Originally posted Monday, May 20, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Normally, a “Jeopardy” player who comes in third place does not generate much media interest. But Georgia State University associate professor Adam Stone happened to face off against powerhouse player James Holzhauer.
And like most of the other 45 contestants so far, Stone - a trivia buff and “Jeopardy” fan for decades - was duly humbled by the master.
“I was slow on the buzzer,” said the 56-year-old bow-tied Stone, who teaches social sciences at Perimeter College’s Alpharetta campus of GSU. “James is insanely good with the buzzer. I wish I had spent more time practicing that over building my knowledge.”
Holzhauer, a 34-year-old professional sports gambler, easily won his 23rd consecutive game Monday night, the second longest run in the show’s history behind only Ken Jennings. (The show limited wins to five until 2003.) He has pocketed more than $1.7 million to date.
Holzhauer’s game play is radical, aggressive and effective. He hunts for Daily Doubles, targeting the higher dollar amounts first and jumping from category to category. Most players start with the easy questions and stick with the same category if it’s something they like.
Once Holzhauer gets Daily Doubles (and he gets them often), he typically bets big and rarely makes a mistake.
Stone said during auditions, he got 49 out of 50 questions right on the written exam and killed his competitors during mock games. He came into the green room that day supremely confident - until he found out Holzhauer had won 22 games in a row. “My heart sank,” he said. “The air got sucked out of the room.”
But he figured he could be the David that conquers Goliath. Adrenaline kicked in when he first stood there as Alex Trebek introduced them.
Stone opened the game by getting the first answer correct and garnering an oh-so-brief $1,000 lead. Soon Holzhauer began buzzing in correct answers at a rapid clip. While Stone did get several answers right, he finished the first round in second place, well behind Holzhauer, $12,000 to $4,200.
But given the amount of money potentially picked up in Double Jeopardy, Stone was hardly out of it.
Unfortunately, the opening of Double Jeopardy did not augur well for him or the other contestant Jenny Gibbs. Both misidentified a Manet painting and Stone’s $4,200 take quickly shrank to $2,200. He then bounced back, buzzing in three painting answers correctly, building to what would be his peak total of $5,800.
Holzhauer quickly found a Daily Double and his total jumped to $23,817. Moments later, he he found the second one of the round and, of course, got it right. It was still early and he now had $34,829, a total that many winners garner after an entire game.
Stone was left in the dust after missing yet another $2,000 question, seeing a photo of steps and answering “Moscow” when it was in fact “Odessa.” Apparently, the category involved answers that begin with the letter “o.” Oops!
Soon, Gibbs - who was briefly under water - surpassed Stone, who ended Double Jeopardy with $4,200, same amount as he began it. Gibbs had $4,600. And Holzhauer was guaranteed victory with $49,229.
Final Jeopardy was basically a battle for second place, with the topic: French authors. Stone had no idea and ended up with $1. Gibbs got it right and landed with $8,801 and second place.
Holzhauer finished with $89,229. He got 37 questions correct, none wrong. Stone got 10 right, two wrong. Gibbs hit 11 right, three wrong.
As the third-place finisher, Stone actually pockets $1,000, not $1. (Gibbs gets $2,000.)
Stone said he has been a dedicated viewer of the show going back to grad school in the 1980s. But he didn’t seriously consider taking the “Jeopardy” test until his two sons encouraged him in 2011.
His strengths: history, geography, science. His weakness: pop culture.
This particular episodes taped on March 5, the day before host Trebek announced he had pancreatic cancer. Holzhauer said he was shocked when he saw the announcement.
As for Holzhauer, Stone would not be surprised if he surpasses Jennings’ 74-game winning streak. “His wealth of knowledge is amazing,” Stone said.
But he has no regrets losing to Holzhauer, “This didn’t wreck my dream at all,” he said. “It was wonderful just to be there!”
Facing Holzhauer made him think of a lyric from the Charlie Daniels’ song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” both the actual version and the radio edit. Here’s the sanitized version: “Devil, just come on back if you ever want to try again'cause I've told you once, you son of a gun, I'm the best there's ever been."
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