TV
By Evan Bleier / June 4, 2019

How Emma Boettcher Shocked James Holzhauer on “Jeopardy”

She used a strategy that was "a little bit whimsical"

Alex Trebek and Emma Boettcher. (Sony Productions)
Alex Trebek and Emma Boettcher. (Sony Productions)

In an episode that aired on Monday, Jeopardy champion James Holzhauer saw his 32-game winning streak come to an end, finishing $58,484 short of Ken Jennings’ all-time winnings record.

The reason for Holzhauer’s demise? Emma Boettcher.

A resident librarian at the University of Chicago since 2016, Boettcher got her master’s from UNC-Chapel Hill and completed her bachelor’s at Princeton.

It’s no surprise Boettcher is good with coming up with queries like she had to on Jeopardy, as she has experience writing pub quiz-style trivia questions for events, according to her website.

In an interview with Vulture, Boettcher described her strategy for beating the reigning champ as “a little bit whimsical.”

“If I had to compare it to James — where it was more systematic — I was jumping around the board or staying in a particular category just because I liked it and felt like I was on a roll,” she told the publication. “I was a little more guided by intuition and feeling as opposed to having sussed out the exact, optimal strategy beforehand and using that every single time. I had all this data going in from having watching the show for so long, and that was another part of it, too. I don’t think I would’ve been as confident doing what I did, going for the higher-value clues, if I didn’t have the knowledge for certain rounds and certain rows to back it up. ‘Whimsical’ and ‘data driven’ probably don’t belong in the same sentence, but as a librarian, it makes me happy.

And if you are thinking Boettcher may have recieved an assist from Holzhauer because he was throwing the game for some reason, think again. Holzhauer himself shot down that conspiracy theory in an interview with Action Network on Monday:

“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,” Holzhauer told The Action Network’s Darren Rovell. “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).”

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