University employee takes second place to ‘Jeopardy’ star
Brandeis University Sports Information Director Adam Levin ’94 took second place against “Jeopardy” phenom James Holzhauer during an appearance on the April 29 episode of the show, according to an April 30 BrandeisNOW article.
Holzhauer, a professional gambler, according to the BrandeisNOW article, overtook Levin by a slim margin of $18, winning $54,017 to Levin’s $53,999.
Levin explained in an interview with the Justice that going into the show he did not have one particular strategy. “I was just there to have fun. … I was just gonna pay attention to the board and try my best to answer whatever question came up next,” he said.
While his aim was to have fun, Levin told the Justice that he had carefully studied past episodes of the show and had read up on strategy. “One of the lessons I [learned] from reading a book that a previous champion had written was to know what you don’t know, because you hurt yourself more by ringing in and answering it incorrectly than you do by not ringing in at all, because you’re penalized for a wrong answer,” he explained. Additionally, he said, “I saw how James [Holzhauer] played the game, and I knew that if I was gonna win and beat him, then I was gonna probably have to play a similar way.”
In comparison to previous contestants, Holzhauer has won unprecedented amounts of money. “The best way to put into perspective what James has done is that he is close to averaging what the previous single-day record was … 77,000 [dollars],” Levin said, elaborating that the standard winnings for a first-place contestant is around $25,000.
In order to compete on the show, Levin took online test. Out of the 80,000 people who tested, he explained, auditions were extended to 3,500-4,000 people. The auditions consist of a written test, a simulation game and an interview portion.
Levin said that he auditioned because he has been “a lifelong fan of the show … [and has] always wanted to see how [he] would stack up.” Once onstage, however, he suffered from nerves. “It’s one thing to be playing in your living room at home and in a comfortable space as opposed to up on a stage with people watching and bright lights and cameras,” he said. The hardest part of the show was “getting the timing down for the buzzer,” Levin said.
Levin expressed pride in his performance. While there were a few questions where he said he could have rung in, nothing stumped him. Playing against Holzhauer was challenging, he said, but he has come the closest of any contestant to beating him and made it a difficult game for Holzhauer to win.
Though Levin placed second, “only ... seven other people have scored more in a game” than he did, Levin said. He also set the record for highest finish for a runner-up on the show, but he only got to take home $2,000 because he was not the victor. While he “would have liked to have won 54,000 dollars,” Levin said, he maintained that he “couldn’t have performed any better than [he] did, and to have done that against someone who’s gonna go down as one of the two or three best players of the game ever, there’s no shame in that.”
Levin concluded by explaining that his performance has made an important mark on the show’s history. “Unless somebody else pushes him the same way that I did, and finishes second, it could be a record that stands for a long time,” he said.