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Roger Craig (Jeopardy! contestant)

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Roger Alan Craig Jr. (born September 1976) is an American game show contestant, computer scientist, data scientist, and machine learning consultant. He held the record for highest single-day winnings on the quiz show Jeopardy! from September 14, 2010 (surpassing Ken Jennings) to April 9, 2019 (when James Holzhauer surpassed him). In 2011, Craig returned to win the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions. In 2014, he competed in the Battle of the Decades tournament, finishing third overall behind Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.

Early life and career[edit]

Craig, who was 33 years old at the time of his initial Jeopardy! appearance in 2010,[1][2] is a native of Ferndale, Pennsylvania. He grew up there and later in Virginia, where he graduated from Annandale High School in 1995.[3]

Craig holds a first degree in biology and biochemistry from Virginia Tech, and a master's degree and Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Delaware. He was working on his doctorate at the time of his first appearance on Jeopardy!, and completed the degree later in 2010.[2][3][4]

In his scholarly career, Craig has published eight papers in the field of bioinformatics, specifically on topics of combinatorial protein synthesis and protein-protein prediction.[5][6]

As of November 2011, Craig was living in Newark, Delaware, and working as a computer scientist.[4] He is the founder of Cotinga, a company which performs data analyses and creates learning applications for smartphones.[7] Craig was a guest on KFC Radio of Barstool Sports on August 23, 2012.[8] When the Battle of the Decades tournament aired in 2014, Craig was living in Brooklyn, New York, and working a data scientist.[9]



Craig prepared for Jeopardy! by studying the online archive of past questions maintained on the J! Archive website. Using data-mining and text-clustering, he identified the topics most likely to occur in game questions,[10] then used the spaced repetition program Anki for memorization and tested himself using his own program.[11][12][13][14][15]

Craig played quiz bowl as a student at both Virginia Tech and the University of Delaware.[16] Before his Jeopardy appearances, he played numerous Jeopardy scrimmage matches against his friends with quiz bowl experience.[15]

Craig believes his attendance at the two universities helped the most in his success:

Let's face it, for Jeopardy!, the name of the game is breadth not depth. I think the main reason both universities helped so much is that they cover just about all spheres of learning in extraordinary depth.[17]


Original run[edit]

Craig set his record of $77,000 on the second day of the 2010–2011 Jeopardy! season on the episode airing September 14, 2010.[18] In his record-setting appearance, he had a score of $47,000 after the game's first two rounds, then wagered and won $30,000 in the Final Jeopardy! round. Prior to Craig, the single-day record of $75,000 was held by Ken Jennings. Craig lost to North Carolina sportswriter Jelisa Castrodale in his seventh appearance. He had the lead going into the Final Jeopardy! round, in the category "Sports and the Media". Castrodale won when she gave the correct response to the Final Jeopardy question about the winner of the 2010 Super Bowl, while Craig gave an incorrect response, finishing third behind Castrodale and police officer Matt Martin.[19]

In his seven-day run, Craig earned $231,200,[20] all except $1,000 of which was from winning episodes.[21] This total was the sixth-highest amount of money won non-tournament on the show, ranking Craig behind Ken Jennings, Julia Collins, David Madden, Arthur Chu, and Austin Rogers.[1]

On April 9, 2019, professional sports gambler James Holzhauer broke Craig's single-day record, surpassing it 15 more times during his own run; the record now stands at $131,127 as of April 17, 2019. Holzhauer, like Craig, relied on aggressive Daily Double and Final Jeopardy! wagers to amass his totals. Holzhauer also surpassed Craig's records for most earnings won in a player's first five games and the largest successful bet on a Daily Double.[18]

Tournament play[edit]

In 2011, Craig returned for the Tournament of Champions, which aired in November. In the quarter-final match, he had $200 shy of $40,000 going into Final Jeopardy! and won despite losing $20,200 after getting Final Jeopardy! wrong. In the semi-final match, described as "a bloody, epic, inter-planetary death match... the Jeopardy! equivalent of a title-unification fight",[22] Craig beat college physics professor Joon Pahk and student and waiter Mark Runsvold, the sixth and tenth regular-play all-time money winners on the show at the time. On the first night of the two-day finals, Craig became the first player in the history of the show to uncover two Daily Double items in succession, wager all of his money on both, and win both times.[23]

