“Jeopardy!” champ Amy Schneider, along with game show experts, presented several key arguments to explain this season’s abundance of super champions.
Unlike in previous “Jeopardy!” seasons, when folks won maybe two or three consecutive games, these champs are walking away millions of dollars richer, with dozens of consecutive wins. Matt Amodio kicked off this run of super champions with 38 wins in October, followed immediately by Jonathan Fisher with 11 wins. Then Amy Schneider blew everyone away with 40 consecutive matches, followed by Mattea Roach with 23 and Ryan Long with 16.
So, how did this happen? Claire McNear, a journalist for The Ringer and author of a “Jeopardy!” book, believes it could be statistical.
“When we first started seeing this barrage of winning streaks, there were a lot of people — including some of the champions themselves — who argued that this was just a statistical aberration,” McNear told IGN. “It was the infinite monkeys at infinite typewriters theory: If you put enough nerds at enough buzzers for enough time, sooner or later you’ll get some very successful nerds back to back to back.”
She added, “But there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re also seeing the Moneyball-ing of Jeopardy.”
Moneyball refers to an extreme strategy of betting and wagering by contestants. James Holzhauer really dove into this method during his 2019 run. Before Holzahuer played, only Ken Jennings had ever won more than 20 games. But Holzhauer blew through 32 matches and $2.4 million in winnings because of aggressive Daily Double and Final Jeopardy! wagers.
Amy Schneider agrees that new wagering strategies have definitely affected the current run of super champions.
“My whole life I felt like people were too conservative with their wagering,” Schneider explained. “It’s hard to do it when you’re on stage because it’s your own money. But people do wager more aggressively than they used to. If you’re successful it makes those late-game comebacks a lot less likely.”
Here’s How COVID-19 Might Also Have Impacted This Run of ‘Jeopardy!’ Super Champs
Aside from betting, “Jeopardy!” contestants also possess more resources than they used to. They can buy makeshift buzzers that simulate the real thing. And study all the questions and clues that have ever been asked via the J! Archive. Contestants who utilize these resources encounter way more success than those who walk in with less preparation.
“As with anything else, how intensely you prepare isn’t the only thing that matters,” Claire McNear revealed. “But there are now so many people in the Jeopardy! contestant pool who walk into the studio not just because they love Jeopardy! but because they’ve specifically studied how to play Jeopardy! and maximize their odds of winning.”
And now, thanks to COVID-19, they can study more easily at home. Before, the contestant recruitment process and casting relied on taking tests in person, on location. Now, thanks to the “newly launched ‘Anytime Test’ module” more people can access the game show casting process at home. They complete auditions over Zoom without having to take time off to travel.
“It reduced the barrier of entry for a lot of people,” Andy Saunders, a “Jeopardy!” expert, explained. “Because prior to that, you had to make a pretty big investment of time or money. If you weren’t in a big city, you’d have to travel to the audition. It was hard to commit, especially when there was no guarantee they were going to get on.”
Based on these conclusions, it’s safe to say that we should look forward to seeing more “Jeopardy!” super champions, not less, in the future.