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James Holzhauer

James Holzhauer

Professional sports gambler | Won $2,464,216 on 'Jeopardy!' | Class of 2005

You don’t have to be a numbers whiz to know that $2,464,216 can buy a whole lot of munchies off the Papa Del’s menu.

But James Holzhauer is — he earned his 2005 UI bachelor’s degree in math — and you can bet the Illini Card Players president turned Las Vegas professional sports gambler will put some of his newfound riches toward his pizza of choice the next time the Jeopardy! Hall of Famer visits his old college haunts.

“When I think of my time at U of I, the first thing that comes to mind is Papa Del’s,” says Holzhauer, a Naperville North grad whose winnings over 33 episodes in 2019 are the second-most in the 35-year history of the Alex Trebek-hosted show, behind $2.52 million man Ken Jennings, a 74-game winner in 2004.

“My poker-playing friends and I had a standing arrangement that if one of us made a big score in a tournament, he’d buy everyone a three-course dinner of garlic cheese bread, thin-crust pizza and deep dish pizza," Holzhauer says.

“Las Vegas has a fabulous restaurant scene, but nothing can match the smell of bubbling mozzarella from that old location on Green Street.”