Did James Holzhauer Lose ‘Jeopardy!’ on Purpose?

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.

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.

And more users thought that the show wanted to protect Ken Jennings’s record because he’s such a recognizable figure for the brand.

To his credit, Holzhauer was nothing but magnanimous in defeat.

He even responded to one of the conspiracy theorists directly with a tweet that even non-Jeopardy! champion dads can relate to.

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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