Who Is Emma Boettcher? New Details On The Chicago Librarian Who Beat James Holzhauer On 'Jeopardy'

Photo: ABC
Who Is Emma Boettcher? New Details On The Chicago Librarian Who Beat James Holzhauer On 'Jeopardy'

James Holzhauer’s winning streak on the game show Jeopardy! is over. The $2.4 million dollar winner won 32 games and broke nearly every record in the history of the quiz show. But this week, a 27-year-old librarian from the University of Chicago unseated the champion. Emma Boettcher wrote a thesis on Jeopardy! questions and has studied show extensively, helping her win the episode that aired on June 3, 2019. She took home $46,801 in a single game. On average Jeopardy! champions win $19,980.

Who is Emma Boettcher and how did she beat James Holzhauer? Read on for all the details.

1. James Holzhauer

Holzhauer, a professional sports gambler who took a year to study the game before auditioning, went on a 33 game winning streak in 2019. He broke the record for most money won on a single episode, spent entire episodes answering every question he buzzed in on correctly and came within $60,000 of beating Ken Jennings’ all-time winning record. And he did it in half the number of episodes Jennings did.  He employed strategic means to maximize his winnings, such as starting his games with the highest value clues and trying to target possible daily doubles so he could wager big and win bigger. Fans fully expected him to break Jennings’ all-time winning record.

Jeopardy! winnings record holder Ken Jennings has followed Holzhauer's run.

2. Emma

Emma Boettcher came into Jeopardy! with a strong chance of winning no matter who she faced. The Chicago Tribune reports that the 27-year-old majored in English at Princeton University and went on to study library science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Moreover, she actually wrote her masters thesis on predicting the difficulty of trivia questions using Jeopardy! clues. Before her appearance, she told the Chicago Tribune that she had watched the show for five years and tracked her scores in a notebook. She developed her own strategy for finding the Daily Double clues and, like Holzhauer, starting out going for the high value clues to build her money early on.

Boettcher has a masters in library science.

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3. Showdown

Emma auditioned for Jeopardy! four times before she was chosen. The show taped well before the air date so she had no idea that Holzhauer was about to become the phenomenon that he was. She recalled to the Tribune how he was introduced to the other contestants backstage: “get around to introducing the returning champion, who’s in there with you, and they mentioned, ‘This is James. He’s won 32 games. He’s won however many million dollars.’ So that was the first time I had heard of him. Those numbers, I heard them, and I thought, ‘That's not real, what’s the real number?’ And the real number never came because that was the real number, so I went into denial pretty early on.”

The library industry is delighted about her win.

4. Game play

The trivia parts of the show came easy to the professional librarian and she did her best to keep calm from one round to the next, telling the Tribune: “I had to keep my nerves, keep my energy very level so that I could sustain what I was doing.” By the time they reached the Final Jeopardy round, she was leading Holzhauer by $3,200 and felt confident that she could win when the final trivia category was Shakespeare. The Princeton grad had written her undergraduate thesis on Shakespeare’s plays. After getting the final clue correct, her winnings totaled $46,801, which put her well ahead of Holzhauer’s $24,799 final total, according to the Washington Post.

 

Boettcher is the new champion.

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5. What’s next

Boettcher has plans for her winnings and they don’t include fancy cars or vacations. Like many young professionals, she has a significant student debt load that she intends to pay off. The remainder, she plans to donate to her alma mater UNC, saying: “I gained so much from that experience academically, and I think this would be a nice way to bring that full circle.”

UNC congratulated Boettcher.

6. She kept winning

The Chicago Tribune reports that Emma went on to win her second episode of the show as well, bringing her total winnings up to $71,410. As for Holzhauer, she has nothing but good things to say about the the champion she dethroned, telling the Tribune: “It’s been remarkable as a fan to have watched his run. James is such a great player. And for me, it would have been an honor to have played him regardless of how the game had turned out. It’s been nice having watched the show for so long and to feel like I’ve kind of made my mark on the ‘Jeopardy!’ history in that way.” 

Jeopardy! airs on weeknights and as of this writing, Emma hasn’t been defeated yet.

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.