Yale’s Matt Amodio ends 'Jeopardy!' win streak with over $1.5M

Yale University computer science Ph.D. student Matt Amodio’s 38-game winning streak on television quiz show “Jeopardy!” came to an end on Oct. 11 when he finished in third place with $5,600. His victory spree was cut short by Jonathan Fisher, an actor from Coral Gables, Fla., who earned $29,200 over fellow competitor Jessica Stephens, a statistical research specialist from Nashville, Tenn. Stephens led the game at several points but finished in second place with $28,799.

Fisher earned an early advantage after hitting two “Daily Double” clues in the “Double Jeopardy!” round. Also helping to place Fisher and Stephens ahead of Amodio was the “Final Jeopardy!” category and clue. The final category was “Countries of the World,” and the clue was “Nazi Germany annexed this nation & divided it into regions  of The Alps & The Danube; The Allies later divided it into 4 sectors.” Both Fisher and Stephens correctly guessed “What is Austria?” while Amodio incorrectly responded. 

Amodio said in a press release that his final game was only a matter of time.

“Everybody's so smart and so competent that this could happen any game,” Amodio said. “And this time it did.”

But before Amodio’s time on the show drew to a close, he earned “Jeopardy!” Hall of Fame status and broke records in the process.

He began his 38-game stay on the show on July 21, 2021 when he faced Josh Saak, a traffic engineer from Boise, Id. who was the three-day returning champion, and Kansas middle school teacher Elizabeth Devereaux. Amodio dethroned Saak by a margin of $15,595, earning $40,400 in his debut appearance. The host when Amodio began his stint on the show was Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America.”

Since then, the artificial intelligence student earned a total of $1,518,601 in winnings, and surpassed previous "Jeopardy!" contestant James Holzhauer on the show's list of all-time consecutive games won. This also placed him only behind Ken Jennings’ 74-game streak on the show’s Hall of Fame list. Amodio also landed in the number three spot on the “Jeopardy!” list of all-time non-tournament cash winnings, placing behind Holzhauer’s $2,462,216 and Jennings’ $2,520,700.

Amodio told Hearst Connecticut in an email that his strategy for competing on the show was based in part on watching previous “Jeopardy!” champions navigate the clues and categories. 

“I took a lot of my clue selection strategy from thinking probabilistically and statistically, which are core to my academic studies, so I was well positioned for that,” he said. “There are people who discuss these strategies online, and James Holzhauer was a great example of how to implement them. I thought a lot about this ahead of time, as it’s a huge part of the game, but I continued to hone it as I gathered more experience playing.”

Yale University PhD student Matthew Amodio has been on a "Jeopardy!" winning streak since he first began competing on the quiz show on July 21, 2021.

Yale University PhD student Matthew Amodio has been on a "Jeopardy!" winning streak since he first began competing on the quiz show on July 21, 2021.

Jeopardy Productions, Inc. / Contributed Photo

He also attributes his method for answering to his educational background in addition to his personal interests. 

“…My computer science training helped me develop strategies like saying ‘What's…?,’” he noted. “But I think really the thing that has helped me most is my love of reading. I love learning about everything I can find.”

Amodio’s knowledge drew praise from Gov. Ned Lamont back in August, who told the former reigning champion via video chat that he was “showing how smart we are in Connecticut.” The Yale student’s newfound fame was further cemented that same month when he earned the coveted status of a “verified” account on Twitter. 

This influx of attention has been something of an adjustment, Amodio told Hearst Connecticut

“I have been very uncomfortable!” he said in a previous email interview. “I’m an introverted person at heart, and maybe over enough time I would get used to this amount of attention, but that time has certainly not come yet. I still get chills when I see an article written about me. Me? Me, me?”

Following the conclusion of his “Jeopardy!” winning streak, Amodio said the whole experience was a dream come true. 

“I always wanted to be a ‘Jeopardy!’ champion, and I accomplished that,” Amodio said in a release. “I know going into every bar trivia game that I play that I'm going to come in with a little intimidation factor. But also, I just like the badge that it represents. As somebody who prioritizes knowledge and knowing things, this is really a good one to have following me everywhere.”
 
“Jeopardy!” said Amodio will return for the next Tournament of Champions.