James Holzhauer’s record-breaking Jeopardy! run finally came to an end yesterday. Emma Boettcher, a 27-year-old librarian at the University Chicago is the new champion, thanks to what Holzhauer called “a perfect game” that included a gutsy true Daily Double and aggressive wager in Final Jeopardy. But after so many dominant wins, some are questioning whether James’s loss was on the level.
After news of Holzhauer’s loss broke, most of the internet reactions were positive, appreciations of Holzhauer’s run and memes celebrating Boettcher’s victory. Unfortunately, there were also plenty of conspiracy theories alleging that Holzhauer ended his run on purpose.
While they varied in the exact logic they used — and in how deranged you’d have to be to believe them — what each theory had in common was a dearth of substantive proof and, let’s face it, more than a tinge of sexism in their disbelief that a woman beat a man fair and square.
Many pointed to his relatively small wager in Final Jeopardy as evidence that he wasn’t interested in winning.
James Holzhauer quit. He saw someone who had a reasonable shot of stopping him for the first time ever and he bowed out gracefully. That's my theory based on that really anemic FJ wager. #Jeopardy
— Tony Duncan (@NerdyLadd) June 4, 2019
James completely threw the game! The question is… was he paid off? Did he get homesick and just want to be done? Was he drunk? There’s a conspiracy here one way or another. His wager in that situation was perplexing… #Jeopardy
— Cory Durbin (@TheRealDurbs) June 4, 2019
I will be forever convinced Jeopardy James threw the game. Wagering just $1399 on the Final Jeopardy question? After he had $23,000+ banked and Emma was LEADING? I’m not convinced. Math says to wager it all. Put it near the top of the great conspiracy theories of our time!
— Joseph Calabrese (@JCalabrese1) June 3, 2019
Holzhauer debunked that theory in an interview with Action Network, saying that he was worried about the third-place contestant. Holzhauer wagered so that if he missed the Final Jeopardy question he’d have a dollar more than double the third-place contestant’s score.
Boettcher had a similar strategy. She wagered enough so that if she answered correctly she’d have a dollar more than Holzhauer if he doubled his money. So even if he’d bet it all in Final Jeopardy and got the question right the outcome would have been the same.
Of course, there were even flimsier theories out there, many of which sounded like they came straight out of mafia movies.
Conspiracy Theory… James Holzhauer was presented with an offer her couldn't refuse to lose on #Jeopardy! He was bleeding Jeopardy dry. Plus Ken Jennings wasn't happy with him. #Jeopardy isn't what it seems to be. Now the question is who and how much!!!!!
— ccarlson43213 (@ccarlson43213) June 3, 2019
My theory: James lost on purpose because he had someone bet huge against him beating Ken’s record in Vegas #conspiracytheory #jeopardy @KenJennings @James_Holzhauer
— Colin (@colin_mack) June 4, 2019
Conspiracy theory. Jeopardy guy lost on purpose and had someone bet on it for him!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/KGylh9jQd7
— The Lonesome Kicker 🇺🇸 (@pellscuse11) June 4, 2019
And more users thought that the show wanted to protect Ken Jennings’s record because he’s such a recognizable figure for the brand.
I’m not one for conspiracy but Jeopardy seemed to not want James to pass Ken. These were two of the toughest competitors we’ve seen, Alex basically forces the woman to correctly bet it all, and the FJ category was Shakespeare which James doesn’t do well on.
— Mustache Bill (@andnowpearljam) June 3, 2019
My conspiracy theory is I believe he was just a day or two away from potentially passing Ken Jennings on the career earnings list, so perhaps Jeopardy got (paid) him to fold before passing Ken?
— Ryan Jaquith (@RyanJaquith) June 4, 2019
To his credit, Holzhauer was nothing but magnanimous in defeat.
"James will eventually beat himself by flubbing one of his big bets.” Nope, James got his ass kicked straight up by an elite player who nailed her own big bets.
— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) June 4, 2019
He even responded to one of the conspiracy theorists directly with a tweet that even non-Jeopardy! champion dads can relate to.
Sure, I could stick around and play a game that pays me $150,000 per hour, but I'd really rather get toys thrown at my crotch for free https://t.co/xb6Fg6MMKP
— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) June 4, 2019
Holzhauer seems to be adjusting to his post-Jeopardy! life just fine, and has been a good sport since the news of his loss broke. He even changed his Twitter avatar to a still from a classic “Weird Al” Yankovic video.
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