List of Jeopardy! contestants
Jeopardy! is an American television game show. Its format is a quiz competition in which contestants are presented with general knowledge clues in the form of answers, and must phrase their responses in question form. Many contestants throughout the show's history have received significant media attention because of their success on Jeopardy!, particularly Brad Rutter, who has won the most money on the show, and Ken Jennings, who has the show's longest winning streak; Rutter and Jennings also hold the first and second place records respectively for most money ever won on American game shows. Other contestants went on to great accomplishments, including future U.S. senator and presidential candidate John McCain.
- 1 Fleming era (1964–79)
- 2 Trebek era (1984–present)
- 2.1 Jerry Frankel
- 2.2 Chuck Forrest
- 2.3 Bob Verini
- 2.4 Richard Cordray
- 2.5 Mark Lowenthal
- 2.6 Tom Cubbage
- 2.7 Eric Newhouse
- 2.8 Bob Blake
- 2.9 Frank Spangenberg
- 2.10 Jerome Vered
- 2.11 Michael George Dupée
- 2.12 Bob Harris
- 2.13 Arthur Phillips
- 2.14 Eddie Timanus
- 2.15 Pam Mueller
- 2.16 Brad Rutter
- 2.17 Ken Jennings
- 2.18 David Madden
- 2.19 Larissa Kelly
- 2.20 Roger Craig
- 2.21 Watson
- 2.22 Colby Burnett
- 2.23 Arthur Chu
- 2.24 Julia Collins
- 2.25 Matt Jackson
- 2.26 Alex Jacob
- 2.27 Buzzy Cohen
- 2.28 Seth Wilson
- 3 References
Fleming era (1964–79)
Burns Cameron (born December 10, 1938) won a total of $11,110 in his appearances on Jeopardy!, including a then-record five-game total of $7,070 in December 1965. Cameron was also the winner of the third annual Tournament of Champions in 1966, in which he won $4,040. A still picture of Cameron receiving a "dummy" check still exists, as well as a still of him being greeted by Mel Brooks as the 2000-year-old man on the Fleming era 2000th show. Cameron is cited as one of the best players of the Art Fleming era of the show. In 1990, when Jeopardy! creator Merv Griffin produced Super Jeopardy!, a separate weekly prime time network version based on the Trebek version of Jeopardy! to air Saturday nights in the summer on ABC, he invited Cameron to compete as the only player to represent the Fleming era. Cameron competed in the fifth quarterfinal game, where he finished in second (by one point) and won $5,000.
Trebek era (1984–present)
Jerry Frankel, (February 10, 1953 – July 13, 1987) a musician and composer from Buffalo, New York, was a five-time undefeated champion during Jeopardy's first season, winning $32,650 on the program. He became that version's first ever Tournament of Champions winner, earning the $100,000 grand prize by defeating Bruce Fauman and Steve Rogitz in the two game final.
Chuck Forrest (born June 3, 1961) held the record for the largest non-tournament cash winnings total from 1985 to 1989, and the largest all-time winnings from 1986 to 1990. The producers of the show regarded him as one of the best and most memorable contestants of the 1980s. Forrest is widely regarded by other elite Jeopardy! players to be one of the most formidable contestants to ever play. Forrest won five consecutive games from September 30 to October 4, 1985, winning a then-record $72,800 and qualifying for the 1986 Tournament of Champions, which he won, earning another $100,000. Forrest later played on the Super Jeopardy! tournament, the Million Dollar Masters tournament, the Ultimate Tournament of Champions and the Battle of the Decades tournament. Forrest implemented a strategy known as the "Forrest Bounce" to confuse opponents: the strategy involved picking each clue from a different category instead of taking the clues in order. With Mark Lowenthal, Forrest co-wrote the 1992 book Secrets of the Jeopardy! Champions.
Bob Verini was a five-time champion in 1987 and won the 1987 Tournament of Champions, using the money to finance several theatrical productions. He was then the runner-up in Super Jeopardy! and finished third in the Million Dollar Masters. He also appeared in both the Ultimate Tournament of Champions and the Battle of the Decades, both times losing his first game. Prior to Ken Jennings, Verini held the record for most matches appeared in. Verini's career earnings on Jeopardy! and Super Jeopardy! are $276,802.
