Handicapping the 2019 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions

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CREDIT: Jeopardy/YouTube

Fifteen of the most memorable recent Jeopardy! champions are returning for the latest edition of the Tournament of Champions, airing November 4-15. The big favorite is of course James Holzhauer, holder of many a Jeopardy! record. Based on their performances in their initial appearances, here is my ranking of who is most likely to emerge victorious. My analysis is based on a mix of playing style, average win total, and gut feeling. Quite frankly, everyone after James is pretty tightly packed.

Also, for the second Tournament of Champions in a row, a contestant who would have been eligible was unable to return, as 2018 Teachers Tournament winner Larry Martin passed away earlier this year.

(I have not included five-game winner Steven Grade in the rankings, because I know him personally, but I will say that I know he has spent plenty of time studying.)
1. James Holzhauer (32 Wins) – It’s not impossible to beat James, but it is improbable, even more so in a tournament format.
2. Josh Hill (7 Wins) – Josh has a tendency to look down before he selects a clue, which makes me think he has a sneaky secret about how strong his chances are.
3. Emma Boettcher (3 Wins) – The James Dethroner has the lowest win total of anyone in the tournament, but the second-highest average per-game earnings.
4. Francois Barcomb (Teachers Tournament Champion) – One of the better recent Teachers Tournament winners.
5. Ryan Fenster (7 Wins) – Hopefully he knows at least one thing about football now.
6. Eric R. Backes (4 Wins) – The four-time curse was very much a real thing, because I believe Eric had the goods to keep going even longer.
7. Anneke Garcia (4 Wins) – The four-time curse was very much a real thing, becauseI believe Anneke had the goods to keep going even longer.
8. Lindsey Shultz (4 Wins) – The four-time curse was very much a real thing, because I believe Lindsey had the goods to keep going even longer.
9. Alan Dunn (5 Wins) – Easily the winner of the best facial hair of this field.
10. Kyle Jones (7 Wins) – Kyle kind of looks like Kirstin Cutts, a four-time winner back in 2017.
11. Rob Worman (6 Wins) – Probably the champion I remember least of this field, so maybe he’ll surprise me!
12. Gilbert Collins (5 Wins) – Does his promise to give his kids 1% of his winnings still apply now that he’s in the ToC?
13. Rachel Lindgren (5 Wins) – She was a solid five-game winner, but an average of less than $20,000 per win gives me a little pause about her chances.
14. Dhruv Gaur (College Tournament Champion) – The college winner always looks strong compared to the other college players, but the step up to the big leagues is a tough one.

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James Holzhauer: A Jeopardy Postmortem

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CREDIT: Jeopardy/YouTube

After 32 winning campaigns in a row, Jeopardy James Holzhauer was finally felled on his 33rd game on Monday, June 3, 2019 to user experience librarian Emma Boettcher. His total number of games won and money earned ($2,464,216) in regular, non-tournament shows are second to only Ken Jennings in Jeopardy! history. Of course, what is most impressive about his run was the unprecedented volume of his winnings, as he nearly surpassed Jennings’ money total ($2,522,700 in 75 games) in less than half the time. This begs the question: has Holzhauer changed the game permanently?

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Handicapping the 2017 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions

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CREDIT: Jeopardy!

The latest round of Jeopardy!‘s Tournament of Champions is airing November 6-17, and I’m here to rank the contestants in order of how likely I think they are to take the $250,000 grand prize.

(Special mention must be made of Cindy Stowell, who passed away from cancer after winning 6 games. She probably would have been in my top 3 had she survived long enough to make it to the ToC.)

