April 10, 2019

The old "Jeopardy!" one-day record was $77,000. The new one, achieved yesterday, is $110,914.

We were watching when James Holzhauer — "a 34-year-old sports gambler from Las Vegas" bet "$38,314 so he would end with $110,914 – and his daughter’s birthday."

About his career in gambling, he says:  “Now, I focus largely on in-game betting, where the oddsmaker often struggles to put an accurate line with only few seconds to think about it. I think my work is similar to an investment bank, except that I’m the analyst, trader, fund manager and day trader all into one. I’m proud that I’ve found success in many different fields of sports betting, but the most important thing about my work is the freedom it gives me to travel and spend time with my family, which I would never have a nine-to-five — although maybe not on a college football Saturday.”

36 comments:

daskol said...

I'd call it a career in sports betting rather sports gambling. On the skill vs. chance continuum, he seems to lean towards the skill side.

Browndog said...

I like this guy. Smooth, unassuming. Strategically start a category at the center or bottom (highest amount) depending on his confidence in the subject matter.

Yesterday's daily double was nuts.

Nonapod said...

Trebek's determined to host as long as he's able.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'd call it a career in sports betting rather sports gambling."

I don't see the word "gambling" as excluding skill.

You got me to look up the word. "To play games for stakes, as cards, dice, etc., or bet on the outcome of particular events, e.g. the result of a race or other sporting contest; to engage in gambling, esp. habitually or on a specified type of event." (OED).

Gambling feels pejorative, but I don't care. I don't think "betting" excludes excessive risk taking.

Ralph L said...

Ken Jennings, eat your little heart out.

I missed last night, dammit, but saw the ends of his first few days and wondered what the highest one day total was. If second place had been lower on those days, I'm sure he would have made even more on Final with a higher bet.

john said...

What about the woman in the middle? All she's got is $6400 and can't get a word in edgewise.
I see some social justice visitation on Alex, soon, before he goes.

Fernandistein said...

Congratulations!

the oddsmaker often struggles to put an accurate line with only few seconds to think about it

Reminds me of horse races in Old Blighty, betting against guys who are standing in the crowd with the odds on a chalkboard on a pole and getting secret hand signals from some other guys. It was delightfully third-worldish.

Fernandistein said...

Like this

tcrosse said...

"I'd call it a career in sports betting rather sports gambling."

Here in Vegas they prefer to call it Gaming.

daskol said...

Gambling suggests--means?--playing games of chance. He's playing an arbitrage game: he has better insight into the true value of the bet than the oddsmakers, who in their rush to lay out in-game bets have miscalculated the odds. He's laying bets not on the chance based outcomes, but rather on the fact that he's made a better calculation of the odds of each outcome than the bookmaker.

daskol said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
daskol said...

That is to say, gambling is fun. What he does, much like skilled blackjack play, is hard work.

stevew said...

I've watched this guy from the start, love his personality and style, as well as his technique.

I still laugh when Alex, hearing the daily double bet, says, "Hello".

daskol said...

It's pretty interesting: bookmakers use algorithms, many of them the same algorithms in the same oddsmaking tools, to lay out odds. But each bookmaker "tunes" the algos to their own preference, so they will have different odds for the same bet at different bookmakers.

bagoh20 said...

We watched last night as always, and this guy was amazing. He has only missed 4 questions out of 133 so far. He was nailing stuff that was pretty obscure as well as the easy stuff. He seemed to know the answers immediately without even pondering them. No subject seemed outside his wheelhouse.

bagoh20 said...

Of course everyone here in Vegas is a professional gambler and a genius to some degree.

Yancey Ward said...

The all ins on the first two Daily Doubles was gutsy. I noticed he hedged his bet the third time with the Daily Double, so he isn't completely reckless.

I just did a quick calculation- the maximum you could win is about 560,000 dollars give or take a 3000 to 6000 (depends on where the the daily doubles are on the board, but you get them as the last 3 clues each time). Still, though, 100,000+ is impressive, but I was actually surprised that the previous record wasn't already over 100K given the shows long tenure.

Yancey Ward said...

Daskol, it's still a gamble that his analysis is superior. However, if he is successful long term, then his is probably superior. If I were a bookie, I might hire the guy to do the odds.

Carter Wood said...

Conspiracy theory: Holzhauer is a known quantity, having competed in other TV game shows. The world of Las Vegas professional gambling is also small enough that his reputation is well established. He is brilliant and fast.

Alex, sad to say, has Stage IV pancreatic cancer.

So the judges picked Holzhauer to sweep in repeated, high-dollar victories as a way to bring Jeopardy! to a fitting close, with record viewership as Alex bids farewell.

