Best of the Bets

Tournament finals a parade of crazy Final Jeopardy wagering scenarios

Published March 17, 2024

Welcome back to my weekly rundown from the world of Jeopardy!

This week the Tournament of Champions barreled toward its climax; the first-to-three win final began on Tuesday.

Each heading contains a link to my daily write-up over at The Jeopardy! Fan

31st Tournament of Champions, Semifinal #3, Monday, Mar. 11

With one final berth left to determine, Luigi de Guzman, Troy Meyer, and Brian Henegar battled for the right to face off against Ben Chan and Yogesh Raut. Luigi indeed came to play in the beginning, racking up $10,000 on 15 correct responses in the Jeopardy round. But Double Jeopardy went Troy’s way: he got 15 this time, including both Daily Doubles, to build a commanding lead–but not a runaway victory.

Final Jeopardy was in Word Origins: A radical in an 1833 failed uprising in Germany, Ludwig von Rochau coined this term for acts taken for practical reasons not ethics. To advance, Luigi needed a correct response and a miss from Troy. He got one of those things: No one came up with Realpolitik, and Troy claimed the third spot in the final.

Final, Game #1, Tuesday, Mar. 12

Buzzer momentum looks to be a recurring theme in this final. The first example came right away: Yogesh started slow, shut out on the buzzer for the whole first segment, but then got in nine times out of 15 after the interviews. In Double Jeopardy, Troy found both Daily Doubles (again), parlaying the first into a big lead before his first career Daily Double miss1 knocked him back toward Troy and Yogesh. 

“World Theater” was the Final category: This 1867 play has a reindeer hunt & a king dwelling in snowy mountains but its title character also spends time in Morocco & Egypt. From a distant third, Ben successfully named Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. Second-place Yogesh did too—but chose a $0 wager that didn’t cover Ben’s doubling-up.2 So when Troy named Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler instead, Ben clinched Game 1 by a mere $1 over Yogesh.

Game #2, Wednesday, Mar. 13

In Game 2, Troy used a Daily Double to jump to an early lead, but Ben used the best buzzer timing to stay within $200 at the end of the Jeopardy round. Meanwhile, Yogesh showed no lack of confidence after fumbling away Game 1, riding a True Daily Double to a lead after 10 Double Jeopardy clues. Troy, realizing that the show might put Daily Doubles in the lower-valued clues of more academic categories, found the last one at the $800 level. He then proceeded to bet $21,800 the most ever by someone not named James Holzhauer.3 Doubling his score, Troy cruised from there to a runaway victory.

“Books of the Bible” was the Final Jeopardy category: This book is named for a tribe of Israel that carried out judgment of the idolaters of the golden calf. Thought it mattered not, all three players knew that the book of Leviticus came from the priestly tribe of Levi; Troy tied Ben at one game apiece.

Game #3, Thursday, Mar. 14

Troy got the game’s first Daily Double incorrect, dropping to $0 just before the first commercial break. Ben led at the first two ad breaks, and had an excellent start to Double Jeopardy round—but Troy and Yogesh found the Daily Doubles, doubling up on their respective opportunities. For the first time in these finals, Yogesh took a lead into Final Jeopardy, with Ben second and Troy third.

Final Jeopardy was in The United Nations: Of the 9 countries that have produced a U.N. Secretary-General, this nation is the only one from its hemisphere. For the second straight day, all three players got it: Peru’s Javier Pérez de Cuéllar is to date the only Secretary-General from the Southern Hemisphere. Yogesh made the cover bet this time, squaring the first-to-three series at 1-1-1.

Incredibly, this game saw just one Triple Stumper; as sorta-kinda predicted on this very blog, the clue was about–ahem–the world’s most famous singer-songwriter.

Game #4, Friday, Mar. 15

With the final back to square one, Ben Chan finally found his first Daily Double in four days, using it to pull his score out of the red. He’d gotten there partly because Troy and Yogesh dominated early: Troy picked up 10 correct to lead at the end of Jeopardy, and Yogesh buzz-sawed the easier material to stay in second.

Ben clawed back into contention on the second Daily Double, but as on Wednesday, Troy went into the second row earlier than his opponents and got the final chance to double up. After Troy converted his $14,000 True Daily Double, the other two did enough over the home stretch to create another intriguing wagering scenario:4 At $33,200, Troy had exactly as much as Yogesh ($20,400) and Ben ($12,800) combined.

They’d have to untie that knot in the Historic Americans category: Near Kirkbean on Solway Firth, U.S. Vice Admiral Jerauld Wright presented a memorial plaque honoring this man. As the only one who named John Paul Jones, Ben authored another shocking conclusion: the betting scenario meant that Troy’s miss dropped him $1 behind Ben’s score (and more than $10,000 ahead of Yogesh). For the second time, Ben picked up a $1 come-from-behind victory… and he pulled to within one win of the $250,000 title prize.

Other notes from the week:

  • One incredible stat: Play is so tight that no one has gotten in on the buzzer even 50% of the time for a whole game. Yogesh’s 49% in Game 4 is the highest to this point. And the four games have seen just nine Triple Stumpers.
  • One way or another, the tournament will end this week. Ben could win it on Monday–or, if it gets to 2-2-2, we could still be watching these three through Wednesday. Whenever it ends, it’ll be followed by the Jeopardy! Invitational Tournament, with a field including Victoria Groce and Brandon Blackwell from ABC’s The Chase, as well as champions dating back to … well, Chuck Forrest won his first game in 1985.
  • Speaking of long spans, returning champion Lucas Partridge finally headed back to the studio after nearly 10 months. That’s right: This week they finally filmed the first regular-play games of Season 40. We’ll see them in early April!

  1. STARTS WITH “P” for $2000: Part of this word for a long, rambling journey nearly spells out a type of falcon. Unfortunately, Troy couldn’t quite get to “peregrination.”
  2.  Due to the scores going into Final Jeopardy–Troy at 22,000, Yogesh 15,600, and Ben 10,000–Yogesh had to choose between keeping enough money to win on a Triple Stumper and making a bet to cover third-place Ben. This is known among aficionados as “Stratton’s Dilemma.” While I would have made a different decision, Yogesh’s bet is at least somewhat defensible.
  3. Whether this is the third- or fourth-highest Daily Double bet in show history depends on whether you count James’s $25,600 wager in the Jeopardy! Masters quarterfinals last May. Regardless, he made two $25,000 bets in his initial 2019 run.
  4. In this A = B + C scenario, if the leader A misses Final Jeopardy and makes the standard cover bet over B, their score will drop to $1 below C–that is, if C doubles up, which is what happened here. But Troy’s Daily Double had put him in a strong position, and Yogesh’s buzzer timing made a tiebreaker risky. I believe his bet was the right one.

Andy Saunders covers Jeopardy! daily as site administrator for The Jeopardy! Fan. He is also a founding archivist of The J! Archive. His weekly recap appears at Questionist every Sunday.

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