The Jeopardy!: Greatest of All Time tournament came to a close on Tuesday night, and many fans feel like they just witnesses a historic sporting event. The contest of wit ended with Ken Jennings named champion over James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter. Now, fans are more interested than ever in these three players.
Jeopardy! is one a prime time TV staple going back to 1984 in its current version, and back to 1964 in other iterations. The show has won the hearts of millions of fans, though given its constant-running syndication, many do not tune in for every single episode.
This month, producers raised the stakes with Jeopardy!: The Greatest of All Time, a tournament pitting three of the show's highest-earning contestants of all time against each other. It featured some slight alterations to the gameplay style, using a points system instead of monetary values and keeping the same players from game to game, rather than eliminating them immediately.
The contestants played two games back-to-back on each night of the tournament, then tallied up their points from both to determine who won the match. The first player to three matches would be crowned the greatest of all time.
It was the players who really sold the tournament in such a big way. Jennings was already one of the most well-known Jeopardy! players of all time, with a thriving online persona. Holzhauer took that even further with his sardonic online posts and self-effacing memes. Holzhauer had a viral winning streak on Jeopardy! last year, where he came within striking distance of Jennings' record-high winnings in a fraction of the time.
The tournament may be over now, but it has clearly breathed new life into the Jeopardy! franchise, and made stars out of the three players. Here is what you need to know about these three trivia champions.
Brad Rutter is a Pennsylvania native, who was right at home on Jeopardy!, given his own background as a trivia game show host. He previously lived in Lancaster, and hosted the local broadcast quiz show InQuizitive, which featured high school students as contestants. He also worked at the local record store.
Rutter is one of 19 people to have ever been named to the National Academic Championship Hall of Fame. He won runner-up at the 1994 Texaco Star National Academic Championship, and became a reader and judge for the contest as an adult. However, in a 2005 interview with The Baltimore Sun he described himself as a "slacker" in high school, and revealed he had dropped out of Johns Hopkins, where he studied English.
Now 41 years old, Rutter took his Jeopardy! winnings and moved to Los Angeles. He has appeared on other game shows and is intent on securing a long-term job in the industry.prevnext
Rutter on 'Jeopardy!'
Brad Rutter is still officially the second highest-earning American game show contestant of all time, and the highest-earning contestant on Jeopardy! counting special tournament events. Rutter had never lost a Jeopardy! until this year's tournament.
Rutter's first Jeopardy! run began in October of 2000. At the time, players were forced to retire undefeated after a 5-day win streak, but they were guaranteed a place in the Tournament of Champions. Rutter took home $55,102 after that streak, as well as two brand new Chevrolet Camaros.
At the 2001 Tournament of Champions, Rutter took home the $100,000 main prize. He returned in 2002 for the Million Dollar Masters Tournament, winning $1,000,000, officially making him the highest-earning winner in the show's history.
Rutter's record was broken by Jennings in 2004, but Rutter won another $2,100,000 at the 2005 Tournament of Champions, earning it back, though some fans still argue over who has won more money from the show.
Rutter made even more Jeopardy! history in 2011, when he and Jennings competed against IBM's Watson artificial intelligence. The computer took home the prize, though Rutter took it in stride.
Rutter won the Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades tournament in 2014, defeating Jennings and Roger Craig in the finale. Finally, last year Rutter won the Jeopardy! All-Star Games, along with his teammates Larissa Kelly and Dave Madden.prevnext
Outside of Jeopardy! James Holzhauer is a professional sports gambler. Hailing from Illinois, he was raised watching the game show and lauded for his mathematical talent. However, he was an overall C student who gravitated more toward sports statistics, he explained in a New York Times interview last May.
Holzhauer was a member of the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering Team, which won the state competition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He graduated from the school in 2005 with a bachelor of Science in mathematics.
Before his Jeopardy! run last year, Holzhauer appeared on the American version of The Chase in 2014, and the quiz show 500 Questions in 2015. He is currently 34 years old.prevnext
Holzhauer on 'Jeopardy!'
Holzhauer had a 32-episode winning streak on Jeopardy! last year which finally ended in his 33rd appearance. It began on April 4 and stretched until June 3, 2019. By this time, the rule against such long winning streaks that had restricted Rutter had long since been changed.
Holzhauer broke the previous record for winnings in a single game of Jeopardy! in the fourth day of his streak. The record had been $77,000, and Holzhauer went on to break it 16 times during his run. His biggest win for a single episode was $131,127, set on April 17.
His tenure on the show was characterized by high bets and aggressive clue choices, opting for the more valuable tiles first. Holzhauer brought fresh attention to the game show with his record-setting wins and slowly became a figure of urban legend in his own right.
Holzhauer won a total of $2,464,216 in that first winning streak on Jeopardy!, coming up just short of Jennings' record. However, he had done it in less than half of the episodes it took Jennings to make his mark on the show. Jennings told The Washington Post that this was like "a basketball player notching 70-point games for an entire season or a baseball player hitting for the cycle in every game."
Holzhauer was finally ousted from the game by Emma Boettcher. In November, he returned for the Tournament of Champions, where he and Boettcher went head-to-head again in the final round. Holzhauer won, earning another $250,000.prevnext
Ken Jennings was born Washington state, but grew up in Seoul, South Korea and Singapore while his father worked for an international law firm. In his memoir, Jennings later recalled that Jeopardy! was a show he could always count on watching through the American Forces Network.
Jennings completed high school overseas, then returned to the U.S. to attend college. After one semester at the University of Washington, he transferred to Brigham Young University in Utah, where he graduated with a degree in computer science and English. He played on the school's quizbowl during his time there as well.
Before rising to game show fame, Jennings worked as a software engineer. He is also an avid comic book and movie fan, who is active in online communities. He is married with two children, born in 2002 and 2006. They are members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
After achieving fame and fortune from Jeopardy, Jennings became an author, writing several trivia books and quiz references. He also wrote a memoir titled Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs.prevnext
Jennings on 'Jeopardy!'
In 2003, Jeopardy! changed the rule limiting contestants to a five-game winning streak. Some players took advantage of the rule with big winning streaks, but Jennings was the first to push it to its limit, with 74 consecutive wins.
Jennings' initial streak on June 2, 2004, and went until Nov. 30, 2004. He lost his 75th game to challenger Nancy Zerg with a Final Jeopardy question about financial services company H&R Block. As a result, H&R Block offered Jennings free financial services for life, estimating he would owe over $1 million in taxes on his winnings.
Jennings won a total of $2,522,700 in his historic streak. He became a media sensation, appearing on talk shows, giving print interviews and doing guest spots on other game shows. Jennings was back on the Jeopardy! stage for his first tournament the month after his streak ended. He lost in the final to Rutter.
Jennings competed against IBM's artificial intelligence, Watson along with Rutter in 2011. He then played in the Battle of the Decades in 2014, coming in second to Rutter. Finally, he played in the team-based tournament, Jeopardy! All-Star Games last year. Again, his team finished second to Rutter's team.prevnext
'Greatest of All Time' Tournament
With all of this history and momentum behind them, Rutter, Holzhauer and Jennings returned to Jeopardy! this month for the new prime time tournament, The Greatest of All Time. They began on Jan. 7 and finished on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
The tournament was set to go on until one contestant won three matches, but only four matches were played. Besides Jennings, Only Holzhauer got in a win -- which came on Jan. 8 with a total of 82,414 points.0comments
In spite of the high stakes for their reputations in the game, the three players were clearly friendly and cheerful throughout the tournament. In the end, Jennings won $1 million in prize money.
The tournament may be over, but the regular Jeopardy! season continues. The show airs on week nights at 7 p.m.prev