After a brief hiatus The Raj is back! This time with a piece on Jeopardy! trivia show. More specifically about the amazing run of current champion Matt Amodio who has enjoyed a 33-game unbeaten streak so far. In a summer marked by turbulence Matt is exactly what the doctor ordered for the show. Amid a slew of different guest hosts and controversy about permanent host selection the champ has continued his serene run. With a 33rd win in yesterday’s televised game Matt surpassed James Holzhauer in # of wins in regular season. Moving into sole 2nd place is guaranteed to bring comparisons with the runs enjoyed by #1 Ken Jennings (74-game win streak) and James and will inevitably lead to debates about who is the best. What interests me more is their journey, their style of play and characteristics and other X-factor/s!
1) Similarities between Matt, James and Ken: Encyclopedic knowledge, high intelligence, exceptional memory, interest in broad range of topics, great ability to zero in on correct response by fast elimination, ruthless efficiency, mastery of the buzzer, immense stamina and killer instinct
2) Differences between Matt, James and Ken:One could say they have competed in different eras. When Ken had his incredible run it was before social media became omnipresent. In some ways his run could be compared to a sleeper hit with interest growing as he kept adding to his wins. Both and Alex Trebek were in their pomp at this time. Ken’s approach was traditional (typically starting with low value clues in a category) and cautious, minimizing risks for win. Wouldn’t be surprised if he had a checklist in his preparation, like an engineer
James’ era was pre-COVID and when social media had become all pervasive. So, more visibility and probably more pressure. This was during the time Alex Trebek in his post-cancer diagnosis phase soldiered on admirably without letting the pain show. The James approach can be described as shock and awe effect. Go straight for the big $ clues, relentlessly hunt for the Daily Double and bet it all for maximum gain. The effect was very demoralizing on the other players as he steamrolled them and pretty much locked up the win very early in the game
Matt’s approach is a combination of Ken+James. Similar to James in going for big $ clues early on, try to get the Daily Double and bet it all (in Jeopardy! round) while building up a huge lead. In Double Jeopardy! round, with a comfortable lead, the amount bet on Daily Double just enough to pad the lead (if got right) or not lose significantly (if got wrong). In that sense similar to Ken. He has also improved the process efficiency and cut down response time by starting his response with “What’s” whether referring to a place, person , movie or whatever. It will be interesting to see if in any of his games there have been any clues left on the board due to time limit getting reached. In one respect this run has been different to Ken and James’ in that there have been more than 5 hosts in Matt’s case while Ken and James only had Alex as host. Matt has been able to adjust to the different style and cadence of each host without any noticeable problem
3) The all important X-factor: The secret sauce!
Last but not the least is the X-factor, what Matt shares in common with The Raj Interestingly both of us worked for the same employer at one time! Matt and Raj were residents of the same town when Matt attended Graduate school for his 2nd Masters degree! From all appearances it seems Matt may also like to laugh heartily like Raj. Alright, that was more of an observation, no points credited. Other than that nothing in common between Matt and Raj
It seems Matt is proud of the fact, and rightfully, that his fellow contestants who have bit the dust so far have all thought he is a genuinely nice guy and impressed by his soft touch even while putting them away. Killing them with kindness Hooray for Midwest politeness!
To me it’s fun to watch his reaction when he wins. After the game his first reaction is always “Wow, can’t believe I won this game” with a genuine smile and a look of disbelief. It’s a look of pure, unalloyed delight. Akin to a kid having fun and making incredible money in the process. Are there any apparent weakness in Matt’s game? Not really as he is done well in pretty much all categories. Couple of things I have noticed though. In going after big $ clues and hunting for Daily Double/s if another player buzzes in quick and answers right a slight look of anxiety creeps in. Likewise some anxiety when a player has won more than half of money won by Matt before Final Jeopardy! The closest match I remember was his first win when he was up against a 2-time returning champion, and going into Final Jeopardy! both of them had ~ 20K with Matt having a bit more money than the returning champ. Both bet big and got it right and the difference boiled down to Matt having slightly more money to bet and beat the returning champ. Amusing to think the streak could very well have been a non-starter
How to beat the champ?
It’s actually simple. Against all bigtime champs you got to beat them at their own game. In other words take it to them. To do that will entail buzzing in quick, going for big $ clues, getting them right (to gain control of the board in terms of clue selection/game flow), hitting the Daily Doubles, betting big on those and getting them right. In short, a near perfect game! Suddenly it doesn’t sound simple, eh? I am guessing Matt will eventually lose to a player who has more than half his money before Final Jeopardy!, bets it all, comes up with correct answer while Matt gets it wrong.
Now, for the Final Jeopardy! clue in the category ‘Recent Phenoms’:
This person has won phenomenal amount of money, more than million $ and counting, in recent times on a popular trivia game once hosted by the legendary Alex Trebek.
Correct response: What’s Amodio?
Note: ‘Who is Matt Amodio?’ is also an acceptable response
(Tribute to Alex Trebek below in the form of an imaginary appearance by me in Jeopardy! trivia game show)
Alex: Last clue of Double Jeopardy! round and…..it’s a Daily Double! in the category “Game show champions”. Raj, you buzzed first! How much of the $45542 that you have earned you want to wager?
Raj: I have always dreamed of saying this: Let’s make it a true Daily Double, Alex!
Alex: Wow, that’s a brave bet. Fortune favors the brave. Good luck! The clue is : “These are the winningest champions in Jeopardy!”
Raj: Who are Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter?
Alex: You got that right! You double your score to 91,084. Way to go! Incidentally 9/10/84 is the date I started hosting this show in its current format!
Raj: That’s cool!
Final Jeopardy! round coming up after a break. The category is “Game show hosts”.