Richard Cordray (born May 3, 1959) was a five-time Jeopardy! champion in 1987, while still serving as a law clerk, and also appeared in the 1987 Tournament of Champions. Cordray parleyed his success on Jeopardy! into political office, serving as an Ohio State Legislator, Attorney General of Ohio, and currently as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He was a participant in the Battle of the Decades Tournament, but was defeated in the first match and declined the prize money due to his office.
Mark M. Lowenthal won the 1988 Tournament of Champions. He also appeared on Super Jeopardy!, the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, and the Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades, beating Spangenberg in his initial game. Lowenthal is the co-author (along with Season 2 record-setting five-time champion and Tournament of Champions winner Chuck Forrest) of the 1992 book Secrets of the Jeopardy! Champions, and has also written a college textbook on intelligence and national security.
Tom Cubbage is the only contestant in Jeopardy! history to win both the show's College Championship and the Tournament of Champions. Cubbage became the first ever winner of the College Championship when the format made its debut in May 1989, winning $26,600. In November of that same year, he was the $100,000 grand prize winner of the 1989 Tournament of Champions. He also appeared on Super Jeopardy! in 1990, and earned $5,000 for appearing as a quarterfinalist. 15 years later, in 2005, Cubbage competed in the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions. In the first round, he lost his game, finishing in second place behind Bob Harris. In 2014, Cubbage returned to Jeopardy! to compete in the show's Battle of the Decades. In his first game of the tournament, he scored a victory over fellow Jeopardy! alumni Bob Verini and Jerome Vered. Cubbage lost his second game to Ken Jennings, but he finished the game with $19,500, allowing him to secure a wild-card spot in the next round. In the semifinals, Cubbage lost again, finishing in third place behind Leszek Pawlowicz and eventual tournament winner Brad Rutter.
Eric Newhouse first appeared on Jeopardy! when he won the 1989 Teen Tournament. He was both a semifinalist in the 1989 Tournament of Champions and Super Jeopardy! After winning the 1998 Teen Reunion Tournament, Newhouse was invited to the Million Dollar Masters, where he placed second to Brad Rutter. Newhouse was one of nine players who advanced directly to the second round of the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, but lost his initial game.
Bob Blake, an actuary from Vancouver, BC, appeared on Jeopardy in September 1989, won five games (which until 2003, contestants were retired after five appearances), and broke Chuck Forrest's then five day record with $82,501. Because Bob's winnings were higher than the then-limit of $75,000, $7,501 of his winnings were donated to his selected charity, Oxfam. He also competed in Super Jeopardy! in which he was a Semi-Finalist. He was also the winner of the 1990 Tournament of Champions winning him in the process $100,000. He also competed in the Ultimate Tournament of Champions in 2005. He was initially invited to compete in the Battle of the Decades tournament but declined because of conflicts with international travel.
Lieutenant Frank Spangenberg (born July 26, 1957) garnered fame in 1990 when he set the five-day cumulative winnings record, becoming the first person to win more than $100,000 in five days on the show. He has been called one of the "veritable legends" of the show. He was also the first to exceed $30,000 (winning $30,600) in a single day.
Spangenberg, at the time a member of the New York City Transit Police Department (now the Transit Bureau of the New York City Police Department), won $102,597 in five days. Prior to 2003, winners were retired after five consecutive victories and due to a winnings cap in place on Jeopardy! at the time, Spangenberg was only able to keep $75,000 of his total winnings; he donated the remaining $27,597 to the Gift of Love Hospice, a facility operated by the Missionaries of Charity. The $102,597 record stands as the all-time net five-day record because of 2001 rule changes regarding clue values, and the 2003 abolition of the five-day limit restricts the record to a contestant's first five days.
Spangenberg also won Jeopardy!'s 10th Anniversary Tournament in 1993, winning $41,800, and previously appeared in the 1990 Tournament of Champions, Super Jeopardy! earlier that year, and later competed in the 2002 Million Dollar Masters tournament, the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions and the 2014 Battle of the Decades tournament.
