HomeEntertainment‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament of Champions Winner Reveals Strategy That Led Him to Victory

‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament of Champions Winner Reveals Strategy That Led Him to Victory

by Chris Haney
(Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

A couple weeks ago, Jeopardy! hosted their annual Tournament of Champions, and winner Sam Kavanaugh recently shared the strategy behind his huge victory.

This year things looked a little different during the tournament without longtime host Alex Trebek present. The late host manned the tournament for decades previous to his passing in November 2020. Since Trebek’s death, Jeopardy! has utilized a series of guest hosts. Therefore for this year’s event, they brought back Buzzy Cohen, who is a previous Tournament of Champions winner.

Cohen returned to the show to host the two-week special event. From May 17 to May 28, the Tournament of Champions featured 15 of the top Jeopardy! champions from the past year. By the end, the tournament had dwindled down to the final three contestants, including Kavanaugh.

The Minneapolis teacher recently spoke to the StarTribune where he opened up about his experiences. In addition, he revealed some of the strategies he used on the way to a $250,000 grand prize. Kavanaugh admits he wasn’t the most “knowledgeable” contestant in the tournament. However, he credits his game plan going into the tournament as to why he came out on top.

“Strategy is certainly my strength,” Kavanaugh told the StarTribune. “I wasn’t the most knowledgeable person in the tournament. Of the 15 competitors, I was probably somewhere in the middle. I take advantage of betting well, especially on Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy. I’m very aware of the point values. I also know what I don’t know. You need to be careful about ringing in when you’re wrong.”

‘Jeopardy!’ Champion Opens up About What He’s Doing With His Winnings

While Sam Kavanaugh obviously didn’t have too many deficiencies in his game, the Jeopardy! champion did reveal some of his weaknesses. Since there are many pop culture questions on the game show, the contestant knew one area he needed to work on. Kavanaugh admitted he had to practice getting celebrity names correct, so he used digital flash cards to strengthen that part of his game.

“My brain seems to categorize celebrities by faces before names. Like, I’ll know who an actor is and can name a bunch of movies he’s in, but I can’t come up with the name right away,” he said. “I worked at that with digital flash cards. Anytime that happened while I was playing at home, I’d write down the guy’s name on the back of his photo and then come up with kind of mnemonic device to help me recall.”

The Jeopardy! contestant’s strategy obviously worked since he took home the $250,000 and the title of Tournament of Champions victor. Yet everyone surely wants to know what Kavanaugh is doing with his enormous winnings. It’s about as pragmatic as you’d expect from a Jeopardy! winner.

“We’ll see. The last time around, I got Lasik surgery and bought a new car,” Kavanaugh explained. “I really want to travel quite a bit. I’m hoping to take it slow and not blow it all frivolously.”