Here's why James Holzhauer bet so little in his Final Jeopardy loss

As conspiracy theories circulated, the "Jeopardy!" juggernaut explained why he only wagered $1,399 when his 32-game winning streak was on the line.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

James Holzhauer became known for making big bets to bury his opponents during his record-setting run on "Jeopardy!"

That's why the professional gambler from Las Vegas had "Jeopardy!" fans scratching their heads when he made an uncharacteristically small bet in Final Jeopardy as his 32-game winning streak came to an end on Monday's episode.

Holzhauer set the record straight in an interview with the gambling site The Action Network about why he went so low with everything on the line.

He entered Final Jeopardy with a total of $23,400, trailing eventual winner Emma Boettcher by $3,200. When it came time to wager, Holzhauer bet a mere $1,399.

The bid surprised host Alex Trebek, who called it "a modest one for the first time."

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But as Holzhauer explained to The Action Network, even if he bet it all, he calculated he'd be short of Boettcher's eventual total. So he played to get second and beat the third challenger.

"I knew I could only win if Emma missed Final Jeopardy, as there was no way she wouldn't bet to cover my all-in bet," Holzhauer told The Action Network.

"So my only concern was getting overtaken by third place, and I bet just enough to make sure of locking him out. Betting big would have looked good for the cameras, but now I turn my straight bet (Emma misses) into a parlay (Emma misses and I get it right)."

Boettcher indeed went big and wagered $20,201 of her $26,600 on Final Jeopardy. She nailed the answer, bringing her winning total to $46,801 — a dollar more than what Holzhauer would have scored if he'd bet all his money.

The final wager had some "Jeopardy!" fans wondering if something fishy was going on.

Even TODAY's Craig Melvin couldn't help but wonder himself.

"I think he might've thrown it,'' he said Tuesday. "For the record, I'm not the only one who thought a professional gambler might have thrown it."

"It's just weird at the 11th hour that he changed his strategy so completely,'' Savannah Guthrie said Tuesday. "Now that it's been explained, I'm satisfied."

Holzhauer ended with $2,464,216 in winnings, coming up just short of the record of $2,520,700 set by "Jeopardy!" legend Ken Jennings over 74 appearances.

His $76,944 average per game and his single-game high of $131,127 are both show records.

Holzhauer had some fun with the conspiracy theories, responding to one on Twitter with a reference to his young daughter.

"Sure, I could stick around and play a game that pays me $150,000 per hour, but I'd really rather get toys thrown at my crotch for free,'' he wrote.