How Did 'Jeopardy!' Winner James Holzhauer Get So Good, Smart? Childrens Books Are Key Learning Tool, Champion Says

Jeopardy! Champion James Holzhauer, a winner of 20 consecutive games with more than $1.5 million in earnings, has already become one of the most successful game show contestants in American history. Now, he's aiming to continue his winning streak and take aim at Ken Jennings all-time Jeopardy! record of $2.5 million.

(It's notable already that Jennings reached his $2.5 million record in 74 games.)

Thursday night, Hozlhauer goes for his 21st consecutive Jeopardy! win, facing Jessica Efron Sauer and Josh Archibaldseiffer. Sauer is a bookkeeper from Munster, Indiana, and Archibaldseiffer is a music director/pianist from Seattle.

But already, Holzhauer has become one of the top nine American game show contestants ever, begging the question: How did Jeopardy! winner James Holzhauer get so good and smart at game shows?

Holzhauer, a 34-year-old professional sports gambler from Las Vegas, claims one way he became a trivia expert is by reading children's books—the type he might read to his 4-year-old daughter. Holzhauer said he finds many adult books boring but that he can more quickly learn from children's books.

"You may be able to read an adult book about a boring subject without falling asleep, but I can't," Holzhauer said, according to The Washington Post. "For me, it was either read some children's books—designed to engage the reader—or go into Jeopardy! with giant gaps in my knowledge base."

Holzhauer said children's books are filled with "infographics, pictures and all kinds of stuff to keep the reader engaged."

"I couldn't make it through a chapter of an actual Dickens novel without falling asleep."

What are James Holzhauer's favorite children's books?

"The Classics Illustrated series was an excellent primer in literature, and I also really enjoyed Zachary Hamby's mythology books for teens," he told the Post. He read his daughter Where the Wild Things Are before she was born, he said.

A native of Illinois, Holzhauer received a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Illinois. He became a professional gambler rather than a mathematician because he "doesn't blink at gambling large amounts of money" when he thinks he has a big edge and previously appeared on the game show The Chase in 2014.

Among Holzhauer's Jeopardy! strategies to parlay his extensive trivia knowledge into consistent winning is his aggressive wagering.

"You can see as soon as I get control of the board in the first game I'm going for the $1,000 clues whenever I have the opportunity," Holzhauer told The New York Times. "I think the only time I ever deviated from it was a category about the U.S. Senate. I'm not a politics guy, so I avoided that, but other than that I'm going $1,000-1,000-1,000 whenever I can."

How does Jeopardy! winner James Holzhauer make a living as a sports bettor?

"When I started 14 years ago, the biggest edges were in baseball, and that's what I focused on," he told the Times. "But the market's really caught up with advanced statistics, and they take bigger bets on games like football and basketball, so I'm focusing more of my attention there. Hockey I've been trying to work on lately. You can find some inefficiencies in team totals (how many goals will be scored in a game) and the puck line (betting that a team will win by a certain margin)."