‘Jeopardy!’: How Many Times Has the Game Show Had No Winner?

by John Jamison

Few things are less rewarding on a game show than there not being a winner. That goes for the contestants themselves and the audience alike. But with the number of “Jeopardy!” games that have been played over the decades, there were bound to be a few occasions where no one earned the right to be called champion.

In the case of “Jeopardy!” it’s a rare occurrence for all of the contestants to finish the game with a zero on their scoreboard. But since the revived version of the show hit TV screens in 1984, it’s happened on no less than seven different occasions. To some degree, today’s contestants owe it to these pioneers of the game. If it wasn’t for them, people might still be trying to wager every dollar they have in Final Jeopardy.

The first time it happened came all the way back in 1984 when Alex Trebek and the show were still in their American TV infancy. All three contestants let their confidence get the best of them as they tried to answer the Final Jeopardy clue, “Calendar date with which the 20th century began.” They each wagered everything they had, resulting in a three-way loss, earning them the eternal shame of not keeping a single dollar behind.

Between 1984 and 2015, a similar result only happened on five different occasions. Every single one of these episodes boiled down to the contestants wagering everything in Final Jeopardy. And for those who are unfamiliar with the game show’s rules, any player with $0 or less at the end of Double Jeopardy does not get to continue.

The Most Recent Losing ‘Jeopardy!’ Effort Came in 2016

You’d think that after all these years, and after presumably studying some fundamental game strategy, contestants on “Jeopardy!” would have learned from past mistakes. Especially ones that are so famously infrequent.

But embarrassingly, three contestants made the very same mistake as recently as 2016. It’s partly understandable, considering two of the contestants were tied at $13,800 going into Final Jeopardy. If the other player gambled everything they had and got it right, all the other could hope to do was tie the game. So going all out was reasonable in this situation, at the very least.

The real blame here is on the contestant with $6,000. Knowing that the other two had to gamble everything they had, she should have made no wager at all. Doubling up $6,000 still would have left her behind in the event that someone else answered correctly.

It just goes to show, if you don’t know the right answer, there’s an outside chance that neither of your competitors knows the correct response either. For your own sake and that of the late Alex Trebek’s memory, please hold onto a dollar if you ever find yourself in a Final Jeopardy situation.