Let’s assume you are a person of unmatched intelligence. You know every detail of all the obscure realms of human knowledge. On top of that, you have reflexes that are second to none. You have been selected to be a contestant on the game show Jeopardy! This is your big chance to show the world just how clever you are.
Since it is a foregone conclusion that you will win, this would be a good time to start planning what you will do with all the prize money that will come rolling your way. In order to plan what to do with the money, it would be a good idea to know how much you can expect to earn.
The most money earned in a single game was by James Holzhauer. On April 17, 2019, he walked away with $131,127. That is not, however, the most that could be won by a particularly-savvy contestant.
Jeopardy! consists of three rounds: Jeopardy!, Double Jeopardy!, and Final Jeopardy! The first two rounds consist of thirty questions each. Each question has an assigned dollar value. Getting the question correct will add that amount to your score; getting it wrong will subtract that amount. The final round has one question.
The first round includes one Daily Double, and the second round has two Daily Doubles. These are assigned randomly and hidden behind one of the dollar values on the question board. When a Daily Double is revealed, the contestant has the option of wagering any amount up to his or her current score.
In Final Jeopardy! a contestant may wager any amount up to his or her current score.
To win the maximum amount possible, you would need to answer every question correctly, but it takes more than skill to maximize your earnings. You would want the Daily Doubles to be the last questions you answer in each round. Additionally, you would want the first round’s Daily Double to appear behind one of the $200 questions. For the second round, each should appear behind a $400 question.
If your thumb’s reflexes allow you to buzz in before your competitors, your brain retrieves all relevant information quickly and flawlessly, and fortune smiles upon you in terms of the placement of the Daily Double, your score in the first round will look like this:
- 5 questions worth $200 each = $1,000
- 6 questions worth $400 each = $2,400
- 6 questions worth $600 each = $3,600
- 6 questions worth $800 each = $4,800
- 6 questions worth $1,000 each = $6,000
- The final question unveils a Daily Double, allowing you to wager the $17,800 you have thus far earned, bringing the first round to a conclusion with your score of $35,600.
You start the Double Jeopardy! round with your score of $35,600 and each of your opponents is tied for second place with zippo. The second round unfolds as follows:
- 4 questions worth $400 each = $1,600
- 6 questions worth $800 each = $4,800
- 6 questions worth $1,200 each = $7,200
- 6 questions worth $1,600 each = $9,600
- 6 questions worth $2,000 each = $12,000
- When you come to your first Double Jeopardy! question, your total score is $70,800. Doubling that brings you to $141,600.
- The second Double Jeopardy! question allows you to double your score again, closing out the second round with $283,200.
You are feeling quite confident as you move into Final Jeopardy! You wager your total score, $283,200. You were right to do so. You answer correctly, bringing your total earnings to $566,400 — the most that can be one in a single game. It is nearly three times the amount won by James Holzhauer in his record-setting game.
In 2004, Ken Jennings created a sensation in his 74-game streak. In total, he earned $2,520,700. It was an impressive accomplishment, to be sure, but he could have earned $41,913,600 in that time if each of those games were perfect scores.
|CONTESTANT||SINGLE GAME WINNINGS||DATE|
|Skyler Hornbeck *||$66,600||7/31/2013|
|Elyse Mancuso **||$56,400||5/11/2012|
|Adam Levin ***||$53,999||4/29/2019|
* Kids Week Contestant
** Teen Tournament
*** Highest non-winning score ever (lost to Holzhauer)