Holzhauer gets payback win in 'Jeopardy!' tournament finale
If "Jeopardy!" ace and former Naperville resident James Holzhauer felt the pressure of a rematch, he can finally breath a sign of relief after winning the quiz show's Tournament of Champions Friday and its $250,000 grand prize, defeating the Chicago librarian who prevented him from making history.
Looking for payback, Holzhauer tallied $49,326 heading into the conclusion of the tourney's two-part finale. That gave him enough to keep the overall lead after Friday's episode, besting his rival Emma Boettcher, who beat him in June to end his streak of 32 games won and nearly $2.5 million earned.
It was a nail-biting finish to a wild thrill ride for hometown fans who have supported Holzhauer with watch parties in Naperville over the summer and again Friday.
"Boy, my heart's still racing," said his brother, Ian Holzhauer, who with friends and family watched the broadcast at Quigley's Irish Pub.
With the addition of his Tournament of Champions prize money, Holzhauer's regular season and tournament winnings now total $2,712,216, a figure that puts him behind only two other players in the show's history: Brad Rutter at $4,688,436 and Ken Jennings at $3,370,700.
Boettcher finished second and took home $100,000. Francois Barcomb finished third and won $50,000.
"I've said all along that Emma is an all-time great player, and I'm proud it took that level of competitor to defeat me," Holzhauer said in a statement. "Now the world sees that I wasn't just making excuses. Francois certainly looked as dominant as either of us in his first two games, so I knew the finals would be a fight to the finish. But the whole point of the TOC is to play the best of the best, and Emma and Francois certainly proved that they belonged in the final three."
Boettcher actually surpassed Holzhauer's Friday total, earning $38,600 after the Final Jeopardy round to his $27,597.
The final clue? "A dispute over Etorofu, Habomai, Kunashiri & Shikotan has kept these two countries from ever signing a WWII peace treaty." Both answered the final clue correctly with Japan and Russia.
"I kind of got an idea when he was writing his Final Jeopardy answer that he probably knew because he kind of had a silly expression on his face," his brother said. "Also, just looking at the question I just figured he would get that one. My dad knew it. I knew it, and we're not nearly as good at trivia at he is."
Holzhauer's two-day haul of $76,923 edged Boettcher's $65,000, a thrilling capstone to a dominant run for a sports gambler who changed the game with his bold betting strategies.
"There was no shame in losing to her in the first place. There's no shame in getting a lower score than her today," Ian Holzhauer said. "She's really tough and it could have gone either way."
All three contestants on Thursday donned purple ribbons on their shirts during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and "Jeopardy!" fans online have been raising money for the cause since Trebek revealed in March he is fighting the disease.
Holzhauer donated $1,109.14 to a walk this July in Naperville that benefited the Lustgarten Foundation, which devotes all funds it receives to pancreatic cancer research because a private donor covers administrative costs.
"I think he's setting a great example both for other 'Jeopardy!' champions and just for people who have good fortunes in their lives in general," his brother said. "I'm really proud of him."