Jerome Vered (born March 13, 1958) appeared on Jeopardy! in 1992 and won $96,801 as a five-day champion and retired undefeated. His total winnings at the time were second to Frank Spangenberg's $102,597. During that run, he shattered the one-day record for dollar winnings, earning $34,000 in one episode. After his five-day run, Vered returned for the 1992 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, finishing in third place In the 2005 Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions, Vered won five games to advance to a three-game final match against fellow Jeopardy! legends Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Vered finished in third place, earning $250,000. Behind Rutter and Jennings, respectively, he is the third highest-earning contestant in Jeopardy! history, having won a total of $496,602. He competed in the 2014 Battle of the Decades but lost to Tom Cubbage.
Michael George Dupée
Michael George "Mike" Dupée (born October 23, 1966) originally appeared on Jeopardy! in 1996, and won the Tournament of Champions that same year. In 2005, Dupée participated in the Ultimate Tournament of Champions. He won his first match, but was defeated by Robert Slaven in his second game of the tournament. Nine years later, in 2014, Dupée competed in the Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades tournament, where he was defeated in the first round by Brad Rutter. Dupée's total winnings on Jeopardy! is $203,901, including $66,401 won during his original five-day run; $100,000 for winning the Tournament of Champions in 1996; $32,500 from the Ultimate Tournament of Champions; and $5,000 from the show's Battle of the Decades. Ken Jennings praised Dupée's book, How to Get on Jeopardy! and Win!, claiming it was the best preparation for competing on Jeopardy! In this book, which he wrote following his success on Jeopardy!, Dupée wrote about his experience on the show and also provided practice questions for aspiring contestants.
Bob Harris (born October 15, 1963) is a noteworthy multi-time contestant on Jeopardy!  Harris first appeared as a contestant in 1997, and won $58,000 as a five-time champion on the show. The following year, Harris finished in third place in the Tournament of Champions behind Kim Worth and Dan Melia. In the first round of the Jeopardy! Million Dollar Masters tournament in 2002, Harris scored an upset victory over Rachael Schwartz and Frank Spangenberg. He would lose in the semifinals, however, to Eric Newhouse. In 2005, Harris competed again on the show, this time in the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions. He won $24,400 and defeated fellow Jeopardy! alumni Frank Epstein and Tom Cubbage in Round 1 of the tournament, but lost in Round 2 to fellow contestants Bruce Borchardt and Michael Daunt. In 2014, Harris competed in the Battle of the Decades. In his match, he finished in third place behind Shane Whitlock and Robin Carroll. Harris has written a book about his experiences on Jeopardy! called Prisoner of Trebekistan.  Besides appearing on Jeopardy!, Harris has had success competing on other game shows. In 2000, he participated in a million-dollar winning team on Greed, winning $200,000 for himself. He was also a successful $250,000 phone-a-friend answer for a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
American novelist Arthur Phillips (born April 23, 1969) appeared on Jeopardy! in 1997. According to his biography, Phillips was a 5-time undefeated champion, winning $63,003 in the process. The following year, Phillips competed in the 1998 Tournament of Champions, but lost his quarterfinal match to Teen Tournament winner Sahir Islam. Seven years later, in 2005, Phillips competed in the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions. He won his first match, winning $8,800. However, he lost his second round match, finishing behind Eric Terzuolo and former College Championship winner Pam Mueller, and was subsequently eliminated.
Eddie Timanus (born August 9, 1968) was the first blind contestant to compete on the show, appearing in October 1999. He won five consecutive games—the limit at that time—and earned $69,700 and two cars. He subsequently appeared in the Million Dollar Masters, the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, and the Battle of the Decades.
Pam Mueller is a former winner of the College Championship. Mueller also participated in the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, advancing all the way to the Sweet Six round before losing her match, finishing behind Frank Spangenberg and Jerome Vered. In 2014, Mueller competed in the show's Battle of the Decades. The story about her first match in this tournament, which saw her compete against fellow Jeopardy! champions Dan Melia and Ryan (Fritz) Holznagel, was featured on Who2 Biographies.
Brad Rutter (born January 31, 1978) is the biggest all-time money winner on Jeopardy! and briefly held the record for biggest cumulative game show winnings for any U.S. game show contestant. Rutter retained the record for Jeopardy! winnings with either $4,255,102 or $4,270,102, and a pair of Chevrolet Camaros. Rutter became a five-day undefeated champion on Jeopardy! in 2000, with a total of $55,102. He subsequently won an unprecedented four Jeopardy! tournament titles: the 2001 Tournament of Champions, the 2002 Million Dollar Masters Tournament, the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions, and the 2014 Battle of the Decades. In twenty games against humans only, Rutter has never lost an official Jeopardy! match, though he was defeated in an exhibition match by the Watson supercomputer and Ken Jennings (who outpointed Rutter in the two-game match).
