Emma Boettcher is an American librarian and professional gambler who became famous after defeating the reigning champion James Holzhauer on the trivia game show 'Jeopardy!' on June 3, 2019. Hosted by Alex Trebek, the show provides answers first, while the contestants supply the questions via given clues. Boettcher was among two contestants competing against Holzhauer, who had a 32-game winning streak as champion, and successfully defeated him to earn $46,801. While the episode was filmed back in March 12, 2019, she had to keep her impressive win a secret until the show was aired in early June, as a result of which she had gained a celebrity status. Following the win, she revealed that she wanted to pay off her student loan with the reward money, and would like to donate to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, from where she obtained her master's degree. She has already earned another $25,601 in the next episode of the show. She recently told Trebek about her plans to visit cities around the world, starting with those with the vowel 'o' in their names, in the current year.
Rise to Stardom
Emma Boettcher became interested in trivia when she was a student at Conestoga High School, and was encouraged by her father who bought her books to help her prepare. She has been a fan of the quiz show 'Jeopardy!' and its longtime host, Alex Trebek. She was in her senior year in school when she first auditioned for the show in 2010. Actually, she had auditioned four times before she was given the chance to appear on the show following her 2017 audition.
According to 'The Philadelphia Inquirer', during her time at the Princeton University, she had begun keeping track of the clues that she got right and wrong, which made her aware of her weak spots. When her episode with James Holzhauer was filmed on March 12, 2019 the other episodes featuring Holzhauer were not yet aired, so she only came to know about his amazing winning streak after she arrived to film the episode. She had been told that she will be competing against the "returning champion" with 32 victories, which was hard for her to believe, but she stuck to her original strategy of jumping "around the board a little bit so the higher-value clues were taken care of first'. She was lagging far behind Holzhauer until the Daily Double section in the second round, during which she landed two Daily Doubles and went ahead of him by $3,200. In the Final Jeopardy, both of them gave the correct response to the clue from Shakespeare's 'As You Like It', but Holzhauer wagered a meager $1,399 against her $20,201, which awarded her an emphatic win. Merely a little-known librarian at the University of Chicago until then, she became popular overnight as the 'Kingslayer' and 'Legend Killer' for dethroning Holzhauer and halting his winning streak.
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A Long Preparation
Emma Boettcher, who had already been assessing her strengths and weaknesses on 'Jeopardy!' trivia questions since her time at Princeton University, decided to write her master's thesis paper based on the show. The paper, titled 'Predicting the Difficulty of Trivia Questions Using Text Features', included nearly 22,000 different 'Jeopardy!' clues and showed that it was possible to predict the difficulty level of the clues based on characteristics such as wording and length. She would later utilize this knowledge to build user-friendly website and catalog for her university library.
After she finally got the call to appear on 'Jeopardy!', she simulated her experience as a contestant by pretending to be standing behind the podium, with a makeshift buzzer in hand, and even wearing different shoes to check which one was most comfortable for standing. However, before her appearance, she still had to look up online tutorials to learn "how to wager, especially for Final Jeopardy". She also had to be mentally prepared to stay focused on the set of her favorite show.
Family & Personal Life
Emma Boettcher was born in 1992 in Paoli, Chester County near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Kristine Krenzke Boettcher and Kevin Boettcher. She also has a sister.
She completed her school graduation from Conestoga High School. In 2010, she entered the Princeton University to pursue a degree in English language and literature. After completing her college studies, she went to Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina to study information science. She finally earned her master's degree in 2016 for her paper on predicting the difficulty of trivia questions using 'Jeopardy!' clues. Her family currently resides in Storm Lake, Iowa, while she lives in Chicago since joining as a librarian at the University of Chicago in 2016.