Watch CBS News

"Jeopardy!" champ James Holzhauer could break $2 million tonight

James Holzhauer on "Jeopardy!" winning streak
James Holzhauer impresses Alex Trebek with "Jeopardy!" winning streak 01:26

"Jeopardy!" champion James Holzhauer eked out a victory on Thursday night during a surprisingly tight game. Now, Holzhauer on Friday will try to reach the $2 million mark in winnings, and he only needs to win $8,865 to reach the milestone.

So far, Holzhauer's 26 straight victories in the trivia TV show has won him $1,991,135 and an average game pot of more than $76,000. That's more than twice the average take won by Ken Jennings, the champion who still holds the record as the biggest "Jeopardy!" champion, according to fan site The Jeopardy Fan. 

If Holzhauer continues his streak, he'll breeze past Jennings' $2.52 million record in about seven more games. By comparison, Jennings set his record over the course of 75 matches. 

Although ratings for "Jeopardy!" have jumped during Holzhauer's run, he has also sparked a range of reactions, from admiration to criticism for "breaking" the game with his aggressive betting strategy. One unabashed admirer is Jennings himself, who wrote in The Washington Post on Sunday that Holzhauer is the "equivalent of a basketball player notching 70-point games for an entire season or a baseball player hitting for the cycle in every game."

Jennings said he's rooting for Holzhauer to keep winning. And the producers of "Jeopardy!" are likely hoping for the same. The show's viewership has risen during his winning streak, making it the most-watched syndicated show for three straight weeks. When the program recently aired a "Teacher Tournament" without Holzhauer, its ratings plunged 27%. 

Whether or not Holzhauer is gaming the game, he may be breaking the show's budget. Long-running game shows like "Jeopardy!" typically base their budget on what has been won in past years. Some shows even take out insurance policies to protect against outliers like Holzhauer breaking the bank.

Holzhauer not only knows his trivia, but he's employing an aggressive betting strategy that's lifting his jackpots beyond the norm. A professional sports gambler, Holzhauer goes after the higher-value clues early in the game, rather than picking off the lower-reward clues first.

Some viewers believe his aggressive style amounts to breaking the rules, prompting one Twitter user to list Holzhauer as one of TV's greatest villains. Love him or hate him, he's already made "Jeopardy!" history.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.