Matt Amodio lost on “Jeopardy!” Monday night after a winning streak that gave him the second most consecutive wins (38) in the show’s history and the third highest winnings ($1,518,601), based on regular non-tournament games.
“Everybody’s so smart and so competent that this could happen any game. And this time it did,” Amodio said in a statement released Monday by “Jeopardy!” producers.
“I always wanted to be a ‘Jeopardy!’ champion, and I accomplished that. l know going into every bar trivia game that I play that I’m going to come in with a little intimidation factor. But also, I just like the badge that it represents. As somebody who prioritizes knowledge and knowing things, this is really a good one to have following me everywhere.”
Amodio is a lifelong “Jeopardy!” fan who also honed his skills playing trivia games in bars, notably at The Playwright in Hamden, where he played with a team called The Rogue Scholars. Amodio has been living in Connecticut for five years while studying neural networks, an aspect of Artificial Intelligence as a PhD candidate in the Yale Department of Computer Science. The COVID pandemic has meant that Amodio has been doing his classwork virtually for most of the last year, including in hotel rooms during his frequent trips to “Jeopardy!” tapings.
At the end of the quiz show’s last season in July, when his winnings were at $268,800 (enough to put him among the top 10 winners ever), Amodio told the Courant that the money made it easier for him to pursue his chosen career. “As a PhD student,” he said at the time, “I’ve been spending money, not making it, and my career decisions have also had to be based on money. Now I have the luxury of making those decisions based on what I want to do. Post-doc positions tend to be underpaid, but the pay doesn’t matter as much now. I can stay in academia.”
Amodio came in third place on Monday. It was a hard fought match. Jonathan Fisher, an actor originally from Coral Gables, Florida, won with a closing total of $29,200, just a few hundred dollars ahead of Jessica Stevens, a statistical research specialist from Nashville, Tennessee, who had held the lead earlier in the game and ended it with $28,799. Fisher landed on both Daily Doubles in the Double Jeopardy! round. Amodio’s total for the game was $5,600.
The Final Jeopardy! clue was in the “Countries of the World” category: “Nazi Germany annexed this nation and divided it into regions of the Alps and the Danube; the Allies later divided it into four sectors.” Both Fisher and Stephen responded correctly (”What is Austria?”) while Amodio did not.
Only Ken Jennings has won more games than Amodio, with 74 wins. Only Jennings (with $2,520,700) and James Holzhauer (with $2,462,216) have won more money.
Amodio took 28 games to cross the $1,000,000 threshold, and just another 10 games to add another half-million to his winnings.
Amodio was the reigning champion, having won 18 games when “Jeopardy!” ended its 37th season in mid-August. He won another 20 games this season.
His tenure as champion coincided with the well-publicized search for a new “Jeopardy!” host following the death of Alex Trebek in November of 2020. Amodio played in games hosted by numerous different candidates, including Robin Roberts, LeVar Burton, David Faber and Joe Buck. He also played in games hosted by Mike Richards, who had claimed the “permanent” hosting job but only held it for just over a week of shows following the revelations of sexist comments and discrimination lawsuits in his past. Richards later lost his other role on the show, as a producer.
“Jeopardy!” airs weekdays at 7 p.m. on WTNH-TV.
Christopher Arnott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.