Sometimes, you can tune into Jeopardy! for weeks at a time without any super excitement, giant hauls of money, or champions who last more than a show or two. Which is fine! It’s normal!
But this piece is not about normal.
Of course, it’s always fun to watch along, to shout responses at the screen (but pretend it’s at the host), and to be fairly sure you could have scored, oh, all the money available in a game, but could you have? Likely not.
Could you come close? Hmm… still no. Because all the money? That’s a lot of money.
Sure, some people have won record-breaking amounts, but some people have won almost literally nothing. Here are some tales of some extreme Jeopardy! scores (both real and theoretical), and some other wacky game results:
How Much Money is Available on the Jeopardy! Board?
Good! That’s the easy math.
There are six categories per round, and five money levels.
In the first round, just called the Jeopardy! round, these money levels are $200, $400, $600, $800, and $1000.
6 x ($200 + $400 + $600 + $800 + $1000)= $18,000
(Or, just figure it’s $3000 per category x 6 categories.)
Double Jeopardy!, perhaps not shockingly, is double the money at each level, so $6000 per category, for a total of $36,000.
$54,000 is the highest possible amount a player can win, if there were no wagering (i.e. no Daily Doubles or Final Jeopardy!—more on that in the next section). The score excluding monies won through wagering is called the “Coryat” score. Here’s a clearer explanation of what a Coryat Score is.
What’s the Most Money You Can Win on Jeopardy! in One Day?
Here’s where the math gets a bit funkier, and a lot more theoretical, because the Daily Doubles come into play.
A Daily Double is a clue hidden in the board. They are distributed randomly (though, those “in the know” are aware that they are rarely in the top line; more on that in a bit), one in the Jeopardy! round, and two in the Double Jeopardy! round, and they allow a player to place a bet on whether they know the answer (based on the category/column subject where they found it). They can bet as much as they have (aka a “True Daily Double”), money-wise, or as little as $5.
(If a player has a very low score on finding the Daily Double, they can bet up to the amount of the most valuable clue on the board in that round. For example, if someone asked from “Potent Potables for $400” in the Jeopardy! round, but only had $200 (or, worse, a negative score), they could bet up to $1000, the highest-priced clue in that round. If they, say, asked for “State Capitals for $1200” in the Double Jeopardy! round, but had a low score, they could still bet up to $2000.)
To figure out the most money a person could theoretically win depends on a lot of factors, though!
- The Daily Doubles would have to be found last in each round (so the contestant can double the money from all the rest of the clues).
- The Daily Doubles would have to be in the first, normally least-valuable row (so the contestant has won the maximum possible amount before ‘True Daily Doubling”).
- No one else can have rung in and answered correctly at any point in the game.
It’s not super unusual for a Daily Double to be found last, but, as I mentioned above, they are rarely in the first row. And no one has ever not let another contestant answer a question. (By ‘let,’ they weren’t giving permission, I should add! They just, y’know, maybe didn’t know something themselves, or didn’t get the buzzer rung at the right moment.)
So! Let’s say someone in the Jeopardy! round cleared all but one $200 clues on the board (so had $17,800), picked that last clue (the Daily Double), and bet all their money, they would have $35,600.
Then say that person cleared all but two $400 clues in the Double Jeopardy! round (adding $35,200 to their original $35,600 for a total of $70,800), hit one Daily Double, bet everything, got the question right and doubled their score (now $141,600), then hit another Daily Double, bet everything, and answered correctly, they would have $283,200).
Then, huzzah, their category also comes up in Final Jeopardy!, so they bet it all AGAIN! BOOM, they have $566,400.
No one has ever done this. Or even come close. We’ll talk about records in a bit, so keep reading.
Has There Ever Been a Perfect Jeopardy! Game?
A perfect Jeopardy! game is one where every single clue in every board got a correct answer. Even with three contestants, there has never been a perfect game, let alone with only one Super Contestant playing.
