Jeopardy! – Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda!

https://people.com/tv/jeopardy-mattea-roach-winning-streak-ends/

Mattea Roach’s fantastic run on Jeopardy! trivia show came to an end in game aired yesterday (5/6/2022). I did not watch all the games Mattea played but I thoroughly enjoyed the games I watched. Reason being it was good to see a contestant show personality, be authentic, have fun and do extremely well. Rare it is to see vivacity on display on the show and Mattea brought loads of it while playing the game. Her playing style was conservative compared to more recent champions with long winning streaks in that the wager on Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy! were typically to not lose much ground if the response was wrong or pad the lead a bit more if right. The game she lost I would argue that the primary reason for the loss was Mattea was not her authentic self while wagering on Final Jeopardy! Going into Final Jeopardy! Mattea had $19,200 and the eventual deserving winner Danielle Maurer had $11,400. Danielle’s best chance to win was to go for broke, bet it all, get it right and hope Mattea got it wrong. In that scenario if the outcome went Danielle’s way her winning amount would have been $22,800. The next best chance was to be a bit more conservative while taking a risk. The assumption in that choice is that the person with the lead would bet just enough to edge out the challenger (if the response is right) and lose less money if wrong in the hope that the wagered amount increases the chance of not losing. With the target of $22,800 to beat in mind Mattea wagered $3,601 to the $19,200 she had going in to ensure the final amount $22,801 would be unbeatable. Danielle, probably guessing right which way the returning champion would go and/or choosing to be conservative, bet $4,200. Why that amount? A $3,601 wrong bet with $19,200 in hand would reduce the final tally to $15,599 and a winning wager of $4,200 with $11,400 in hand would bump the final tally to $15,600! Which is how it unfolded!

Why do I think Mattea’s defeat was due to her not being her authentic self? The two factors that determine the final wager have to be the category (which is announced prior to the round so that the contestants can decide how much to wager based on their confidence in the category) and a player’s risk tolerance. The category was USA. Given the scores going into Final Jeopardy! round and given her conservative betting nature I think there were two safer options available for Mattea.

1) Bet nothing and retain $19,200 at the end. This would work if the challenger got the final response wrong or got it right but did not wager more than $8,000 to bridge the gap between $19,200 and $11,200.

2) The second safer option for Mattea would have been to wager one $ lesser than her wager of $3,601. In case she got her response right the worst-case scenario would have resulted in both players finishing in a tie with final tally of $22,800 forcing a tie-breaker. In that scenario I would rate the possibility of a 23-day returning champ winning against a first time challenger higher due to greater experience, buzzing speed and the confidence of having being there and done it all 23 times before.

I realize ultimately these are woulda, coulda, shoudas amounting to Monday morning quarterbacking and doesn’t take into consideration the fatigue that creeps in after playing 20+ games. It’s fun to imagine the possibilities though 😊

Author: Rajaram 'Raj' Gopalan

Hi All, Welcome to my home in cyberspace! You can call me Raj. Feel free to explore, discuss, comment and most importantly have a good time!

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