HomeEntertainment‘Jeopardy!’: Learn the Buzzer Secret Ken Jennings Used While on His Record-Breaking Win

‘Jeopardy!’: Learn the Buzzer Secret Ken Jennings Used While on His Record-Breaking Win

by Halle Ames
(Photo Credit: Ron Batzdorff/ Getty Images)

Whether you realize it or not, there is an art to pressing the buzzer on the game show Jeopardy! Just ask Ken Jennings how he mastered it.

Ken Jennings was working as a mere software engineer in Salt Lake City in 2004 when he received word he would be a contestant on Jeopardy! Jennings didn’t just win one game and dip out. No, Ken Jenning became a Jeopardy! master, winning 74 games, a record on the show.

However, on November 30, 2004, the young genius’s winning streak came to a sudden halt when Jenning couldn’t answer enough questions about the tax company H&R Block.

In total, Ken Jennings won $2.52 million.

Big Brains and Trigger Fingers

The well-versed winner shares some insight into the world of Jeopardy!, saying that the most intelligent person doesn’t always win. Sometimes, the winner is determined by your reaction time.

According to Ken Jennings’s website, “Jeopardy! victory most often goes not to the biggest brain; it goes to the smoothest thumb.”

Well said.

Now, contestants better not just be working on their random fact knowledge but their trigger finger.

Furthermore, you cannot just buzz in whenever you feel like it. The game show disables the buzzers until the host is finished reading the question.

For nearly 36 years, that host was the beloved Alex Trebek.

In fact, if you tried to buzz in before the question was done being read, the system will lock you out for around a fifth of a second. Still, that is enough to be the difference between a first and second when points are getting down to the wire.

On the other hand, if you play it safe and wait too long after the question has been read, another contestant will likely jump on the opportunity.

The Key to Jeopardy! Victory

You have to find the buzzer sweet spot.

Ken Jennings said the trick to nailing the timing for buzzing your name into the Jeopardy! Hall of Fame is to not think about it at all.

Easier said than done. Now that we told you not to think about it, the secret is going to live rent-free in your mind.

Ken Jennings makes some questionable comparisons but finally says you just have to “zen out.”

“It’s like swinging a tennis racket or a baseball bat. No, that’s not right. The Jeopardy! buzzer, she is like a woman. No, that’s not it either. 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.”

Now, if only we could zen out of half of the conversation we find ourselves in, we would be in much better shape.