I'm quite a fan of Jeopardy. I watch the show every night if I can, and if I can't, I'll be sure to read up on what went down on the Jeopardy subreddit. It's essentially a sport, when you think about it. And like any great sport, there are all time greats. Since nobody else seemed to do it, it's high time to make a comprehensive list of the greatest Jeopardy players of all time.
First, some ground rules. No players from the Kids Tournament, Teen Tournament (sorry Leonard Cooper), College Tournament, or Teachers Tournament. The Tournament of Champions is fair game, as is the All Star Tournament, but players must be judged primarily on their regular season play. All these stats come from j-archive.com, the Baseball Reference of Jeopardy. With that, let's get into the list.
10. Arthur Chu
Arthur had a fair bit of controversy during his 11 game winning streak. Since he liked jumping around the board instead of answering entire categories, people accused him of playing Jeopardy the "wrong" way, only to see him defended by one Ken Jennings, as well as anyone who likes fun. He finished second in the 2014 Tournament of Champions. His Achilles heel was his Final Jeopardy. In 16 regular and postseason games, Arthur was only 8-8 in Final Jeopardy. It really was the only thing holding him back from truly fulfilling his potential as a Jeopardy player.
9. Matt Jackson
Matt is one player who goes on the offense. He had a 13 game winning streak back in 2015, during which he had two games over $50,000 compared to one game under $20,000. However, Matt has one major flaw that separates him from being one of the elite Jeopardy players in history: just like Arthur, his Final Jeopardy answers. During his streak, including his loss, he finished 8-6 in Final Jeopardy. Only slightly better than a coin toss. In the Tournament of Champions, while he did make it to the Finals, he ultimately went 1-3 in Final Jeopardy in postseason play.
8. David Madden
In 2005, it looked like Jeopardy may have another Ken Jennings. David had won 19 consecutive games, of which 10 were runaways. He's good in postseason play, helping Brad keep his perfect record against humans intact by running away with the All Star Tournament. So, why is he so low? Well, David's numbers during his streak don't really jump off the page when you read them. He barely crossed $25,000 throughout his streak and crossed $30,000 only three times. Hell, he won a game with only $11,000 one time. His wins are more quantity than quality, but 19 consecutive wins in anything needs to be respected.
7. Austin Rogers
Austin had his streak last for 12 games, but he loses out due to how he was winning. Sure, he was dominant. Many of his wins were runaways. But he just wasn't rewriting the record books. And while Austin was better in regular season play, he was a non-factor in ToC play. He'd finish in a distant third behind Buzzy Cohen and Alan Lin in the ToC, and his All Star team would also lose in the first round.
6. Julia Collins
The highest ranking female player, Julia was the second player, after Ken Jennings, to win 20 consecutive games. A good amount of her wins were runaways as well, but Roger gets the edge over her due to his sheer dominance when he was on. Julia wasn't really pushing any boundaries, not that that's a bad thing, but in every sport, records add to legacies. It also doesn't help that she finished third behind Ben Ingram and our old buddy Arthur in the 2014 Tournament of Champions.
5. Roger Craig
No, not the former 49ers running back. This Roger Craig was a six day consecutive champion, having lost on his seventh day when he could not identify the New Orleans Saints having won Super Bowl XLIV. He'd later come back for Tournaments of Champions and Tournaments of Decades, where he'd keep on winning. Roger would set several records during his time, including highest single-game total, highest five-day total, highest daily double, and highest true daily double, one of which wasn't beaten handily by the Trivia God.
Watson is the only non-human on this list. Watson is a computer developed by IBM which had the original intent to compete with human Jeopardy players. Despite some quirks, like Watson answering Toronto for a Final Jeopardy question with the category "US Cities" (It still won in a runaway, for what it's worth). It showed odd betting tactics, including betting $947 on said Final Jeopardy question. Still, it managed to blow out both Ken and Brad, so that earns a spot on this list.
3. Brad Rutter
There are two eras of Jeopardy. Before 2003, players were only allowed to play five games before they left. After 2003, the rules were changed to allow players to keep returning as long as they kept winning. Brad mostly dominated the first era, winning five straight games, taking two Camaros with him into the sunset. He then came back for the Tournament of Champions several times, and won every time. In a grand total of 19 Jeopardy regular season and ToC games, Brad has never lost to a human. Impressive.
2. James Holzhauer
The Trivia God himself. Earlier this year, James went scorched earth on Jeopardy, single handedly changing how the game is played. He went big every question, and usually got them. He hunted for Daily Doubles, and in his time on Jeopardy he got them right an incredible 95% of the time. Only once was he ever trailing heading into Final Jeopardy, and that was the game he lost. Only once did he get Final Jeopardy wrong. He still won that game. Of his 32 consecutive wins, which are second to only Ken Jennings all time, he only had two games that weren't runaways. His $2.46 million in winnings are also second to Jennings in regular season play. James also holds the record for the 10 highest single-game totals, including the only six $100,000 games in Jeopardy history. So, who could possibly be better than James? Well, that's obvious.
1. Ken Jennings
Ken Jennings is the greatest Jeopardy player of all time. His record of winning $2.52 million in regular season play is a record, and it was over a decade and a half before it was even threatened. Most impressively, he managed to win an astounding 74 consecutive games before losing to Nancy Zerg on November 30, 2004. That established a truly insurmountable record nobody has even come halfway to tying. He's the Tom Brady, Barry Bonds, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Richard Petty of Jeopardy. He's that great. And there will never be another Jeopardy player like him.
So there's the top ten. These players are the cream of the crop, and they've all set the bar so high, it's hard to see any change in this list.
Unless James agrees to play Ken and Brad.