Former “Jeopardy!” contestant and guest host Ken Jennings knows a bit about what it takes to win the popular trivia game show. Here’s the secret behind Jennings’ winning strategy.
On the surface, there may not be anything special about the way Jennings played the game. The contestant was just very, very good at it. How good? Well, Jennings won 74 straight games, more than anyone else in “Jeopardy!” history.
Jennings employs a methodical moving down the game show’s board. He’ll hit one category at a time, something Jennings said the show actively encourages.
“Moving methodically down ‘Jeopardy!’ categories isn’t uncommon — in fact, the show recommends it,” Jennings told Mental Floss. “It’s easier to follow at home, and it also helps players acclimate to a category before getting to the really hard clues.”
Most of Jennings’ actual strategy came before he ever joined the show. The game show contestant spent ample time preparing himself and his trivia knowledge. The other thing Jennings recommends is conservative betting.
“I would say my recommended ‘Jeopardy!’ strategy comes down to two things: at-home preparation, and conservative wagering,” Jennings continued. “Watching the show religiously at home will help you see your strong and weak points, and what common areas of ‘Jeopardy!’ knowledge (world capitals, presidents, Shakespeare) you need to bone up on, but it also helps you try to internalize the timing of the famously tricky Jeopardy! signaling devices.”
Ken Jennings and His Strategy
Jennings admittedly didn’t take his own advice in his final match in 2004. A high wager on Daily Doubles ultimately ended Jennings’ extensive reign as the show’s champion.
“And I can’t say enough about not betting too much on Daily Doubles if you’re happy with your position. In fact, I lost my last game because of two too-high Daily Double wagers,” Jennings said.
Not all contestants follow Jennings’ strategy. For instance, James Holzhauer made headlines during his run as champ on the show. His style differs greatly from Jennings. Holzhauer would jump around the board and make high-risk bets as well. This proved to be a winning formula for Holzhauer, although not as successful as Jennings.
The two ultimately got the chance to put their differing strategies together to see which was the best. Both contestants competed in the Greatest of All Time Championship last year. Ultimately, Jennings beat out Holzhauer, taking his rightfully earned trophy as the best of the best.