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Sports Bettor Smashes 'Jeopardy!' Records


So Rachel, are you a "Jeopardy!" fan?


Indeed, but really only when the category is about either "Star Trek: Next Generation" or '80s glam rock songs.

GREENE: Very specific areas of expertise.

MARTIN: Sweet spots.

GREENE: Yeah. All right. Well, I used to play with my nana (ph), and she would beat me every time when we were watching in her apartment. But I don't think even she could have taken down James Holzhauer.

MARTIN: Right. So he is the professional sports bettor from Vegas who is on a hot streak. Alex Trebek asked some other contestants, how does it feel to come into a buzzsaw?

GREENE: Right, because he's won 13 games and made almost a million dollars already. On the list of single-day winning records, he holds the top six slots.

NEAL POLLACK: Well, I mean, it's the most extraordinary quiz show performance I've ever seen. You know, what this guy is doing blows everything away. It's unbelievable.

MARTIN: That's Neal Pollack talking about what makes this guy so good. Pollack is a writer who won on "Jeopardy!" in 2013.

GREENE: And he says, No. 1, you have to know, like, everything. And No. 2, what sets Holzhauer apart is his willingness to go big, like, bet his whole bankroll even when he's way ahead.

POLLACK: And that just boggles the mind. I mean, it's the right way to play. It's the absolute correct game theory strategy. But it's just - it's amazing that someone's finally had the guts to do it.

MARTIN: And No. 3, Pollack says, athleticism - you need a quick thumb to buzz in.

POLLACK: I think he's 34 years old. You know, I was 43 when I played. And I just - I didn't have the reaction time. I wasn't able to accumulate the cash necessary to make bets like that.

GREENE: So there's a guy named Ken Jennings. He actually holds the "Jeopardy!" record for longest winning streak, though his average winnings were way less than Holzhauer.

MARTIN: Jennings tweeted, I don't feel I get enough credit for making small, sensible "Jeopardy!" wagers, which helped the show with its prize budget.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNIGHTS BRIDGE'S "JEOPARDY!") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.