What's behind Jeopardy! James Holzhauer's uncharacteristically small final wager?

By Ben Macioce - Associate Producer

If you watched Jeopardy! contestant James Holzhauer since the start of his 33-game run on the show, it was probably puzzling to you why he wagered so little during Monday night's "Final Jeopardy!" 

Was it because he knew he was going to lose to challegner Emma Boettcher or because the amount of $1,399 had some type of personal signifiance to it?

It was in fact because Holzhauer knew it was his best option given he was behind $3,200 entering the final round, according to reports. 

If Holzhauer would have bet everything with his correct response, he would've come out with a final total of $46,800. Thus, why Boettcher knew she had to wager $20,201 in order to come out ahead of Holzhauer with $46,801. 

However, if "Jeopardy James!" put in all his chips and had the wrong answer, he would have been left with $0.  

Experts say Holzhauer didn't have a chance to win against Boettcher unless she got the final Jeopardy! answer wrong and he only wagered a little to make sure he kept his total above the $6,399 Boettcher would've been left. 

It's believed Holzhauer determined to ultimately wager $1,399 after he figured out he would finish ahead Jay Sexton who was in third place, if he doubled his score to $22,000 and Boettcher answered incorrectly. As, by wagering $1,399 of his $24,400, Holzhauer would finish ahead of Sexton by $1, even if he answered incorrect. 

When all was said and done, all three contestants answered correctly and Boettcher became the new Jeopardy! champion pocketting $46,801. Holzhauer went home with $2,000 for finishing in second place and Sexton received $1,000 for finishing third. 

Holzhauer's run on Jeopardy! ends after 33 games and him winning $2,464,216 a little more than $58,000 shy of the record of $2,520,700 set by Ken Jennings in 2004 for highest winnings in regular season play. The all-time winnings record which includes tournaments belongs to Brad Rutter who pocketed $4,688,436.

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