‘Jeopardy!’ Current Champ on His ‘Effective Strategy’: ‘Follow Everything That Ken Jennings Says’

by Leanne Stahulak

While current “Jeopardy!” champ Matt Amodio may play with James Holzhauer-like strategies, he claims his go-to role model is actually Ken Jennings.

Holzhauer is well known for wagering big and playing “Jeopardy!” as more of a numbers/betting game than a quiz show. The reason he was so successful in the past (having the second-highest consecutive wins and highest single-game earnings) mostly comes from his wagering skills.

Amodio seems to be following in Holzhauer’s tracks, having racked up more than $100,000 in just three games. But in an interview with local New Haven, Connecticut, outlet WTNH, the Yale Ph.D. student revealed his true idol.

“One of the things that I found was an effective strategy, is follow everything that Ken Jennings says and try to duplicate it as best as I can,” Amodio said. “He’s been a role model. I remember watching him as a kid.”

According to WTNH, Amodio and his parents used to sit down all the time to watch “Jeopardy!”. The 30-year-old would’ve been just 13 when Ken Jennings took the stage in 2004 for his legendary 74-game winning streak.

How To Follow In The Footsteps Of ‘Jeopardy!’ Champion Ken Jennings

While Amodio didn’t specify which of Jennings’ actions he specifically wanted to “duplicate,” Jennings does have some top “Jeopardy!” advice on his website. On the Frequently Asked Questions page, he talks about how he prepared for his time on the game show.

Question-wise, he studied up on some of the more common categories like “U.S. presidents, world capitals, Shakespeare,” and, apparently cocktails. Jennings would have his wife drill him with flashcards all day every day.

But knowing the answers and passing the “Jeopardy!” test isn’t the same as doing well on the show. That, Jennings reveals, comes down to the buzzer.  

“‘Jeopardy!’ victory most often goes not to the biggest brain; it goes to the smoothest thumb. If you buzz in too early, the system actually locks you out for a fifth of a second or so. But if you’re too late, the player next to you is going to get in first. Somewhere between too early and too late is a very narrow sweet spot,” Jennings wrote. “All I know is, the more I thought about the timing, the less I could nail it. When I could somehow just Zen out and not think about what I was doing, I would do okay.”

To help simulate the experience of being on “Jeopardy!”, Jennings would set up a “fake podium” in his living room and pretend he was participating while watching episodes.

“I set new nerdiness records by deciding to start watching “Jeopardy!” (a) twice a day, (b) standing up behind my recliner to imitate the podium experience, and (c) hammering my thumb on my toddler’s Fisher-Price ring-stack toy, which I figured was about the same size as the “Jeopardy!” buzzer. I looked and felt like an idiot, but I think it helped.”

Watch Matt Amodio try to maintain his winning streak this Monday, July 26, with LeVar Burton as the new guest host.