Danger! The Masters’ James Holzhauer had to recover from his ‘unusual’ last place finish to secure the lead in a thrilling first semi-final

DANGER! Masters villain James Holzhauer was marginalized in the tough first match of the Special semifinals.

Host Ken Jennings even admitted it was “unusual” to see James in last place before the poker pro turned the tables and won.

James Holzhauer spent much of Jeopardy! First semifinal game of the Masters in last place


James Holzhauer spent much of Jeopardy! First semifinal game of the Masters in last placePhoto credit: ABC
James was behind on


James was behind on “Ulysses” and “had to be right” – which he did

Danger! Masters — the game show’s three-week elite special — is almost done with the final three episodes. The semi-finals started on Monday May 22nd.

After two weeks of unmissable quarterfinals, Andrew He, Matt Amodio, Mattea Roach and self-proclaimed game show villain James Holzhauer emerged as the top four titans.

Unfortunately, popular fan favorite Sam Buttrey and 40-time winner Amy Schneider were eliminated as the two weakest players who just couldn’t make it in the quarterfinals.

In the first match of Monday’s hour-long semifinals, James faced Matt and Andrew, who kindly introduced the audience to his high school Spanish teacher.

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In the second match, James (who wrote his name in Japanese) faced Andrew and Mattea and won, but the match was also shocking as Mattea was in the lead until the last clue.

In the first game it was Andrew who started strong to grab the Jeopardy! The first daily double of the round by James and the correct designation “Fuller”.

“James got off to a bad start,” one person posted on Reddit. “YES, let’s go Andrew. Great start.” wrote another.


At the end of the first round, James had 2,600 points, ahead of Andrew with 5,200 points and Matt with 5,000 points.

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Ken even called James’ third-place finish “unusual” during the interview break.

He also mentioned that James only lost one episode in the first two weeks, and that was to Matt – and also to Andrew.

Moments later, however, James managed a daily double in the second round and he did what he did best.

He correctly managed to be the first to score a tie and then grab the last remaining daily double which shot up to 19,000 points.

“Damn, last to big head start in about 10 clues,” wrote Redditors. “How does James always get the daily doubles lol.”

It wasn’t game over in the Final Jeopardy, however, as James had 26,000 (for the first time in this special apart from his only loss) but it wasn’t a runaway – Andrew had 15,200 and Matt 8,200.

Final Jeopardy looked for “Ulysses” and Matt got it, Andrew did too but only bet 6200 points.

James “needed to know,” said Ken, and he did, betting 4401 points, which was enough to finish the game.

“It proves he’s mortal”

Fans were stunned to see James forced to fight for his win, as another wrote: “James had his worst game of the tournament and he still deserves the W.”

“Finally breaking through his last crisis. Exactly the right time for it.”

“This is as deadly as James looks,” wrote another.

James was actually forced to be correct in both games and did so in the second game, otherwise he would have lost to Mattea.


As host Ken Jennings, 48, explained on stage, the semi-final means the scores of the four players on their podium finishes will be reset – so all bets will be void.

Three “match points” go to the winner of a game, one to the runner-up.

The two semi-final episodes will see one player eliminated per game and all four combinations will face off before another player is eliminated.

Then on Wednesday in the final there are two games with the three finalists and $500,000 as well as a “Trebek Trophy” as a reward.

Danger! The brainchild of new Executive Producer Michael Davies, Masters will be the first champion-chosen tournament since 2020’s $1M GOAT tournament.

The schedule is as follows:

  • Wednesday, May 17: The last two quarter-final games
  • Monday 22 May: 2 semi-final matches
  • Tuesday 23rd May: 2 semi-finals with another champion eliminated
  • Wednesday 24 May: 2 finals

The competition with the highest ratings will be held annually and will be one belt higher than the Tournament of Champions (which only includes competitors from the previous season).

TROLL tusk

James has fought his way to the top through trash talk and WWE position, making for great television.

He was the quarterfinal leader with 18 match points from huge “all-in” daily doubles bets and has returned from his famous run in 2019 in fine form.

Meanwhile, during one episode, James pretended to tease Andrew He with his Jeopardy! hit. Tournament of Champions belt.

During another game, competitor Matt answered a prompt incorrectly. The note read: “The Detroit Free Press said ‘The Mummy’ was ‘vintage’ by this novelist; ‘elegantly erotic and full of enchanting terror’.”

Ken then quipped, “I also describe James as ‘elegantly erotic but full of bewitching terror.’

James replied, “Keep it in your pants, Ken.”

One fan tweeted, “Erm… inappropriate…” while others really liked it.

In another episode, James – who oddly lost 0/7 in the Quarterfinals at Final Jeopardy after writing some joke answers – acted out one of his wrong answers.

Channeling his inner Brad Pitt into Troy, he waved his hands around the stage after writing, “Isn’t there anyone else!?”


A big change to Jeopardy gameplay! for Masters is that viewers are shown the Daily Doubles before the start of each round.

Although Ken marveled at the drastic update in a recent interview, viewers were divided an online thread.

One fan said: “I personally try to figure out where the daily doubles are and a lot of the fun of the game would be lost if I knew in advance.”

“I’ll definitely look away when they’re shown,” wrote another – in Ken’s defense telling viewers when to look away if they don’t want to see them.

A third recently wrote on Reddit: “I like it. I actually find it a little exciting to see them come so close to making daily doubles. Anyone who complains about having to look away for two seconds is making a fuss about nothing.”

A fourth said on Twitter that they “would never remember where they are”.

Another interesting change fans are hoping the syndicated show will keep is that the entire first round will be played before the show switches to commercials for the interview segments.

Masters will air while Ken’s co-replacement to Alex Trebek, Mayim Bialik, wraps up the May 1 through summer regular season.

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After the Masters, Ken will not be featured until the 2023 Tournament of Champions, which kicks off its 40th season in September.

That is, with the exception of the last week of season 39, when he’s back as a presenter as Mayim supports the WGA writers’ strike.

Ken named James, who was third ahead of Double Jeopardy!'unusual'


Ken named James, who was in third place ahead of Double Jeopardy! ‘unusual’Photo credit: ABC
Then, in Match 2, Mattea Roach almost won if it wasn't for her


Then, in Match 2, Mattea Roach almost won if it wasn’t for her “heartbreaking” Final Jeopardy failurePhoto credit: ABC
James won both Masters semifinals on Monday, but neither was a breakaway - the finals will be decided after tomorrow's semifinals


James won both Masters semifinals on Monday, but neither was a breakaway – the finals will be decided after tomorrow’s semifinalsPhoto credit: ABC


CELINE CASTRONUOVO is a Dailynationtoday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. CELINE CASTRONUOVO joined Dailynationtoday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: celine@dailynationtoday.com.

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