Matt Amodio, JEOPARDY champion

Over $1.5 million

Matt AmodioUnsurprisingly, quite a few people have asked me how I felt about Matt Amodio as a JEOPARDY champion who won more money than all but two contestants. I think of the topic in two related, but separate ways.

The guy: I have no special feelings about him. According to my daughter’s Twitter feed, some folks are annoyed because he ALWAYS responds, “What’s…” Not “What is…” or “Who is…” or “Where is…” It is efficient, and always using the contraction saves him a fraction of a second…

…to figure out the answer. He now seems to ring in if he thinks he’ll come up with the correct question in the allotted time. In most cases, this works.

He only gives the minimum information required. This usually means giving the last name only in name categories. Occasionally, there were times when I thought the host might have sought more clarification, but that’s on the show, not him.

Like many recent champions, he started on the row of the highest value clues and works up the board. When he got the Daily Double in the first round, he usually bet it all. But, usually with a commanding lead by the beginning of the Double JEOPARDY round, his wagers tended to be more conservative, if betting $6,000 when one has a $15,000 lead is conservative.

He wasn’t as bold as 32-game winner James Holzhauer, who’s now third in the number of regular-season wins, but second in regular-season cash, barely less than Ken Jennings, who had won 74 regular-season games. James threw shade at Matt because the new guy hadn’t won as much per game as James had, which made Matt a bit sympathetic to me.. That’s because James has the 10 highest single-game winnings. No one has the per-game average of the gambler from Las Vegas.

The larger problem

It wasn’t until September 2003 when JEOPARDY changed a major rule. Prior to that, once you were a five-day champion, you had to stop. But you were almost certainly going to appear in the Tournament of Champions, comprised of those five-day winners and a few four-day contestants.

The rule change tipped the ToC on its head. When Ken Jennings won 74 regular-season games, his ToC had a three-day winner. So the rule change has made stars of people such as Amodio and 32-game winner James Holzhauer. And I gather there are people who appreciate their excellent play.

But when these people dominate so that Final JEOPARDY, and heck, the second half of Double JEOPARDY, doesn’t matter – it’s a lock game – the joy of watching it diminishes terribly for me. It’s boring TV, like a 43-12 football game.

As a matter of protest, I always root against the defending champion once they’ve won five games. Part of the problem is the way I watch the program. I might watch a week at a time. But I can’t now because either I’ll hear no J news, which means Matt Amodio won again [snore], or I’ll hear the rumors as I did when Jennings and Holzhauer finally lost.

I’m reminded of an episode of MASH when the camp was always getting for dinner “A river of liver and an ocean of fish.” Hawkeye Pierce jumped onto a table, leading the chant, “We want something else.” On JEOPARDY, I wanted someone else, somebody who’s waited their whole life to get on the show and might have a fighting chance of coming home victorious.

And finally, after 38 Amodio wins, relief.

James Holzhauer didn’t “throw” JEOPARDY! game

J-Archive wagering calculator says he did it right

To no one’s surprise, I was happy to see Emma Boettcher, a user experience librarian from Chicago, Illinois beat James Holzhauer, a professional sports gambler from Las Vegas, Nevada (whose 32-day cash winnings total $2,462,216) Monday on JEOPARDY! If you want to see that game, watch it here, only through June 7, 2019.

I am bemused by all these recent fans who decided that he “threw” the game because he was homesick or tired of playing. Some thought his style was “blah”, but that was a function, I think, of good competitors, including Jay Sexton, a senior research engineer from Atlanta, Georgia.

James hit the Daily Double on the first clue, thus was unable to forge a large enough lead at the end of the first round. Then, in the Double JEOPARDY! round, Emma, not James, hit the first Daily Double, bet it all, and took control. She also hit the second Daily Double, won $3000, and never relinquished her lead.

Was he tired? Maybe. But it would have been the first game of the week – they generally tape five shows in one day.

James explains his Final JEOPARDY! wager. If you go to the J-Archive wagering calculator, here are the recommendations:
James: “Try wagering $1,399, which is as much as you can put up against Emma without being usurped by a doubled score on the part of Jay.”
Emma: “Wager $20,201 to cover James.”
And that’s exactly what each of them did. James wagered based on what his score was in the game. He knew he would lose if she got it right so he bet small in case they both got it wrong and Jay got it right.

Usually James had an insurmountable lead in a game, which allowed his massive bets. Still, James’ Coryat score, his score if all wagering is disregarded, was $23,400, with 25 right, and 0 wrong answers. Emma’s was $18,800 (21-0), and Jay’s was $11,000 (13-1).

I am disappointed that the CBS Evening News did a spoiler, as did other outlets. But it’s hard to keep a secret for something that happened in March with 250 people present.

in any case, James Holzhauer will be back for the Tournament of Champions in November.

Addendum from friend Carol:

James Holzhauer on JEOPARDY!

Some people get really upset if you don’t love what they love

James HolzhauerI was at a work conference. A long-time work friend asked me about James Holzhauer, the 22-day JEOPARDY! champion, and counting, who has pretty much destroyed the competition.

Before I could give my opinion, She says, “Boring! Right?” And I agreed.

I was wary about answering because SO many people have expressed a different viewpoint. That is fine by me, but sometimes it’s not fine by them. I say it’s not interesting. They say, “That’s your opinion!” Of course, it’s my opinion.

I say, “It’s like watching a 15-4 baseball game or 62-7 football game.” They say, “I hate football,” which is rather not the point. It is watching contestant after contestant going through a meat grinder.

I’ve freely noted that Holzhauer is doing something that no one else has done. A million dollars in 14 games; it took Ken Jennings twice as long to reach that threshold. He’s rightly made the mainstream news.

He knows a lot, but he also beats people on the buzzer, because his opponents often think they know the answer and can’t get in. And he bets HEAVILY because betting is what he does for a living – professional sports gambler.

Still, it’s like why people HATED the New York Yankees after they won five World Series in a row in 1949-1953. Many of the games are like the Yankees playing a Little League team.

So people are SHOCKED that I don’t particularly enjoy the games. I could just write it off as Arthur’s Law, but I think there’s a more specific thing here.

Mark Evanier has engaged in a series called Cranky, Rambling Rant. Part One was “about how some people get really upset if you don’t love what they love.” Part Two was “about how some people (including probably most of the same ones) get really upset when you do love something they don’t love.”

I’m experiencing Part One a lot. In most cases, they’re asking ME because I was once – OK, twice – on JEOPARDY! But I’ve been watching the show for a long time, back when Art Fleming was hosting back in the 1960s.

There was a long period when no one could appear on the regular show more than five games. For all sorts of geeky reasons, having to do with the quality of Tournament of Champion winners, I thought that was a good rule.

The rule won’t return, I don’t think, because more people are watching when James Holzhauer or Arthur Chu or Austin Rogers is on. Some folks, regular JEOPARDY! watchers, have told me they won’t watch it again until Holzhauer is gone, but I expect they’re in the minority.

I’ll still tune in because that’s what I do. But I’ll enjoy seeing new champions.

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