‘Jeopardy!’ Champ Matt Amodio Says His Goal Is To Win $1 More Than Ken Jennings

by Josh Lanier
(Photo via Getty Images)

Matt Amodio surpassed James Holzhauer for second-most Jeopardy! wins all-time, now he says his next target is to take on the G.O.A.T. The 30-year-old Yale Ph.D. student said he wants to break Ken Jennings‘ record and win more than $2.5 million on the show.

Amodio wrote a column for Newsweek explaining what it’s like to be a lifelong Jeopardy! fan who is now one of its greatest contestants. Amodio won his 33rd game on Friday, passing James Holzhauer’s record of 32 wins in 2019. Though, first place is still a long way off. Ken Jennings won 74 consecutive games in 2004.

Amodio wrote that climbing atop Jeopardy!‘s Mount Olympus is overwhelming. He never thought he’d make it this far. He kept setting goals for himself and passing them. Now, toppling Ken Jenning’s record is one of the few things he has left to beat.

But it is a good feeling to have won more than $1.2million. I won the annual rent for my apartment in my first game, and that was an optimistic best case scenario I had in mind going in: being able to pay a whole year in rent. Then I got to the point where I thought I could consider winning $100,000. Then $250,000 happened, then $500,000 and then $1,000,000. I guess the ultimate goal is to win one dollar more than Ken and to have the record for the show!

Matt Amodio, Newsweek

Matt Amodio says he doesn’t think of himself as rich. In fact, he said he doesn’t think about the money much at all. The only plan he has for the cash so far is to fix the air conditioning in his car, which broke 6 or 7 years ago.

“I guess eventually it will start to sink in, but as of now, I still feel like a Ph.D. student with a small stipend,” he wrote. “I’ve always tried to live on as little as possible and pocket away what I could for a rainy day. Now, my rainy day fund is overflowing.”

Matt Amodio On What It’s Like Being ‘Jeopardy! Famous’

The Jeopardy! community has embraced Matt Amodio. Fans come up to him in the street or at a baseball game to congratulate him, but he has no illusions about his celebrity. He’s “Jeopardy! Famous,” he wrote, which is a niche kind of celebrity that is unlike the real thing.

You’d suspect it would still be intoxicating to find that level of fame in a community you admire. But Amodio said Jeopardy! doesn’t allow contestants to dwell on their successes. The show is an academic decathlon and the pressure is constant.

“It’s easy to stay grounded because there is so much randomness and luck involved,” he wrote. “In my first game, I was just one question away from losing. I’ve had so many close calls where I feel like Neo in The Matrix, dodging the bullets in slow motion. People have asked how I stay humble and grounded? The game keeps you grounded.”