When Craig hit the first of his back-to-back Daily Doubles, he wagered his entire pot of $9,000, and won when he correctly identified Anne Brontë as the author who wrote the 1847 book Agnes Grey under the pseudonym 'Acton Bell'. After switching categories and uncovering the second Daily Double, Craig wagered his entire pot of $18,000, winning when he correctly answered, "What is Suriname?" after being given the clue "Although Dutch is the official language, Sranan Tongo is spoken by most people in this South American country." At the time, his $18,000 win was the largest successful Daily Double wager in the show's history.[24][25]

Craig won the Tournament of Champions. In the finals, he defeated systems engineer Buddy Wright and writer Tom Nissley (the latter being the show's fourth highest all-time non-tournament money winner), to win the grand prize of $250,000.[26]

Craig returned for the Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades tournament on April 1, 2014, as part of the 2000s Week. Facing chemical engineer Vijay Balse (2010 Tournament of Champions winner) and history professor Stephanie Jass, he defeated Balse by $1 and advanced to the quarterfinals. Craig won in the quarterfinals on May 5, facing off against instructional designer and curriculum developer Robin Carroll (2000 Tournament of Champions winner) and "shovel bum" Leszek Pawlowicz (1992 Tournament of Champions winner). Craig then defeated then-world history teacher Colby Burnett (Fall 2012 Teachers Tournament and 2013 Tournament of Champions winner) and graduate student Pam Mueller (Fall 2000 College Championship winner) in the semifinals and advanced to the finals where he placed third. Craig was hurt in the finals by two "True Daily Double" wagers, one on each day of the two-day final, in which he risked $10,200 and responded incorrectly both times.

Craig later appeared in the 2019 All-Star Games with team captain Austin Rogers and 2013 Teen Tournament winner Leonard Cooper. His team went home with $75,000 after losing in the wild card match.


During his Jeopardy! appearances, Craig set the following records:

Description Set Record Current record
Highest 5-game total on Jeopardy!, first 5 games (unadjusted) $195,801 $298,687 (James Holzhauer)
Highest single-game total on Jeopardy! $77,000 (September 14, 2010) $131,127 (James Holzhauer, April 17, 2019)
Largest true daily double bet (unadjusted) $18,000 (November 14, 2011) $25,600 (James Holzhauer, May 17, 2023)
Largest daily double bet (unadjusted) $18,000 (November 14, 2011) $25,600 (James Holzhauer, May 17, 2023)


