Ed's
Jeopardy Page!


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There are two articles on this page:

1) How much money, in theory, could a person
win after playing a single game of Jeopardy?
2) A tip for all future contestants,
that I rarely ever see utilized.



 

1)  How much money, in theory, could a person win after playing a single game of Jeopardy?

I came across this question and answer at another website and I was surprised to find the author of the article came up with the wrong answer!  I wanted to set the record straight right here.

It's actually relatively easy to come up with the correct answer.  First, a short review.  

Jeopardy has three rounds...

  • The first Jeopardy round, called Single Jeopardy
  • The second Jeopardy round, called Double Jeopardy
  • The final round, called Final Jeopardy 

In the first two rounds there are a total of 30 answers; five answers in each of six different categories.  (Reminder... in Jeopardy, the answers are given, and the contestant must come up with the question.)

The Single Jeopardy round has one Daily Double.  The contestant finding this Daily Double can risk any portion of his/her money on that question.  (If the contestant has less than $1,000 he/she can risk any amount up to $1,000.)

The Double Jeopardy round has two Daily Doubles.  In this round, the contestant finding either Daily Double can risk any portion of his/her money on that question.  (In this round, if the contestant has less than $2,000 he/she can risk any amount up to $2,000.)

The Final Jeopardy round consists of just one answer from one category.  After seeing the category, but before seeing the answer, the contestant can risk any portion of the money they have.

The board for the First Round of Jeopardy looks something like this:

CAT #1 CAT #2 CAT #3 CAT #4 CAT #5 CAT #6

$200

$200

$200

$200

$200

$200

$400

$400

$400

$400

$400

$400

$600

$600

$600

$600

$600

$600

$800

$800

$800

$800

$800

$800

$1000

$1000

$1000

$1000

$1000

$1000

 

In determining the amount of money a person can win, we need to make a few assumptions.

First, we assume not only does "our hero" answer every single question, he/she answers every question correctly.  (Contestant #2 and Contestant #3 don't answer any of the questions correctly at all.)

Second, we also assume the three Daily Doubles in each of the first two rounds are always hidden underneath the lowest dollar amount possible.  To clarify, in the first round, the Daily Double is hidden underneath any of the $200 answers.  In Double Jeopardy, both Daily Doubles are hidden underneath a $400 question.

Three, in the first round, our hero finds the Daily Double last, after he/she has answered all of the other questions.  In the Second Round, our hero also finds both of these Daily Doubles last again, after answering every other question correctly.

That's it!  We're ready to figure compute the answer!

The game begins.  Our hero answers every question but the last $200 question, which contains the Daily Double.
 

          CAT #6
          $200
           
           
           
           

Total amount our hero has won so far:

($1000 x 6) + ($800 x 6) + ($600 x 6) + ($400 x 6) + ($200 x 5) = $17,800

Our hero risks this entire amount on this Daily Double question and wins.  Total amount won: $35,600  ($17,800 x 2)  The Single Jeopardy Round is finished and our hero has $35,600.00. 

The Double Jeopardy Round begins.  This initial board layout looks something like this:

CAT #1 CAT #2 CAT #3 CAT #4 CAT #5 CAT #6

$400

$400

$400

$400

$400

$400

$800

$800

$800

$800

$800

$800

$1200

$1200

$1200

$1200

$1200

$1200

$1600

$1600

$1600

$1600

$1600

$1600

$2000

$2000

$2000

$2000

$2000

$2000

 

Our hero answers every question but the last two $400 questions, which contain the Daily Doubles. 

    CAT #3   CAT #5  
    $400   $400  
           
           
           
           

Total amount won in this round so far:

($2000 x 6) + ($1600 x 6) + ($1200 x 6) + ($800 x 6) + ($400 x 4) = $35,200

We add the amount won so far in this round to the amount our hero won in the first round.  Our hero now has $70,800.  ($35,600 + $35,200)

Our hero risks this entire amount on the first Daily Double and wins.  Current total:  $141,600  ($70,800 x 2)

Our hero risks this entire amount on the second Daily Double and wins.  Current total:  $283,200  ($141,600 x 2)

It's now time for Final Jeopardy.  With just one question left, our hero risks it all and wins.  Final total:  $566,400  ($283,200 x 2)

That's it.  We have our answer:

In theory, a person could win $566,400.00
after playing a single game of Jeopardy!

 


 

2)  Here's a strategy tip for all future contestants, that I rarely ever see utilized in actual play.