Ken Jennings (born May 23, 1974) first appeared on Jeopardy! on June 2, 2004, a time shortly after producers of the game show relaxed the limit on the number of times a contestant could appear on the show. Because the five-game limit was removed, Jennings continued to win and eventually broke the winnings record set by Tom Walsh, who had won $186,900 in eight games earlier in 2004.
Jennings continued to win and eventually set a record of 74 wins before he was defeated by Nancy Zerg in his seventy-fifth appearance. Jennings' total winnings from the program amount to $3,022,700, which includes $2,522,700 won in his initial appearances and an additional $500,000 for his second-place finish in the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions. In addition, at the end of Season 20, he set a then-new one-day record of $75,000 (which would later be broken by Roger Craig, see below).
During his first run of Jeopardy! appearances, Jennings earned the record for the highest American game show winnings. His total was later surpassed by Brad Rutter, who defeated Jennings in the finals of the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, adding $2,000,000 to his earlier Jeopardy! winnings. Jennings regained the record after appearing on several other game shows, including appearances on 1 vs. 100 and Grand Slam, culminating in an appearance on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? in which he won $500,000. However, Rutter retains the Jeopardy! record.
After his success on Jeopardy!, Jennings wrote of his experience and explored American trivia history and culture in Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, published in 2006.
Jennings returned to Jeopardy! finishing runner-up to the Watson Supercomputer (splitting $300,000 with a charity) and again for the Battle of the Decades where he finished runner-up to Brad Rutter (winning $100,000). Ken's total winnings amount to $3,422,700.
David Madden (born June 13, 1981) won the third-highest number of games on Jeopardy! in non-tournament gameplay. Between July 5 and September 19, 2005, Madden won 19 games, a total exceeded only by Ken Jennings and Julia Collins in regular play. His total winnings of $442,400 (adding $10,000 for the 2006 Tournament of Champions) is the sixth all-time highest, behind Brad Rutter, Ken Jennings, Jerome Vered, Julia Collins, and Roger Craig. In terms of regular game winnings, Madden ranks third behind Jennings and Julia Collins; but his dollar winnings in regular games are still the second-highest, after Jennings and slightly ahead of Collins. Madden was invited to take part in 2014's Battle of the Decades Jeopardy! event, but declined to participate due to contractual issues.
Larissa Kelly (born February 10, 1980) won a total of $222,597 over six games and $1,000 third place consolation prize in her seventh game, with her last appearance airing May 28, 2008. At the time of her run on the program, Kelly was the highest-winning female contestant and ranked fifth in all-time in Jeopardy! earnings (excluding tournament winnings).
In addition to being the highest-winning female contestant in regular play, Kelly broke Ken Jennings' record for most money won in a contestant's first five days by winning $179,797. This record was one of two Roger Craig broke during his reign as champion, as he won $195,801 in his first five games. Craig also topped Jennings' single-game record of $75,000. Kelly is also the second-highest winning female contestant in any single game in Jeopardy!'s history. Kelly's $45,200 performance narrowly trails Maria Wenglinsky, who won $46,600 on November 1, 2005.
Roger Craig set the one-day Jeopardy! winnings record of $77,000 during his second appearance on the show in September 2010. Craig won the Tournament of Champions the following year, and in the process set the record for largest daily double (unadjusted) in Jeopardy! history.
Watson is a "deep question answering system" built by IBM to play Jeopardy! Watson was entered into a two-game, three-day exhibition match against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter aired February 14–16, 2011. Watson won the match with a total of $77,147.
Colby Burnett is the first Jeopardy! contestant to have won both the Teachers Tournament and the Tournament of Champions. Burnett, who's a teacher at Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Illinois, won the Teachers Tournament in November 2012. Later, in February 2013, Burnett won the show's Tournament of Champions, taking home the $250,000 grand prize. He later appeared on season 3 of TBS's reality game show King of the Nerds.
