Television viewers are mesmerized by James Holzhauer, the professional sports gambler and Jeopardy! contestant who has garnered $1.5 million winnings in his incredible run on the show and is on track to beat the record for most money won (which is currently $2.4 million). Simply by betting big on Daily Doubles and going in on the hardest questions for the most money, Holzhauer has turned the popular game show into his own personal A.T.M. machine.
How he manages to make so much money can be attributed to his nearly encyclopedic knowledge of current events. Holzhauer credits this knowledge not to large history books or encyclopedias, but to children’s books.
In several different interviews, beginning with one in The New York Times, Holzhauer said he uses children’s books to gain as much trivia knowledge as possible for the show:
“I have a strategy of reading children’s books to gain knowledge. I’ve found that in an adult reference book, if it’s not a subject I’m interested in, I just can’t get into it.”
Since Holzhauer has a four-year-old daughter, he uses the books she has, along with ones he checks out himself, to gain basic knowledge of the kind of questions that appear on the show. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s one that works for him:
“Easily the hardest Jeopardy! categories to study in the kids’ section are the so-called “trashy” pop culture ones. No kids’ book would have helped me name the lead singer of the Pixies or the movie about two Chicago men on a mission from God. I think this is the only thing that would stop a bright 10-year-old from winning on adult Jeopardy!”
Even though he uses these books to gain knowledge, Holzhauer does admit that he sometimes reads them for fun:
“I really like the works of Martin Gardner, who might count as a children’s author. But when I read for fun, it’s usually a bridge book — my shelf is full of them yet I keep asking for more.”
Who would have thought you could become a millionaire on Jeopardy! Simply be reading children’s books?
Featured Image Via Chicago Tribune