James Holzhauer has generally been dominant throughout the “Jeopardy! Masters” tournament, so the fact that he won Wednesday’s final may not come as a surprise.
His final victory was not, however, of the dominant variety.
Although Holzhauer established a solid lead over Mattea Roach and Matt Amodio in the first of Wednesday’s two games, Roach markedly outscored Holzhauer in part two. As Roach’s lead going into the second Final Jeopardy exceeded Holzhauer’s margin of victory in the first game, they essentially controlled their own destiny. If Mattea wagered to win and successfully responded to Final Jeopardy, they would win the inaugural Masters Tournament (regardless of what Holzhauer did).
None of the three contestants, however, correctly answered the second Final Jeopardy question (to his credit, Matt accepted his inevitable third place position and did not seriously attempt to provide the correct response). It thus came down to the wager.
Recognizing Roach’s advantage, Holzhauer wisely went small with his wager. The strategy meant that Holzhauer could not win if Roach provided a successful response but gave him a real shot if Roach were incorrect (even if he, too, got it wrong). As Roach indeed missed Final Jeopardy, Holzhauer’s small wager left him with a narrowly better combined score: and the $500,000 Jeopardy Masters prize.
Holzhauer’s method of victory was poetic, as he received (unwarranted) criticism from (ill-informed) viewers for applying the same strategy in his regular-run loss to Emma Boettcher.
During Wednesday’s airing, host Ken Jennings confirmed that Holzhauer, Roach, and Amodio all secured placement in next year’s Masters Tournament.