Holzhauer, by the way, means woodcutter or wood chopper. He's chopping through his competition.

Hagar said...

I thought Ken Jennings, in his time, rather obviously threw his last game - whether on his own initiative that it was time to move on, or requested by the show.

It does get tedious watching amateurs being set up to play with the pros.

Sebastian said...

"I’m proud that I’ve found success in many different fields of sports betting."

Here's a field with very low barriers to entry, where the actual work may not even reveal the person doing it, requiring some skill and some aptitude for risk-taking.

Hypothesis: the male to female ratio in professional sports betting is at least 2 to 1, and the ratio of outsized successful bets by men vs. women is at least 3 to 1.

To be explained by . . .

Francisco D said...

Gambling feels pejorative, but I don't care. I don't think "betting" excludes excessive risk taking.

I follow Texas Hold 'Em poker and professional football. There is a reason why the same few hundred people keep winning by gambling at these sports. They know how to calculate odds and how to gain an informational advantage over the field. They take calculated risks. It's the suckers like me who take excessive risks.

rehajm said...

Call it what you will but a better description is exploitation of statistical advantage. More mathematical certainty than risk taking. There is risk of ruin from standard deviation but that's also quantifiable.

Perhaps risk of the casino changing the rules.

Yancey Ward said...

"To be explained by . . ."

Putting on my journalism degree hat, it would be because women are too ethical to take an idiot's money.

tam said...

Now I thought that the "odds" in sports betting were set by the market, not by the odds-makers. Don't they put an initial cut at the "line" up and then adjust it by how much money is bet on one side vs. the other. They constantly adjust the odds to ensure that no matter which team wins, the casinos make money.

If that is the case, he is competing against the common wisdom of the crowd, rather than the "odds makers."

I don't bet, so feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

Yancey Ward said...

tam,

These are short term events if I understood the story itself- i.e. the odds so and so is successful on that 53 yard field goal, or gets a double or better in this at-bat. In short, there is no time to adjust quickly based on the betting actions, and if you are quick witted, you get your bet in based on just the initial odds set by the bookmaker.

rehajm said...

Don't they put an initial cut at the "line" up and then adjust it by how much money is bet on one side vs. the other.

I don't know exactly what the guy is doing but based on his own description it sounds like h's exploiting a miss pricing of that 'initial cut' as you put it. He's doing a faster job of correctly pricing them and betting accordingly.

Rich said...

His actual occupation appears to be game show contestant. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs_Kjr5lySQ

Anonymous said...

Is this a great country or what? No, seriously.

We have a system where people can make money doing stuff like this, or playing Fartnite, or following balls from one end of a field to the other, or talking nonsensical trash on live TV.

This guy is magnificent, for sure. And I'll miss Trebeck.

Narr
Not A Robot Really

Anonymous said...

Is this a great country or what? No, seriously.

We have a system where people can make money doing stuff like this, or playing Fartnite, or following balls from one end of a field to the other, or talking nonsensical trash on live TV.

This guy is magnificent, for sure. And I'll miss Trebeck.

Narr
Not A Robot Really

Ken B said...

Gambling can involve skill. He said that too.

daskol said...

Perhaps risk of the casino changing the rules

Very low. Most people are not as smart or diligent as this guy, and skilled play, as I mentioned above, is not fun to most people (and most people go there to have fun).

As to all-in bets on the early daily doubles: that is almost always the right move, and I'm always annoyed when people get super conservative about those. I hate seeing opportunity squandered.

Jim at said...

I saw this guy on The Chase a couple years ago and they still run repeat episodes on GSN. He was really good there, too.

Marcus said...

I'm pretty good at Jeopardy -- at least, in front of a TV. Years ago, the Miami feed of Jeopardy would come on at 7 PM and then the WPB feed at 730 PM. I would watch the first show and immediately after the Final Jeopardy question was revealed, scoot over to my parents less than a mile away for coffee and cake and, of course, Jeopardy. Amazing how smart the eldest son was.

I always advocated betting high on the Daily Doubles. There is no competition and you have a few extra seconds to think about the question.

THEOLDMAN

Jim at said...

I would watch the first show and immediately after the Final Jeopardy question was revealed, scoot over to my parents less than a mile away for coffee and cake and, of course, Jeopardy. Amazing how smart the eldest son was.

I did something similar. The Spokane station aired Jeopardy a half hour before the Seattle station. I lived in an area where we got both.

So a couple times, I called my grandmother who lived in the Puget Sound region. Told her a TON of the answers, so when the show came on over there? She had my grandfather looking at her like a women he'd never met.

We never told him, either.

rcocean said...

Its easier making money in the stock market than sports gambling. Unless you have some inside information - which this guy may have.