The Jeopardy: The Greatest of All Time tournament is set to finally determine who the greatest Jeopardy! champions in history is. The three contestants are set to face off in a million-dollar best-out-of-seven tournament beginning on January 7, 2020. The contestants are Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer.
“Based on their previous performances, these three are already the greatest,” said long-time Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. “But you can’t help wondering: who is the best of the best?”
The winner of the tournament will receive $1 million. Both runners-up receive $250,000. The tournament will run for up to seven nights and will air during prime time; regular Jeopardy! airings will not be affected. Each night, the champions will play two regular games, and the person with the top earnings from those two games will win that ‘match.’ The first person to win three matches will win the tournament.
“I enjoy spending time with people who are really bright, who are able to use their knowledge and in addition are nice people,” Trebek told ET Canada. “And these three guys are nice people.”
Here’s what we know about the GOAT contestants:
Ken Jennings, who first appeared on Jeopardy! on June 2, 2004, where he nearly lost on the first day. In the Final Jeopardy round, Jennings answered using only the last name of the female athlete Marion Jones, which was the correct answer. The show almost did not accept the answer, but decided to since “in terms of female athletes, there aren’t that many.”
Jennings holds the record for winning the most games and earning more money than anyone else during regular competition. He has played in more games than his two opponents. He stayed the champion until November 30, 2004, when he was defeated in his 75th game by Nancy Zerg. He was awarded $2,000 for his second-place finish, making his final total on Jeopardy! $2,522,700.
“It’s the most fun you can have,” Jennings said of the tournament. “Like if you’re our kind of people, just to pit yourself against, you know, the smartest people they could find, the hardest clues, the fastest-paced game. It’s a real rush.”
As of January 7, 2020, Jennings’ current lifetime winnings on Jeopardy! are $3,522,700.
Jennings has written several books since his run on the game show, including Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, and Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, which details his experiences on the show and his research into trivia culture. He has also written three trivia books, a humorous book titled Because I Said So! that examines tales and warnings passed from generation to generation, and five children’s books.
He now lives in Seattle with his wife Mindy, children Dylan and Caitlin, and dog named Chance.
Brad Rutter is the one person in the GOAT tournament that may not be a household name; because of the way Jeopardy! was structured when Rutter was on the show, he was only allowed to compete in 5 total games at that time. However, Rutter has never officially lost to a human contestant, and he has bested Jennings three times. He is also the one person on the show who has won more money than both his opponents.
In his first run on the show, Rutter took home $55,102, a spot in the Tournament of Champions, and a brand-new car. He then won $100,000 in the 2001 tournament. In 2002, Rutter won the Million Dollar Masters Tournament, where he took home $1,000,000.
Rutter competed, and won, against Jennings in the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions. There, he won $2,100,000, giving him the title of highest-ever money winner on any American game show. He still holds that title. In a special event, both Rutter and Jennings competed against IBM supercomputer Watson, and they both lost to the computer.
“The money is fantastic, but it’s not the best part,” Rutter said when asked about the Greatest of All Time Tournament. “It’s the hanging out with the cast and crew and Alex and Johnny, and the other contestants, which is a ton of fun.”
According to the Jeopardy! website, Rutter’s current overall Jeopardy! earnings amount to $4,688,436.
Rutter isn’t bitter that Jennings has more of a household name than he does. In a Reddit Ask Me Anything, Rutter answered a question about whether Jennings being more well-known bothers him.
“Honestly it bothers my friends a lot more than it bothers me, mostly because they don’t know him,” he wrote in response. “Not to get all sappy, but he actually is a great guy and a wonderful ambassador for the show.”
Holzhauer’s historic run on Jeopardy began in April 2019 and continued until June 3, 2019. He won $43,680 in his first game, the largest single-game total in season 36 until that point. In his fourth game he broke the record for Jeopardy! single-game winnings by winning $110,914 in that game. The previous record had been held by Robert Craig, who won $77,000 in 2010. Holzhauer now holds the record for the top ten single-game earnings on Jeopardy!.
Holzhauer’s total earnings from the show stand at $2,712,216.
“It’s kind of like playing in the Super Bowl,” Holzhauer, a professional sports gambler, said about the GOAT tournament. “Just, you get one shot at this big thing.”
Since his run in 2019, Holzhauer has donated over $10,000 to various charities throughout the Las Vegas area. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife Melissa and daughter Natasha.
Tune in to the tournament on ABC to see who will be officially titled the greatest of all time.
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