Fresh off of his victory in the latest Jeopardy Tournament of Champions, sports bettor James Holzhauer is heading to primetime where he will face off against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter to determine the game show’s greatest player ever.

Jeopardy Holzhauer Jennings Rutter
James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings, and Brad Rutter (left to right) will compete in Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time, a primetime series airing in January. (Image: Jeopardy)

Holzhauer, Jennings, and Rutter will meet in “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time,” a special event that will air this January on ABC.

First to Three Will be the G.O.A.T

This contest won’t be like any Jeopardy contest that audiences have seen before. The three competitors will take part in a series of matches set up like the two-night finale of the Tournament of Champions, though they will air over the course of an hour on the same night. The player with the highest combined score over the two games will win the match.

It will take more than winning a single contest to become the Jeopardy G.O.A.T. The victory will go to the first player who wins three matches, meaning – like any good championship series in sports – the schedule for the event only guarantees the first three nights of competition. Additional matches will be held, only if necessary. Potentially, the competition could extend to seven matches if the tournament ends up in a three-way tie at two matches apiece.

The first match will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 7, with a new match taking place each weeknight, except on Monday Jan. 13, until the competition ends.

“When James had his run last year, a lot of people were wondering, well how would he do against Ken Jennings? How would he do against Brad Rutter?” Jeopardy host Alex Trebek told USA Today. “These three players have won close to $10 million in Jeopardy prize money, and over 100 games among them, so it was logical.”

Offshore bookmaker Bovada posted odds on the event almost immediately after the announcement, making Holzhauer a +110 favorite – barely – over Jennings (+115), with Rutter being given the longest odds of +280.

Don’t Sleep on Rutter

That’s the kind of line that someone from the general public might think sounds sensible, as Holzhauer and Jennings both played in the era in which champions could stay on Jeopardy indefinitely, allowing them to achieve celebrity status.

Even so, Rutter may be the man to beat in this G.O.A.T. tournament. Rutter has never lost a single game to another human being, and is undefeated against Jennings in head-to-head play in various tournaments. Jennings did finish second to Rutter’s third place in an exhibition against IBM’s Watson computer in 2011 – the only time a human opponent has finished ahead of Rutter.

Jennings saw the Bovada line, and said even he’s tempted by the generous odds on his Jeopardy rival.

Bovada apparently got the message – or perhaps just a lot of betting on Rutter. The odds shifted by Tuesday morning, making Rutter and Holzhauer +140 co-favorites ahead of Jennings (+180).

Trebek believes the fact that Holzhauer has played more recently could give him an edge over Jennings and Rutter. On the other hand, Holzhauer’s strategies were designed to maximize the value of Daily Doubles, and won’t surprise either of his opponents.

“Ken and Brad are familiar with James’ strategy of picking the bottom clues first, and picking up some funds to capitalize on the Daily Double if he hits it,” Trebek told USA Today. “Knowing that’s his strategy, they might preempt it by doing it themselves. [But] you have to be confident in your knowledge.”

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