Jeopardy!’: How Ken Jennings Says James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter ‘Reinvented’ the Game

by Keeli Parkey
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Ken Jennings is one of the most famous – if not the most famous – contestants who ever appeared on “Jeopardy!” He rose to fame almost 20 years ago by setting a record no other contestant had come close to.

So, when the popular quiz show selected the lineup for its 2020 The Greatest of All Time Tournament, of course, Jennings was on that list. He had won 74 consecutive games, after all. So were “Jeopardy!” champions James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter. It might surprise you to know that Jennings wasn’t sure he could win that tournament going into it.

According to what he told PopCulture during early November 2020, Jennings knew Holzhauer and Rutter would be a challenge because they had changed the way “Jeopardy!” was played.

“When I went on ‘Jeopardy!’ in 2004 it was a very different game,” Jennings explained. “You know, players like James and Brad really kind of reinvented the game by, kind of, applying game theory and gambling theory. You know, making big, scary wagers. Tackling different ways to – different orders of approaching the gameboard. Taking the clues in a different order. Different things you can do like that to keep your opponents off-balance.”

Jennings also said players on “Jeopardy!” prepare for the show differently today than when he appeared in 2004.

“We didn’t have any of that in 2004. This was like the horse-and-buggy era,” he explained. “There was no way to study old ‘Jeopardy!’ games online. Nowadays you got people building simulators for themselves at home so they can kind of practice, you know, getting in ‘Jeopardy!’ fighting shape.”

Ken Jennings Said He Had to Learn to Play ‘Jeopardy!’ Like James Holzhauer

To prepare for The Greatest of All Time Tournament on “Jeopardy!” Ken Jennings looked to the playing style of his opponents for guidance. He also hoped things would go his way.

“All I could do was try to relearn James Holzhauer-style ‘Jeopardy!’ and hope I caught a few breaks,” Jenning said. “You know, his style of play is so risky. It can really be disastrous if you catch a few bad breaks. And, luckily, like I had better luck than any of the other two players in that tournament. You know, I made big wagers on Daily Doubles that I knew. Somebody else found the Daily Doubles that I didn’t know. In close games, you know, when James needed Daily Double sometimes he wouldn’t find one or he got a harder Final ‘Jeopardy!’ in that game.”

Another factor also came into play for Ken Jennings to win the “Jeopardy!” The Greatest of All Time Tournament.

“You know, a lot of things had to fall just right because there is a lot of luck in a game of ‘Jeopardy!’ but, hey, I will take it,” he said.

You can watch Ken Jennings talk with PopCulture below. His comments about how James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter “reinvented” “Jeopardy!” begin just after the 3-minute mark of the video.

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