James Holzhauer beat Emma Boettcher and Francois Barcomb for the champion title

By Natalie Stone
November 15, 2019 05:47 PM
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He’s won it again!

Jeopardy! contestant James Holzhauer won the Alex Trebek-hosted game show’s Tournament of Champions and took home the $250,000 grand prize on Friday.

Holzhauer, 35, went up against Emma Boettcher and Francois Barcomb to win the tournament, with Boettcher coming in second (earning $100,000) and Barcomb taking third (earning $50,000).

The Las Vegas sports gambler’s victory over Boettcher, who is a librarian from Chicago, comes five months after she beat Holzhauer and ended his 32-game Jeopardy! winning streak in June.

“I’ve said all along that Emma is an all-time great player, and I’m proud it took that level of competitor to defeat me,” Holzhauer said in a statement.

“Now the world sees that I wasn’t just making excuses. Francois certainly looked as dominant as either of us in his first two games, so I knew the finals would be a fight to the finish,” continued Holzhauer. “But the whole point of the TOC is to play the best of the best, and Emma and Francois certainly proved that they belonged in the final three.”

Francois Barcomb, Alex Trebek, James Holzhauer and Emma Boettcher
Courtesy Jeopardy Productions, Inc.
Alex Trebek and James Holzhauer
Courtesy Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Holzhauer’s regular season and tournament winnings now total $2,712,216, coming third behind two fellow players in top earnings: Ken Jennings ($3,370,700) and Brad Rutter, whose $4,688,436 makes him the highest-winning game show contestant of all time.

Following his elimination over the summer, Holzhauer opened up to PEOPLE about how he and his wife Melissa, 37, were going to use his winnings to give back.

“We knew we wanted to do a big philanthropic push,” said Melissa of how to handle the sudden fame — and yes, money — and parlay it into something good.

The couple asked around about local charities, and soon learned of Project 150, a foundation that helps homeless teenagers in Nevada attend and finish high school. “Las Vegas has to be one of the most inhospitable places to not have a place to sleep at night,” said Melissa of the area’s climate. “I went to the website and watched their videos, it broke my heart. I knew I wanted us to really get involved to help them out.”

For his part, Holzhauer, who has also donated money to pancreatic research in the name of Jeopardy! host Trebek, who is currently fighting pancreatic cancer, said he’s also been beyond impressed by the teens that Project 150 is helping.

“These are kids who have every excuse to just give up on school and life, but Project 150 is making sure they don’t do that. They are working really hard. Some of them are the breadwinners of their families,” he said. “It’s incredible to read their stories and see that despite everything, they’re doing whatever they can to get another chance at life.”

Holzhauer added, “They believe [high school] is their chance at breaking the cycle of poverty, and they’re really bringing themselves up by their bootstraps. They do talk about all the struggles they go through, and yet they still make it to school.”

As for what’s to come for the trivia whiz, Holzhauer said he was mulling over what he wants to do.

“There are lots of doors opening for me,” he said. But for now, he’s content to continue raising awareness, donating and fundraising for Project 150. “It’s nice to be able to have a voice,” he said. “Especially for people who need it.”

Jeopardy! airs weekdays (check local listings).