Here’s the secret to how James Holzhauer nearly lost on ‘Jeopardy!’

"Jeopardy!" champion James Holzhauer continues to annihilate the competition thanks to his quick buzzers, seemingly endless knowledge and the strategy — going for big money first and hunting for Daily Doubles early — that is turning the game on its head.

But the professional sports better nearly took a loss Monday after he won by $18. Brandeis College sports information director Adam Levin finished with $53,999 to Holzhauer's $54,017.

So what was Levin's secret, when other contestants say playing Holzhauer is like running "headfirst into a buzzsaw"? It turns out Levin had an advantage going into his game.

From The Boston Globe:

Levin had a slight edge that day: Because the show tapes five episodes in one day, and selects 12 contestants to come to the set for 10 spots, Levin was one of two extra contestants called in on Tuesday, Feb. 26. He ultimately wasn't selected that day, meaning he was able to watch Holzhauer play five games before facing him in competition.

"I was able to note what he was doing and see how he was playing differently than ever seen before, and I was able to process that," he said.

When Levin arrived to play in the first taping the next day, he was prepared.

"I was lucky to beat him on the buzzer a few times, and lucky especially to get a late Daily Double and keep the game close at the very end and make a big wager on Final Jeopardy," he said, adding that a fan site, thejeopardyfan.com, noted that his total of $53,999 is the "highest-ever regular-play non-winning score in the history of the show." ("Jeopardy!" officials could not immediately confirm that to The Globe Monday night.)

Levin added that he changed up his strategy because of his scouting, following the way Holzhauer would start at the bottom of categories and betting heavily on a Daily Double — he nailed a $12,000 bet on one in the Double Jeopardy round to keep it close.

Holzhauer continued his winning ways with his 20th in a row on Wednesday, tying for the second-longest winning streak in the show's history.

 

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