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Jeopardy! champion's winning streak ends at US$2.46m

New York

JEOPARDY! champion James Holzhauer has set many records - and become a bit of a pop culture phenomenon - during his entertaining weeks-long winning streak on the popular US game show.

But with the all-time record for money won in regular games on the line, the seemingly invincible professional gambler with a quick buzzer finger and tonnes of knowledge faltered.

Mr Holzhauer's remarkable 32-game winning streak came to an end in the programme which aired on Monday, though the footage was leaked online some 24 hours earlier.

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Mr Holzhauer, 34, was less than US$60,000 shy of the US$2.52 million won by computer scientist Ken Jennings in 2004, during a 74-game winning run.

And he answered the final question correctly, but university librarian Emma Boettcher had earned more money than Mr Holzhauer did during the game and came out on top.

"Nobody likes to lose," he said in an interview with The New York Times, which was only published after the episode's broadcast. "But I'm very proud of how I did, and I really exceeded my own expectations for the show. So I don't feel bad about it."

He ended up winning US$2.46 million, and will likely return in a champions' tournament later in the season.

Jeopardy! is one of the oldest television quiz shows in the United States, first airing in 1964 then transitioning to its current format with host Alex Trebek in 1984.

Every night, three contestants are presented with trivia questions in various categories and asked to come up with the answer in the form of a question.

Mr Holzhauer was quick and smart, but also bet big - very big - on his ability to offer the correct answer when he landed on a special "Daily Double" question (to bet any amount he wanted), which was often.

"I can wager five-figure sums and not be feeling too much pressure about it. For me, this is just a coin flip," he said in an interview in May with The Action Network, a sports news and analytics website. "I think your average contestant might be sweating, and they can't concentrate on a trivia question with too much money at risk."

In most games, he ended the final round with an insurmountable lead.

The secrecy over Monday's results was kept intact for months; the episode was filmed in March.

Mr Jennings told NYT that he learnt about it in April, and rumours had swirled about in the game show's community.

Fans of the game show are now hoping for a Jennings-Holzhauer showdown, and Mr Jennings said: "It's going to happen at some point." AFP