by Jennings, who amassed $2,520,700 over 74 games. But the secret to his success also has to do with routinely watching "Jeopardy!" as a kid with his late grandmother Kazuko Ide.
"James had always told her he was going to be on "Jeopardy!" someday," his brother said.
What's next for Holzhauer? An inevitable spot in the show's Tournament of Champions. His family also expects him to continue making charitable donations. Holzhauer and his wife, Melissa, recently announced they were giving $10,000 to a birth center in Haiti.
"I think his accomplishment is tremendous, all the records he set, but what's even more remarkable I think is his philanthropy," said his father, Juergen Holzhauer. "He's given to a number of charities and helped disadvantaged kids in Las Vegas, and I'm really proud of him."
Two Brothers Brewing Co. also donated a portion of the receipts from the Naperville watch party to two nonprofits, Loaves & Fishes and Hesed House, raising more than $1,000.
"He's really trying to make people aware that you can do great things with your wealth beyond just spend on yourself," his brother said. "And I think that's been one of the best parts of this run."
• The Washington Post contributed to this report