Arthur Chu (born January 30, 1984) first appeared on Jeopardy! on January 28, 2014 and almost immediately became a lightning rod because of his unusual playing style. His game theory, "Forrest Bounce", and furiously pressing his signaling device have made him one of the show's most controversial contestants. As of October 21, 2015, Chu is currently ranked fifth on the list of all-time highest-earning Jeopardy! non-tournament champions, with an eleven-day total of $297,200. His winning streak came to a close when he lost in his twelfth game but won $1,000 for finishing in third place, leaving Chu with a final total of $298,200. After his initial appearance on the show, Chu competed in the 2014 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, where he finished second to Ben Ingram, an IT consultant from South Carolina. Chu won $100,000 for his second-place finish, bringing his overall winnings to $398,200.
Julia Collins (born 1982) has the second greatest number of wins, with a total of 20 wins and $429,100. She is also the female contestant with the most wins and greatest money total. In the 2014 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions she finished second in her quarterfinal game against Joshua Brakhage and 2013 College Champion Jim Coury, but reached the semifinals as a wild card. She then won her semifinal game, advancing to the finals, where she finished third, behind Ben Ingram and second-place finisher Arthur Chu.
Matt Jackson (born June 24, 1992), 13-time champion, surpassed Arthur Chu's 11-game winning streak with his 12th win on October 12, 2015. He has also beat Chu in regular season cash earnings with a total of $413,612.
Alex Jacob (born October 27, 1984), is a former professional poker player who lives in Chicago, Illinois, and worked as a currency trader for the Gelber Group. In 2015, Jacob won six games, and later won the 2015 Tournament of Champions.
Austin "Buzzy" Cohen (born 1984 or 1985) is a recording industry executive from Los Angeles, California who won $164,603 over nine games in April and May 2016. Many of his victories were lopsided contests that were decided before the Final Jeopardy! round, which allowed Cohen to wager nothing and use his final response to make sarcastic remarks toward Alex Trebek, a humorous style that earned him both praise and disdain from Jeopardy! fans.
Seth Wilson is a Ph. D. candidate from Chicago who won $265,002 over twelve games in September and October 2016, making him the contestant with the fifth-highest number of consecutive wins in the show's history.
- Alex Trebek and Peter Barsocchini, The Jeopardy! Book (HarperPerennial, 1990), p. 129: "When you survey Jeopardy! contestants, fans, producers, and staff on the subject of the best players ever seen on the show, two names continually emerge: Burns Cameron from the original show and Chuck Forrest from the new show."
- Eisenberg, Harry (1993). Inside "Jeopardy!": What Really Goes on at TV's Top Quiz Show (first ed.). Salt Lake City, Utah: Northwest Publishing Inc. pp. 270–271. ISBN 1-56901-177-X.
And so nine additional invitations went out including one to Burns Cameron, the biggest-ever money winner on the old 'JEOPARDY!' whom Merv thought it would be a good idea to have as well.
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- Many episodes of the Art Fleming–era of Jeopardy! do not survive. The shows featuring Hutton "Red" Gibson and Jay Wolpert are among these lost episodes. However, records indicating Gibson's and Wolpert's appearances may be found in the NBC Master Books daily broadcast log, available on microfilm at the Library of Congress Motion Picture and Television Reading Room. A summary of those records may be found here. Still photographs of Wolpert receiving the championship trophy also still exist.
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- Trebek & Barsocchini, p. 68: "The contestant everyone still remembers from the new version of the game is Chuck Forrest, the 1985 Tournament of Champions winner. He was so good that he basically intimidated the other contestants in the tournament; you could hear them backstage talking about who might take second place, because they just about assumed Chuck would win it all."
- Dupée, Michael (1998). How to Get on Jeopardy and Win!. Citadel Press. p. 36. ISBN 0806519916.
Mr. Forrest was so brilliant that he did not need to use much strategy to crush his opponents.
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Spangenberg, 47, came up short in the TV quiz show's "Ultimate Tournament of Champions" semifinal round, losing to Los Angeles screenwriter Jerome Vered. ... In 1990, Spangenberg won more than $100,000 on "Jeopardy!"
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Mr. Jennings's second-place finish paid him $500,000, and the third place finisher, Jerome Vered, received $250,000.
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In addition to being the "winningest" female champion in the quiz show's 24 seasons, she also has become the third biggest money winner behind all-time "Jeopardy!" champ Ken Jennings, who went home with $2.5 million, and David Madden, who won $430,400, representatives for the series said.
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