Jeopardy! Champion James Holzhauer has made his WSOP debut this Monday in Las Vegas.
A pro sports gambler for over a decade, Holzhauer played in two events at the Rio Convention Center:
Event #56: $1,500 No-Limit-Hold'em Super Turbo Bounty
Event #57: $1,000 Tag Team No-Limit Hold'em (with Mike Sexton as his partner)
Both events were scheduled on June 24, Monday.
Holzhauer said, "I decided to enter because [Poker Hall of Famer] Mike Sexton contacted me and offered to sponsor my buy-ins. I don't have any plans to enter another WSOP event beyond those two. I played online poker semi-professionally in the early 2000s, but I don't intend to make a career of it now, as I'm sure I wouldn't be good enough at it to justify forgoing other opportunities."
The 34-year-old plans to donate 50% of any winnings to a Southern Nevada charity drive called Project 150, a nonprofit organization in Las Vegas for homeless, displaced and disadvantaged high school students. He was famous recently for having won $2.46 million during a 32-game win streak on the game show "Jeopardy!" which ended on June 3. He said that he and his wife donated around $300,000 to various charities.
A resident of Naperville, Illinois, Holzhauer recently made a donation in Alex Trebek's name to a Naperville pancreatic cancer walk.
The long-time Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek is currently battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer. During Holzhauer's final episode on the game show, 78-year-old Trebek expressed his gratitude to Holzhauer's 4-year-old daughter who gave him a handmade card, "I want to express my thanks to your beautiful little daughter, Natasha, for having made this get well card for me. That was very sweet of her."
Following the trend of his daughter's birthday, November 9, 2014, Holzhauer donated $1,109.14 to the Naperville walk and wrote a message on its website, "For Alex Trebek and all the other survivors."
Holzhauer said he hasn't played poker in about eight years, since the federal government swooped down and made online poker illegal in April 2011, "I stopped playing online poker due to a combination of the UIGEA legislation and realizing that I could make more money with less effort by betting sports. Honestly, my poker skills are so rusty that my main goal is to get lucky."
A lot of Holzhauer's close friends are actually poker pros, such as former college roommate Jameson Painter and 3-time WSOP bracelet winner Ben Yu.
Ben Yu said that Holzhauer is one of the smartest people he has met, "In poker, the smartest people are probably like Scott Seiver, Isaac Haxton - (Holzhauer's) right up there with them for sure. He has a phenomenal gambling mind. We do a lot of sports betting work together, share a lot of information. He's definitely someone I look up to."
Holzhauer said he has not yet met up with Yu for a poker refresher course, "Ben Yu is a close friend, but he has bigger fish to fry right now than teaching me how to play cards. Other friends have encouraged me to play in the Series, but I think they might just be hoping to get more dead money in the field. Several friends who are bracelet winners have been giving me quick coaching sessions. It's good to have people in the community. They're great people - I'd trust them with my life."
Invited to play at WSOP and also at partypoker MILLIONS Main Event later in November
Holzhauer participated in Event #56: $1,500 No-Limit-Hold'em Super Turbo Bounty and Event #57: $1,000 Tag Team No-Limit Hold'em, with Mike Sexton as his partner.
He was also invited to play in the $10,000 partypoker MILLIONS Main Event with $5,000,000 GTD in the Bahamas this November. He said with a laugh, "It would be nice if I don't embarrass myself. But I'm just really hoping to have a good time, and if I happen to win, then you know, that's gravy."
Mike Sexton shall be showing him the ropes at the WSOP and assured him to just relax on the felt, "I just want him to have a good time playing. He's come in to our world and we're all blessed that he's here."
Holzhauer showed up at his WSOP debut events wearing patches of Project 150 (the charity he will donate half of his winnings to) and of partypoker, courtesy of Mike Sexton.
In Event #56: $1,500 NLHE Super Turbo Bounty, Holzhauer finished in 454th place amongst 1,867 entrants. He didn't make the money since only the top 280 finishers got a share of the $2.5 million prize pool.
In Event #57: $1,000 Tag Team NLHE, Mike Sexton began play for both of them. However, it looks like before Monday ended, at 11:30pm, they were eliminated as well.