“Jeopardy!” has another seemingly unstoppable sensation.
On Friday, Matt Amodio, a doctoral student in computer science at Yale, won his 28th game, amassing more than $1 million in winnings. He is only the third contestant to do so in regular-season gameplay, after Ken Jennings, the contestant-turned-producer for the show, and James Holzhauer, the phenom who captured audiences with his winning streak in 2019.
Amodio’s success is no doubt a welcome distraction for the game show, which has been struggling to permanently fill the role of host after Alex Trebek died last year. Some of the shows during Amodio’s streak were hosted by Mike Richards, who was then the show’s executive producer. (Richards was named host of the show but then stepped down after The Ringer reported that he had made offensive comments on a podcast taped years ago.) Actress Mayim Bialik, who had already been chosen to host the show’s prime-time specials, took over in his place. (She and Jennings will host the show until the end of the year.)
Amodio, whose winnings currently stand at $1,004,001, researches artificial intelligence at Yale and has said that he has been watching “Jeopardy!” since before he was “even able to understand the words.”
He is a reliably dominant player. According to the website The Jeopardy! Fan, he gets more than 90% of clues that he answers correct and is first to the buzzer more than half of the time. In betting, he tends not to take as many risks as Holzhauer, who surpassed $1 million in half the time as Amodio.
But there is another way Amodio can surpass his record-breaking rivals. If he wins five more games, he will surpass Holzhauer’s 32-game streak; he has much longer to go on Jennings, who won 74 games. Because the game show is taped ahead of time (Friday’s episode was taped a month ago), it is possible that Amodio’s fate has already been sealed, but audiences will not know until next week’s episodes air.
It is obvious that Holzhauer — a sports bettor whose “Jeopardy!” stardom propelled him to a role on the ABC game show “The Chase,” alongside Jennings and Brad Rutter, another “Jeopardy!” champion — knows that Amodio is on his heels. He ribbed Amodio on Twitter this past week, pointing out that Amodio had made much less money than him during the same number of games.
Amodio playfully sniped back, tweeting, “Must be nice having time to throw shade on Twitter. Us ‘Jeopardy!’ champions with zero career losses have actual work to do.”