  1. ^ a b "Pricey day at 'Pardy'", New York Post, September 22, 2010.
  2. ^ a b Graduate Student Roger Craig Surpasses Ken Jennings as Highest One-Day 'Jeopardy' Winner, CBS press release, September 14, 2010
  3. ^ a b "Local native winning big on 'Jeopardy!'", The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.), September 15, 2010; accessed April 3, 2014.
  4. ^ a b UD alumnus Roger Craig returns to 'Jeopardy!' for tournament, Newark (Delaware) Post, November 2, 2011.
  5. ^ Craig, Roger; Liao, Li (2007). "Phylogenetic Tree Information Aids Supervised Learning for Predicting Protein-Protein Interaction Based on Distance Matrices". BMC Bioinformatics. 8: 6. doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-6. PMC 1781468. PMID 17212819.
  6. ^ Craig, R. A.; Lu, J.; Luo, J.; Shi, L.; Liao, L. (2009). "Optimizing nucleotide sequence ensembles for combinatorial protein libraries using a genetic algorithm". Nucleic Acids Research. 38 (2): e10. doi:10.1093/nar/gkp906. ISSN 0305-1048. PMC 2811015. PMID 19889723.
  7. ^ Jeopardy! champ uses computer skills by Wade Malcolm, Delaware News Journal, November 30, 2011.
  8. ^ "KFC Radio Episode 11 – Jeopardy Champs And Bon Jovi In A Cage Match". Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  9. ^ Sprung, Shlomo (April 1, 2014). "TONIGHT: Brooklyn data scientist to compete on 'Jeopardy!'". Brooklyn Eagle. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  10. ^ How One Man Played 'Moneyball' With 'Jeopardy!', National Public Radio, November 20, 2011.
  11. ^ Baker, Stephen (February 17, 2011). Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 212–224. ISBN 978-0-547-48316-0. craig.
  12. ^ Potter, Ned (November 17, 2011). "'Jeopardy!' Champ Wins Jackpot With Web App". ABC News. ...he didn't just use his smarts to memorize a lot of trivia. He's a computer scientist who was finishing his Ph.D. at the University of Delaware when he first went on the game in 2010 — and before playing he developed a computer app to help figure out the patterns of questions (er, answers for which you have to come up with questions) on the show. In a talk at New York University, he said he went to a website called J! Archive, where fans have diligently recorded the clues on the show, game after game. He said the questions really aren't random when you put them through a computer.
  13. ^ "Taking Down 'Jeopardy': Computer scientist Roger Craig comes clean on duping the popular game show" (video). ABC News. November 19, 2011.
  14. ^ Tate, Ryan (November 16, 2011). "How a Geek Cracked the Jeopardy! Code". In the talk above, delivered to the New York 'Quantified Self Show & Tell', he explains how he developed a web tool and various supporting programs to analyze and effectively train himself on a database of past questions. Among his findings: high value questions are culled from academic fields like art, science, biology, and architecture, while low value questions tend to come from more popular topics like food, 'firsts', and inventions. Based on these types of weightings and his performance on random questions selected by his app, Craig was able to deduce topics he needed to study, like fashion. Three other contestants used the web app to good effect on the show, at least according to the anonymous quotes collected by Craig. His next venture: an iPhone app that will let anyone study in a similar fashion.
  15. ^ a b Alexandra Carmichael, "Roger Craig Wins Jeopardy Championship with Knowledge Tracking", Quantified Self, November 17, 2011.
  16. ^ Andrew Reilly, Tech alumnus Roger Craig becomes third-most successful contestant in 'Jeopardy', Collegiate Times, September 30, 2010
  17. ^ "UD alum Roger Craig wins 'Jeopardy!' Tournament of Champions". UDaily. November 15, 2011. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  18. ^ a b Itzkoff, Dave (September 15, 2010). "Record Set On 'Jeopardy!'". The New York Times. Retrieved September 20, 2010.
  19. ^ Jelisa Castrodale, "Castrodale: Fear & loathing in the form of a question ... my brief reign as Jeopardy! champion", Off the Bench, NBC Sports, September 24, 2010.
  20. ^ Clodfelter, Tim (September 22, 2010). "Racking up $$: Winner on Jeopardy is local woman". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved September 22, 2010.
  21. ^ Roger Craig Game 7, j-archive.com; accessed April 3, 2014.
  22. ^ Chris Jones. "The End of Delusion", Esquire Magazine, November 12, 2011.
  23. ^ "Roger Craig's Unbelievable Double Daily Doubles On 'Jeopardy!'". Huffington Post. November 16, 2011. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  24. ^ Chris Jones,"Your Own Conversation with Alex Trebek". Esquire Magazine, November 15, 2011.
  25. ^ Saunders, Andy (March 15, 2016). "Quick Recap & Final Jeopardy – March 15, 2016". The Jeopardy Fan. -- Phillip Tiu made a successful $19,000 wager on March 15, 2016.
  26. ^ Aubrey Cohen, "Seattle's Tom Nissley wins $100,000 on 'Jeopardy'", Seattle's Big Blog, SeattlePI.com, November 15, 2011.
Preceded by
Vijay Balse
Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions winner
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Ryan Chaffee
Biggest one-day winners on Jeopardy! by season
Succeeded by
Joon Pahk
Preceded by
Ken Jennings, 2004
Biggest one-day winners on Jeopardy!

Succeeded by
James Holzhauer, 2019
$110,914 then $131,127