(Via Chicago-Sun Times)
James Holzhauer got on Jeopardy after six years of trying and once he did, he decided to go full scorched earth on the game. Go for the big money questions, bet big on Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy.
But he wasn't perfect. He still (rarely) got questions wrong, and he still didn't shut out his opponents. In other words, he had his flaws. And Jeopardy, like baseball and bowling, is a game where a player can be absolutely perfect. Unlike baseball and bowling, while it was always theoretically possible, a perfect game of Jeopardy has never been accomplished. It isn't impossible, but a player would need a perfect storm of events, a quick trigger finger, and of course, the ability to answer all the questions. It is possible, and I took it upon myself to calculate the score a player would get in a perfect game of Jeopardy. Let's take a look at that.
So, how would a player accomplish this? It's all about betting on Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy. The Perfect Coryat Game (that is, a game where there is no betting whatsoever) gives the winner only $54,000 in winnings. As James Holzhauer, Roger Craig, and Ken Jennings have taught us, that amount is more than possible. With betting, that number is unsurprisingly much higher. Credit to reddit user u/leme16, as he or she went through every single Jeopardy game on the Jeopardy Archive and created this heatmap, which shows the percent chance every question on the board has to be a Daily Double.
(Via u/leme16 on Reddit)
This hypothetical perfect game (as well as the highest possible amount in a game of Jeopardy) relies on the unlikely chance of a Daily Double in the $200 row. The perfect round can be accomplished by doing the following: answer five $200 questions correctly, not letting another player get the opportunity to answer. That'll put you at $1000. Answer all six for the six $400 questions, and you'll be at $3400. Do it again for the $600 questions to get yourself to $7000. Once again for the $800 questions to put you at $11,800. Finally, finish up the $1000 questions to get you at $17,800. You'll get the final $200 question, the Daily Double, where you need to go all in and of course answer correctly. If done perfectly, you will be sitting on $35,600 while your opponents will be shut out. Onto Double Jeopardy.
Fortunately for us, the absolute legend of u/leme16 also created a heatmap for Double Jeopardy. While both Daily Doubles are unlikely to be in the $400 row, they are required to keep perfection up. For all intents and purposes, we will assume they are in the first two categories of the $400 row.
(Via u/leme16 on reddit)
Answer four of the $400 questions. Remember: don't let your opponents get the opportunity to answer. One correct answer from either and your bid for perfection is over. You're at $37,200. Answer all six for the $800 questions. Now you're at $42,000. And again for $1200. Now you're up to $49,000. Answer all questions for the $1600 row, and now you're at $58,800. You just beat the perfect Coryat score with one bet. Oh, and you still have eight questions remaining in this game. And you'll have the chance to bet on three of them. Move on to the $2000 questions. Go six for six. Get up to $70,800. Finally, turn to the Daily Doubles. Select your first, go all in, and get it right. You're sitting at $141,600. Congratulations, you just broke James Holzhauer's record for largest Daily Double, beating his comparatively tiny $25,000 bet. You also broke Roger Craig's record for largest true Daily Double, beating his comparatively tinier $18,000 bet. And, this should go without saying, but you did also beat James Holzhauer's single game record by a little over $10,000. And you have another Daily Double. Break all those records again by going all in again, getting it right, and head into Final Jeopardy with $283,200.
Final Jeopardy is so much more simple and straightforward. No need for a quick hand on the buzzer in this round. Your opponents shouldn't even be able to qualify for Final Jeopardy. One last time, go all in, answer the question correctly, and you will be sitting at $566,400.
So now that the perfect score of a Jeopardy game has been calculated, there's one question that still remains: Will anyone actually do this? Short answer: no. While this game is possible in theory, it's essentially impossible in practice. Nobody is that quick on the draw to where they wouldn't get beat at least once out of 60 questions on the board. Even if there was a player who was that quick on the draw, nobody knows that many pieces of trivia. Even the Trivia God James Holzhauer himself occasionally declined to buzz in on the off chance he didn't know, or he lost money on an incorrect answer. But since this is hypothetical, let's assume there is a player who can do this. The reason a score of this magnitude is possible is also why it will never happen: Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy. Looking through all four questions where the player would bet, it's unlikely they would go all in on any of them. In the Jeopardy round, it is at least in the realm of possibility for a player to go all in with $17,800 but a player would never risk everything when he is shutting out his opponents that late in the game. Once we look at the Double Jeopardy Daily Doubles, it really doesn't make sense. If a player is unwilling to go all in with $17,800 then it's impossible to imagine that he would bet $70,800 or $141,600 in a Daily Double. Moving on to Final Jeopardy, a player winning by $283,200 is obviously a runaway. Any player who is leading the runaway either declines to bet or bets so little that they'll hold on to the win in the event of a wrong answer. There's no way a player would go for the jugular in Final Jeopardy, since both his opponents will have failed to qualify for Final Jeopardy in the first place.
I wish it would happen. Honestly, I do. But as it stands now, a Jeopardy perfect game is a statistical impossibility.