Archive for strategy

This … is Jeopardy!

Posted in Internet, TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2020 by macmystery
Jeopardy_36_Hero

This … is Jeopardy! Well, … actually, it’s a pretty crappy little piece of art.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

That’s what I did tonight. For the fourth year in a row, I tool the Jeopardy! online test in hopes of competing on the popular television quiz show.

All in all, I think I did well this time. That’s not really something I could say after the three previous attempts. But more about that later.

The test has changed since the last time I took it. I get the impression that the game has become even more popular, if that’s possible.

I would attribute that to the 2019 success of James Holzhauer. He went on an impressive 32-game run from April to June. He fell well short of the 75 episodes that Ken Jennings — widely considered the greatest Jeopardy champion of all-time and crowned as such in early 2020 — appeared on back in 2004.

But it wasn’t so much that Holzhauer won. It’s HOW he won. His gambling background, combined with his obvious breadth of knowledge, resulted in a much different strategy that most past champions had employed.

Rather than control the board and slowly accumulate money, methodically running through each category, Holzhauer would skip around the board attempting to find the Daily Double clues. And when he did find them, he would risk a lot of money and he would risk it early. He chose the most valuable clues first.

Often, his victories were runaways. He would risk all of his earnings, often doubling up — he was correct on 72 of the 76 Daily Double clues he hit during his 33 episodes — and leave his opponents desperately scrambling to earn enough money to even be in striking distance when Final Jeopardy! arrived.

Though he fell short of Jennings’ streak, he earned nearly as much money as Jennings in less than half as many episodes ($2,464,216 to $2,522,700) and claimed the record for largest one-game total winnings with $131,127.

He is the only player ever to earn at least $100,000 in an episode — he did it six times — and he was so confident in his Final Jeopardy! wagers, he often bet specific amounts so that his final total would be a significant number, like the birthdays of his daughter and wife.

Anyway, all of that was long-winded and was really just to point out how popular the show has become. After four weeks with Holzhauer as champion, Jeopardy’s ratings were up 30 percent.

So of course, more people are taking the test.

In years past, you would register for the test and be eligible to take it on the night of your choice — there were usually three options — during a week in the spring. Instead, with so many people attempting to take the test, Jeopardy! moved to allowing the test to be taken anytime.

The tests contain 50 questions. Prospective contestants are given 15 seconds to answer each. Unlike the show, you do not have to phrase it in the form of a question, and spelling does not count. The 50 questions come from 50 different categories.

And the questions can be tough. You don’t get a gimme category.

It pays not to get flustered. It snowballs. The first time I took it, that’s exactly what happened. I might have gotten a third of the answers correct, missing many questions I knew the answers to because I panicked. When I finished, I knew it was a disaster.

The next two attempts were better — I got more than half right each time — but that’s not nearly enough. If you pass the online test, you’re invited to an in-person audition where you’re given another test. You must get 35 or more right to advance to a full session, where you’ll play a shortened game of Jeopardy! and undergo a personality test.

I had a friend, Jason, with whom I worked at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. He passed the first test and was invited to the in-person audition. That’s as far as he got though.

So, if 35 right answers are required in the second stage, it’s probably a safe assumption it’s the same threshold for the first online test.

And that leaves me guessing. Unlike my first three attempts, I know I got well over half right. I know I got more than 30. But 35 … it’s gotta be right there.

Unlike the practice test, you don’t see the right answers after the test. So it’s very hard to know with certainty how you did.

And then Jeopardy! reserves a 12-month window during which the producers can invite you to an in-person audition.

Or not.

I guess I’ll know by this time next year.