Few people expected “Jeopardy!” legend Matt Amodio to go so far on the show. Least of all his coworkers, who kept up with his progress night… after night… after night.
Amodio won a record-breaking 38 games in a row, becoming the contestant with the second-highest number of consecutive wins. Only GOAT Ken Jennings did any better, with 74 consecutive wins back in 2004.
But when Amodio, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate at Yale, told his labmates he’d be on “Jeopardy!”, they likely expected to tune in for one game. Then he started winning, and his coworkers started sending him congratulatory messages, Amodio told The Yale Daily News.
And then Amodio never stopped winning, and his coworkers started getting tired of congratulating him on yet another win.
“It was pretty funny where I definitely heard from them less in the latter part of the run,” Amodio said. “I think that they were running out of things to say. They said ‘congratulations,’ they went to a thesaurus and found some synonyms for ‘congratulations’ and so that lasted them for a couple of games, but then I just wore them out by winning.”
Eventually, though, Amodio’s incredible winning streak came to an end. He lost in his 39th “Jeopardy!” game to Jonathan Fisher, an actor from Coral Gables, Florida. The loss hit hard for Amodio, but then he reminded himself that he’d only wanted to win one game in the first place.
To this day, he told The Yale Daily News, his first-ever win is still his favorite moment from the show.
Former ‘Jeopardy!’ Champion Matt Amodio Hones His Skills in Weekly Bar Trivia
One does not simply walk into “Jeopardy!” unprepared. To even qualify to compete, you have to ace dozens of trivia tests, pass personality and TV tests, and brush up on your general knowledge. Aside from reading and watching tons of “Jeopardy!”, Amodio honed his trivia skills in other ways.
He played a lot of online quiz games and the Trivial Pursuit board game. Amodio also frequented weekly bar trivia nights. Now that he’s become so well known in the trivia field, he finds going back to bar trivia slightly intimidating.
“The problem is that the expectations are so high,” Amodio explained. “If we don’t win now it’s going to just be taunting the whole time.”
The pressure’s on, but Amodio can rise to the challenge. For him, being on “Jeopardy!” was never about the crowd or audience expectation anyway, but just playing the game.
“I think it would have been a great experience, even if Jeopardy was not a television show and it was just something that you went into the studio and you played a game and then went away,” he said. “I’m a competitive guy, I love knowing things and just the sheer competition was so fun.”