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The 'Jeopardy!' champ who has won $1.2 million doesn't think he could 'hack it in the 9-to-5 world'

This image made from video aired on "Jeopardy!" on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, and provided by Jeopardy Productions, Inc. shows James Holzhauer.
Jeopardy Productions, Inc. | AP

You won't find professional sports gambler, and current "Jeopardy!" champ, James Holzhauer sitting behind a desk at an office. The 34-year-old is more comfortable making bets in Vegas and cleaning up on the set of the popular game show than he is making small talk at the water cooler.

"I honestly don't think I can hack it in the 9-to-5 world, though I've never actually tried," Holzhauer tells CNBC Make It. "I really like not having to justify my decisions to anyone else, as well as the freedom to vacation whenever I want."

Holzhauer has racked up $1,225,987 over 16 games as of Thursday. He's now second only to "Jeopardy!" legend Ken Jennings in terms of overall winnings, and he continues to smash single-game records.

Part of his success, experts say, is his comfort with taking risks, which helps him in his day job as a gambler. "The real advantage I draw from my job is that I don't have a mental block about betting $38,314 on one trivia question," he has said. "It's only money."

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That said, "I wouldn't recommend sports betting as a career," he tells CNBC Make It. "It requires a ton of effort and mastery of many different skills, and successful bettors are unwilling to teach you because you would be their competition."

Luckily, Holzhauer says you don't need to gamble for a living to be the next "Jeopardy!" champ. Instead, he recommends picking up children's books to learn the basics of a variety of topics.

"I've found that in an adult reference book, if it's not a subject I'm interested in, I just can't get into it," he told The New York Times. "I was thinking, 'What is the place in the library I can go to to get books tailored to make things interesting for uninterested readers'? Boom. The children's section."

I honestly don't think I can hack it in the 9-to-5 world, though I've never actually tried. I really like not having to justify my decisions to anyone else.
James Holzhauer
'Jeopardy!' champ

Holzhauer says he does follow some traditional financial advice: He prioritizes saving for retirement, even if his job doesn't offer a 401(k).

"My edge in gambling could disappear at any time," he says. "I have no special knowledge of markets, so I invest solely in low-expense index funds, plus some cryptocurrencies."

Experts, including Warren Buffett, also recommend investing in low-cost index funds or ETFs, though they tend to say savers should be wary of cryptocurrencies, which are more unstable than traditional investments.

When he's done on the show, Holzhauer doesn't have especially grand plans for his winnings. He says he wants to travel for a bit and treat a few family members.

"I'd like to finally send my old man and his missus to the U.S. Open this summer," he says. "Their ticket requests get closer to center court with every episode I win."

Don't miss: 'Jeopardy!' champ James Holzhauer has won over $1 million—here's how he keeps winning

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