I find myself shaking my head each time I see this...or rather, each time I don't see it.  It's beginning to drive me crazy because to me it's so obvious, and these contestants are supposedly a lot smarter than I am!

To my knowledge, this strategy tip has never appeared in print before, so you're seeing it here for the first time.

The tip is this:

In the Double Jeopardy round, immediately after finding the first Daily Double,
do not select any further questions in that same category
until after the second Daily Double has been found.

That's it!  Now permit me to explain.

Jeopardy contains three Daily Doubles; one in Single Jeopardy and two in the Double Jeopardy round.  One of the "rules" of Jeopardy is that the two Daily Doubles in the Double Jeopardy round will never be located in the same category.

Now, let's take a look at the following hypothetical, but very possible, example.

Player #1 just found the first Daily Double underneath the $800 answer in Category #2.   The board looks like this:

  CAT #2     CAT #5  
        $400  
  DD!     $800  
  $1200     $1200  
  $1600     $1600  
  $2000     $2000  

Whether this player correctly gives the correct question to this answer is irrelevant.  And how much money this player has in relation to the other contestants at this point is also often irrelevant.  Whatever the situation, after Player #1 answers, he/she would now love to also find the second and final Daily Double. 

Why?  That's easy.  It's always an advantage to find them.

  • If Player #1 is ahead of the other contestants, Player #1 would like to find this Daily Double, (and probably wager just a small amount when he/she finds it) so that the other players won't have a free opportunity to "catch up."

  • If Player #1 is behind one or both of the other contestants, especially if it's late in the game, Player #1 would love to have a free opportunity to catch up, and either pass the leader, or at least earn enough money to put himself/herself in a position to win the game in the final Jeopardy round.

The other players can both say the same thing.

It's always an advantage to find the Daily Doubles.  Yes, at times a player may not know the correct question for that answer, and thus will lose the amount they risked, but more often than not the contestants do know the correct response!

So if it's an advantage to find these DD's, why do I always see Player #1, after finding a Daily Double, continue by selecting a dollar amount in that same category? 

Helllloooo!  The remaining Daily Double isn't in that category!  It can't be!

They do it, of course, because most players who play usually, by force of habit, finish one category before starting another.  You don't have to do that!  At any time, you're allowed to select any dollar amount you want, anywhere on the board.

We know, by the rules of the game, it's impossible for this last Daily Double to be located in this same category!

Please... future contestants... give yourself a free shot of finding that last DD before you potentially lose control of the board, possibly never to get it back.  Select a dollar amount from another category.  Anywhere.  It doesn't matter.  Since the remaining DD must be somewhere else, in makes no difference which other category you choose.

Using the above board, if the first Daily Double was in Category #2 then you should, obviously, select a dollar amount in Category #5, the last category remaining.  Assuming the final Daily Double has the same chance of being behind each of those five dollar amounts, you now have a 20% chance of locating it on this turn. If you select a dollar amount from Category #2, you have a zero percent chance of finding it on this turn!

At any time one of your opponents gives the correct question to an answer, they gain control of the board... and you may never get control back.

Here's an obvious endgame situation that clearly demonstrates the power of this move.

Player #1, the leader, has $10,000 and Player #2 has just $3,000.  (Player #3's total is irrelevant.)  There are just two answers remaining:

  CAT #2     CAT #5  
           
  $800     $800  
           
           
           

Player #2, trailing in the game, has control of the board, having just found and answered the first Daily Double in Category #2.  Player #2 now must select a category and dollar amount.

The only way Player #2 can surpass Player #1 and win the game is to select the last remaining Daily Double and risk enough to earn at least half of Player #1's total. If Player #2 does that, Player #2 will at least have a shot of winning the game in the Final Jeopardy Round.  Player #2 must select this Daily Double now.

If Player #2 does NOT select Category #5 first, and instead selects Category #2 instead (to "finish the category") then Player #1 may gain control of the board if he/she answers this question correctly.  If that happens, Player #2 can no longer win.  Player #1 will have control of the final Daily Double and will risk nothing (or a small amount, of course) on that answer.

Again, a tip for all future contestants:

In the Double Jeopardy Round, immediately after finding the first Daily Double,
do not select any further questions in that same category
until the second Daily Double has been found.

The next time you watch Jeopardy, watch how many players miss this tactic.  Since writing this article, it's happened every single time I've watched the program!