Funny Geico ad plays during the break.
Alex: We could potentially have a winner with over $100,000 today. The clue is “This Canada born game show host has hosted more than 8,000 episodes of a show, spread over 36 years”
First 2 contestants give correct answer and their final score is < $25,000 each.
Alex: Raj had the most money to wager. Let’s see his response and how much he wagered
Raj: “Who is Alex Trebek? (You are the best! )”. Wager is $11,620!
Alex: That’s the right response and I see the amount you wagered is today’s date (11/6/20). Nice! The final winning amount is $102,704! Congratulations, Raj! That was a great game. So long, folks, hope you join us next time!
P.S. I guess some dreams are meant to remain unfulfilled
But it was fun as long as the dream lasted
The second in the series of TV Series is Jeopardy! , a favorite of trivia buffs. The show in its current avatar debuted in 1984 (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeopardy! ) with Alex Trebek as the host. The original version aired in 1964 with a different host (and possibly different format) and continued in the 1970s. In its current version the show has 3 rounds: The Jeopardy! round, the Double Jeopardy! round and the Final Jeopardy!. The Jeopardy! round has one Daily Double and Double Jeopardy! has two Daily Doubles where the contestant who buzzes for the clue can bet a max of all their earnings till that point (or max $1000 or $2000 respectively if they have less than those amounts). In the Final Jeopardy!, open for all contestants who have positive earnings, they can again bet all their earnings. Goes without saying if a contestant gives wrong response he/she loses whatever they bet and gain the same amount to the final tally if the response is correct. In the first two rounds person buzzing in first for a clue gets first crack, if the response is wrong person who buzzed later gets their turn until the response is right or all who have buzzed in get a chance. It’s a fast moving quiz show with knowledge level of contestants pretty high.
Alex Trebek has been hosting the show since the mid-1980s and he is very popular deservedly. The kind of host who comes across as knowledgeable, well prepared, witty and classy without imposing himself 👌 It also helps he is fluent in multiple languages (English and French for sure, possibly Spanish too. Can’t say the same about his pronunciation of clues with Indian origin though 😆 ). In short, Trebek, who is 80 now, is a consummate professional. The announcer for the show is a spry/sprightly Johnny Gilbert who is a young 96 year old. His voice sounds like someone half his age 👏. The show enjoys cult following with some of the big winners in the show enjoying a big fan following too. Among the winners Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer, Brad Rutter have become household names for those who watch the show. The show has also spawned variations of the regular format targeted for specific contestants. ‘Tournament of Champions’, ‘Teen Tournament’, ‘College Championship’, ‘Teachers Tournament’, ‘Celebrity Jeopardy!’ are testament to the show’s enduring popularity. 👍
The three biggest winners of prize money in the show have been Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter. I don’t remember watching shows when Brad Rutter won in his initial run. I have seen him win in other tournaments subsequent to his Tournament of Champions win. When Ken Jennings went on his incredible 74 wins streak I watched some of the games. Apart from encyclopedic knowledge that kind of streak requires focus, buzzer timing and endurance of the highest order which is quite likely not going to be matched for a long time. I watched most of James Holzhauer wins during his run. That’s the advantage of working from home and when the show airs towards the end of work day (4:30pm-5pm). When his run was on I blocked my calendar on all days when the show was on. Work is important but for the 30 minutes the show was on at that time nothing else mattered 🤣 When James was winning astonishing amount of money in each game my favorite activity was capturing his winning amount and when my wife came home from work ask her the question “Can you guess how much James won today?” 😂 Another highlight was watching Ken and Brad take on IBM powered AI competitor Watson.
Having watched Jeopardy! since mid-1990s I have seen some amazing champions who have been dominant and crushing competition or win through sheer will against strong competition. I generally get a few clues right. The ones that I get right tend to be ones that are generic, not involving knowledge specific to America. Categories like “Before and After” I don’t even try guessing. In that context I could identify with 2010 Tournament of Champions winner Vijay Balse. An Indian American he generally wouldn’t even attempt clues in couple of categories (out of 6) but the other 4 he would do remarkably well. He won 4 games in the regular season. So, he wasn’t an automatic contestant in Tournament of Champions. He qualified by virtue of having quite a bit of money during his 4 wins. Did not see his Tournament of Champions win but I was amazed he won against what must have been very strong competition. Kudos to him for winning on his strengths. 👏
Among the things I like about the show is real time check by the judges in case a contestant gives a response that is initially deemed incorrect and then they find the response is acceptable. In such instances the contestant gets credited for correct response which is fair. 👍 Few things I wish were different. Whenever I see a round finish with a few clues not completed I feel bad if it is not due to delay by contestant/s. IMHO all clues should be covered to maximize the opportunity and prize money win. Other thing that I don’t really like is pickiness when it comes to acceptable response. 👎 For example if there is a slight mispronounce in response it’s deemed incorrect and contestant is penalized. A little bit of leeway should be provided. Also, the response is always expected to be in the form of a question and I think it is strictly enforced in Double Jeopardy! round which can be tough when a contestant has got it right but forgot to phrase it in the form of a question. But these are minor irritants and on the whole I enjoy the shows quite a bit. 👍 The one allowance that is allowed is incorrect spelling in Final Jeopardy! Possibly a nod to the falling standards in spelling in these autocorrect and spell checker powered times when people sometimes use “Your” and “You are” in Emails to mean the same 🤣 Among the interesting trivia I have learned watching the show couple come to mind: 7 eleven shops got their name because those shops used to be open from 7am to 11pm (don’t know if it is still true), The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited National Park. If there is a clue “It’s the most popular trivia/quiz show” my response will be “What is Jeopardy!?” 🙂👍🙏