James Holzhauer has a unique set of skills.
The professional sports gambler — who’s so good he’s been blackballed from betting at some Las Vegas casinos — has rewritten the “Jeopardy!” playbook with an aggressive, analytical style that’s earned him more than $1.582 million over 20 shows.
That adds up to $79,100 per episode, or $158,200 per hour if we’re considering the full 30-minute air time of an episode of the game show.
Not a bad way to make a living.
Holzhauer’s baseball dreams
It turns out that gambling wasn’t his first career choice. As he relayed to Marc Carig of The Athletic, Holzhauer, like many young sports fans, had dreams of working in an MLB front office when he pursued a degree in mathematics from the University of Illinois.
When the low pay and entry-point into that world proved to be an obstacle, Holzhauer looked to gambling and has apparently done well for himself.
He’s definitely done well for himself on the game-show circuit, and continues to do so.
“Baseball was my goal from a young age, but gambling had significantly fewer barriers to entry,” Holzhauer told The Athletic. ... When I discovered I could make real money by applying the same statistical techniques, I knew it was the life for me.”
It’s not the first time Holzhauer has mentioned his baseball dreams.
— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) April 30, 2019
MLB teams reportedly interested in Holzhauer
It turns out those dreams of breaking into the game may still be alive. His run on “Jeopardy!” has garnered the attention of the nation, MLB teams included.
According to Carig, “at least one team has some level of interest in his services.”
That bit of news arrived Thursday, a day after Carig’s feature on Holzhauer was published.
There’s no further detail on what kind of interest there is or from what team(s). But any job consideration would presumably be for considerably more than then entry-level pay Holzhauer eschewed out of college.
Analytics dominating sports
It speaks to the overwhelming influence analytics has not over just baseball, but all professional sports.
While Holzhauer’s idols Billy Beane and Theo Epstein changed baseball, the NBA is experiencing a similar revolution.
The Western Conference semifinals going on right now could determine the eventual NBA champion and is a battle of perhaps the two most analytically forward thinking teams in the game.
The Houston Rockets are definitely at the forefront. General manager Daryl Morey’s front office has strategically built a team and a game plan to compete with the Golden State Warriors, who changed the game with the simple realization a few years ago that not enough attention was being paid to the 3-point shot that’s worth 50 percent more than a standard field goal.
It still takes talent, of course
Of course, as the Warriors have demonstrated in winning three championships, it takes more than analytics to get the job done. It requires execution on the court.
Any team can implement an appropriately aggressive strategy on the court or on the field. But not every team has Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant to take those shots.
And that’s what Holzhauer is to “Jeopardy!” The game show will never be played the same. Contestants will look to emulate his aggressive strategy to reach for the record paydays he’s recording. They’ll go for the big numbers at the bottom of the board first and bet big when the opportunity of a Daily Double strikes.
But like Curry, Holzhauer has the in-game talent to match the strategy set in place prior to the game. None of this would be working if Holzhauer didn’t know the answers.
Would Holzhauer want to work after ‘Jeopardy!’ run?
But he does. And combined with his strategy, the odds are in his favor to continue to break “Jeopardy!” records. Of course, like with any game that includes chance, there is a level of variance involved that could bounce Holzhauer off the game show tomorrow if the breaks don’t go his way.
When his run is over he may have a new career opportunity waiting for him. Or perhaps he’ll have enough money at that point that he’ll pass on the idea of working for a living.
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