Jeopardy! GOAT Tournament Match 2 Recap: James Holzhauer Finds His Daily Doubles

Jeopardy! GOAT Tournament Match 2 Recap: James Holzhauer Finds His Daily Doubles article feature image

Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage. Pictured: James Holzhauer

  • James Holzhauer won Match 2 of the Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time Tournament.
  • See how the timing of daily doubles might have played into his winning strategy.

After James Holzhauer went all of Match 1 of the Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time Tournament without finding a single daily double, I decided to go out on a limb and claim that he’d probably pick one out before the tournament ended (which, by the way, will be when one player wins three matches).

Just four clues into the first round, that bold prediction came true. Holzhauer unfortunately couldn’t make as bold of a wager as my prediction though, as he’d accrued only 800 points through the first three clues.

He would go on to pick out two more daily doubles before the night was over, as he controlled the board for much of the two-game match.

He gave 49 correct responses on 53 attempts, an impressive follow-up to his total of 39 on night one. And because he benefited from winning the random draw to pick first, he was in control of the board for 54 of the 120 clues (45%), a figure that could’ve been even higher — at least I think it could’ve been — had he needed to play aggressively at the end of the game (more on that later).

Ken Jennings, who came in second place, wound up picking 45 clues (37.5%), and Brad Rutter picked 21 (17.5%). As a result, the expected daily-double distribution was as follows:

  • Holzhauer: 2.70 (actual count: 3)
  • Jennings: 2.25 (1)
  • Rutter: 1.05 (2)

As the only player whose actual daily-double count was less than expected, Jennings certainly experienced a bit of bad board luck. In fact, you might be surprised to know that his Coryat score — a measure of points earned with no wagering involved — was the highest of the three players. He nudged out Holzhauer, 37,200 to 36,000.

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The deciding factor in the match, however, was the timing of the daily doubles in the second Double Jeopardy round. Rutter located one on the very first pick (he responded incorrectly, losing 3,800 points), and Holzhauer found the final one only two clues later.

He didn’t squander the opportunity, going all-in — as has been the case for all 12 daily doubles in the tournament so far — to win 8,400 points.

Knowing there were no more chances for Jennings to double his total, and that a runaway (when the leader finishes with more than twice the amount of the next closest player) was basically out of the question, Holzhauer, I’m guessing, took a more conservative approach to close out the game.

As long as he went into Final Jeopardy with the lead, he’d control his own destiny with a correct response.

And since this tournament is being played for a grand prize as opposed to a game-by-game monetary amount, there was no reason for Holzhauer to rack up unnecessary points if it meant risking his chance of holding onto the lead.

That second Double Jeopardy round ended up being Jennings’ best, as he controlled the board for 16 of the 30 clues — the only round in which he topped Holzhauer in that regard. Given the circumstance though, and what we know about Holzhauer’s ability, I’m inclined to believe that wasn’t a coincidence.

The verdict: Normally I’d look to the Coryat score as an indication of which player responded to clues most impressively. It doesn’t translate that way in last night’s case, however.

Whether or not he was doing so intentionally (and I believe he was), Holzhauer had the luxury of playing a prevent defense down the stretch. Jennings was definitely unlucky, but the numbers that make his performance look most impressive could easily have been a result of Holzhauer’s conservative approach. This match went to the right player.

Oh, and Jennings also missed the last Final Jeopardy clue. So he gets nothing … he loses … something, something, something.

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