The highest Coryat score for a single player is $39,200, by the gonzo record-breaking Ken Jennings. That means that he got $39,200 out of a possible $54,000 between the Jeopardy! and Double Jeopardy! rounds (not including money won on Daily Doubles). (The total Coryat for the game was $46,400.)
The highest Coryat for a single game was a mind-blowing $51,600 on December 23, 2009. Two clues were ‘Triple Stumpers’ (meaning no one answered), and two others were answered incorrectly, but every other clue in the first two rounds of the game was correctly dealt with!
Has Anyone Ever Cleared the Board on Jeopardy!?
I haven’t been through the whole of J!Archive (yet?), but it appears not. (If any readers know better, and can show their work, please let us know in the comments!)
What’s the Highest Amount Someone Has Actually Won in One Day on Jeopardy!?
If you’ve watched Jeopardy! at all in the last few years, you’ll know the name James Holzhauer, a player who made it his mission to win at game show trivia by putting himself through rigorous training for months at a time to prepare himself for the questions, and the buzzer.
He’s also a professional gambler, so he proved incredibly nervy once he got on that stage, answering correctly, and betting incredibly aggressively (and hugely). He holds the top 16 biggest one-day scores on Jeopardy!. His very top one was $131,127, on the show that aired on April 17, 2019.
His average winnings per game in his initial run of 32 shows? $76,944, a mere $56 fewer than Roger Craig, the man who had held the one-day record for nine years before Holzhauer appeared, had won on his best day. (Until, of course, he, like all other GOATs, meet their ultimate competition.)
Does Jeopardy! Have a Cap on Winnings?
What is the Lowest Amount Ever Won on Jeopardy!?
$1! This was covered in a previous piece on this very site, but, to sum up, two contestants were tied going into Final Jeopardy!. One contestant bet everything, the other bet all but a dollar, and they both answered incorrectly.
Has Jeopardy! Ever had a Tie?
Yes! It’s pretty rare, but Jeopardy! games can be tied after Final Jeopardy!.
Wait, What? What Happens When There’s a Tie?
Previously, it sometimes meant that there could be co-champions, including a game on March 16, 2007. Everyone was invited back for a rematch (where there was only one winner).
This doesn’t happen anymore; now, there is a different fun, and perhaps similarly controversial, twist: A tiebreaker question!
This happened most recently (as of this writing) in January 2021, when contestants Jack Weller and returning champion Ben Chang ended up with matching scores. Watch how it went down:
Has Jeopardy! Ever Had Only One Contestant in the Final Jeopardy! Round?
It sure has! But it is also pretty darned rare; one recent instance came in 2020, when poor (/rich, since he won a fine chunk of change!) Kevin Walsh was the last man standing after the other two contestants failed to have positive scores at the end of the Double Jeopardy! round.
As Alex Trebek said, “The stage looks like a very lonely place right now.”
What Happens if All Three Jeopardy! Contestants End with Zero?
Then the next day’s game starts with three fresh players!
This is, again, rare; it’s only happened seven times in 36 years.
So Wait, if the Game Ends, and No One Has a Positive Score, Do They Get Nothing?
Nope! This is where things get fuzzy again, because this is so rare (many of the games aren’t even on J! Archive yet, so the stats are hard to find), but when there was a all-$0 game most recently (in 2016), two contestants were tied (in the lead) going into Final Jeopardy!, and, despite having $0 at the end of the game, they went home with $2000; the other contestant got $1000.
Has Jeopardy! Ever Not Had a Winner?
See above! If the scores are zero at the end of the game, there is no champion, and three new players compete the following day.
So there you have it; Jeopardy! games can end in as many ways as there have been episodes (9000+ as of this writing), from scenarios where people win $0 (except not really), where someone can compete against themselves in the final round, and where a super champion can break a longtime show record, then break it again and again! Anything can happen! So tune in.
Think you have what it takes to be on Jeopardy!? Want to get in more practice so you can be as smart as the contestants? Check out the quizzes on this very site to test your knowledge! Take a look at some of the Jeopardy! video games and board games you can play at home, or read more about preparing to be on the show.