1. Austin Rogers – His personality may rub some viewers the wrong way, but he understands how to play the game better than anyone else in this group, and his resilient attitude goes a long way.
2. Andrew Pau – He survived a gauntlet in his first game (one of the best non-tournament episodes ever) and went on to average nearly $30,000 per win.
3. Tim Aten – A steady competitor with his eyes on the prize.
4. Pranjal Vachaspati – Honestly, after the first two, there’s a huge drop in expectations, but I do remember Pranjal’s friendliness taking him far.
5. Seth Wilson – He won 12 games, which seems crazy in retrospect. But you gotta respect anyone who has a double digit streak.
6. Buzzy Cohen – Outside of Austin, this Simpsons lawyer lookalike is the most divisive player, but (even though he won 9 games) he’s nowhere near as impressive.
7. Sam Deutsch – Sam’s a strong College Tournament champ, but his presence mostly makes me sad that we won’t see College runner-up Niki Peters here.
8. Lilly Chin – Lilly’s also a strong College champ who I do not think will be intimidated by her adult competition.
9. Hunter Appler – At this point, we’re getting into the territory of, “Oh, I kind of remember him winning a lot.”
10. Lisa Schlitt – Lisa always looked shocked when she won. It will serve her best to come in expecting to win this time around.
11. Jason Sterlacci – Outside of Colby Burnett, I’ve never been much impressed by a Teachers Tournament champ, though I wouldn’t be shocked if this Dr. Rich from Community doppelgänger pulls off a run to the final.
12. Justin Vossler – Justin kind of looks like 2015 ToC champ Alex Jacob, but he’s nowhere near as idiosyncratic.
13. Alan Lin – I might be underestimating Alan. Or overestimating. I’m really not sure.
14. Jon Eisenman – I know I watched this guy’s episodes, but I don’t much remember what happened in them.
15. David Clemmons – The level of play in David’s Teachers Tournament was kind of meh.

What Won TV? – October 8-October 14, 2017

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In this feature, I look back at each day of the past week and determine what shows “won TV” for the night. That is, I consider every episode of television I watched that aired on a particular day and declare which was the best.

CREDIT: Bob Mahoney/AMC

This is going to be my last edition of “What Won TV?,” at least for a while. With the super-saturated nature of the television medium, there are just too many times now where I don’t catch all the shows I watch within the week they actually air.

Sunday – A guest star-strong Simpsons
Monday – Jeopardy!
Tuesday – The Middle
Wednesday – Mr. Robot
Thursday – Great News (Honorable Mention to Jeopardy!, even though Trebek claims he knows nothing about a dick tree)
Friday – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Saturday – Let me end by choosing Halt and Catch Fire.

What Won TV? – October 1-October 7, 2017

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In this feature, I look back at each day of the past week and determine what shows “won TV” for the night. That is, I consider every episode of television I watched that aired on a particular day and declare which was the best.

Sunday – Bob’s Burgers
Monday – Austin Rogers securing his place in the Jeopardy! record books
Tuesday – Austin going even further into Jeopardy! history
Wednesday – Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Thursday – The Good Place
Friday – Jeopardy!
Saturday – Halt and Catch Fire better be careful about being so good about making me so sad.

What Won TV? – September 10-September 16, 2017

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In this feature, I look back at each day of the past week and determine what shows “won TV” for the night. That is, I consider every episode of television I watched that aired on a particular day and declare which was the best.

Sunday – We really need Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories right now.
Monday – People of Earth
Tuesday – Difficult People wins this Billy Eichner Tuesday.
Wednesday – Broad City
Thursday – The Chris Gethard Show
Friday – Jeopardy!
Saturday – Halt and Catch Fire

What Won TV? – August 20-August 26, 2017

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In this feature, I look back at each day of the past week and determine what shows “won TV” for the night. That is, I consider every episode of television I watched that aired on a particular day and declare which was the best.

Sunday – Rick and Morty (and Jerry and the tiny customer service reps)
Monday – American Dad!
Tuesday – Difficult People
Wednesday – Jeopardy! (tournament rerun)
Thursday – The Chris Gethard Show: Extra Sweaty Edition
Friday – VICE
Saturday – Halt and Catch Fire, thanks to genius teenagers

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