Update: On Monday, Matt Amodio won his 34th “Jeopardy!” game, earning $83,000 — his highest single-game total to date — and bringing his overall total to $1,350,801. This story has been updated to reflect that latest win.
First, there’s the fact that he recently secured his 33rd win on the quiz show, thus passing James Holzhauer in the show’s Hall of Fame for most games won. Now, he holds the No. 2 spot in that category — although he’s still 42 wins away from dethroning “Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time” champion Ken Jennings.
There’s the fact that people sometimes recognize him when he goes places, and that national media outlets, most recently “Good Morning America,” have an interest in interviewing him.
And then there’s the fact that to date, he’s accrued more than $1.2 million on “Jeopardy!”
“I guess eventually it will start to sink in, but as of now, I still feel like a Ph.D. student with a small stipend,” the 30-year-old Yale University student wrote in a recent column for Newsweek.
In fact, Amodio — who wrote that he’s “always tried to live on as little as possible” — said he has “zero plans” to spend his “Jeopardy!” earnings.
“The air conditioning in my car has been broken for six or seven years and I’m finally going to use this money to fix it,” he wrote. “That’s probably it.”
Matt Amodio on Ken Jennings
With 34 victories under his belt, Amodio feels like he’s been in the spotlight for a while. But then he looks at Jennings.
“I just have no idea how he did it,” the contestant from Medina, Ohio, said during an appearance Monday on “Good Morning America.”
Some of Amodio’s earliest “Jeopardy!” memories include watching Jennings’ legendary 74-game winning streak in 2004, the Deseret News reported. Calling himself “a huge Ken fan,” it’s surreal for Amodio to be inching his way closer to Jennings in the show’s Hall of Fame.
“It’s been nice to see my statistics accumulate, but I feel I’m always going to know less than James Holzhauer and Ken Jennings,” Amodio wrote for Newsweek. “I don’t have a whole lot of self-confidence, so I don’t really think of myself as overly good, and then I keep winning! Every time I miss a question, the first reaction in my head is: ‘I bet Ken knew that!’”
When he first got on “Jeopardy!,” Amodio’s goal was simple enough: Win one game.
With his first victory, which aired in late July, Amodio earned $40,400 — roughly the annual rent for his apartment, he said in his Newsweek column. Amodio has said that first win will always mean the most to him, but as he keeps racking up the wins on “Jeopardy!,” he’s come up with a significantly more ambitious purpose.
“I guess the ultimate goal is to win one dollar more than Ken, and to have the record for the show!” he wrote for Newsweek.
Matt Amodio on his ‘Jeopardy!’ winning streak
Ahead of his 34th “Jeopardy!” game Monday night, Amodio appeared on “Good Morning America” and attributed much of his success to luck.
He’s competing during what is arguably the most controversial chapter in “Jeopardy!” history, as the show strives to find a permanent successor for Alex Trebek. But that hasn’t phased Amodio, who said his primary strategy has been to stay “laser-focused” and answer one clue at a time.
“‘Jeopardy!’’s not one person; ‘Jeopardy!’ is a whole team,” Amodio told “Good Morning America.” “There’s one person changing, but everything else is staying the same. The crew just does a great job of keeping the contestants comfortable and making them feel special.”
Amodio also addressed his unique way of responding to the clues on “Jeopardy!”
While the show requires contestants to respond in the form of a question, beginning with “What is?” or “Who is?” or “Where is?”, Amodio responds with “what’s?” every single time — an approach that has drawn a significant amount of criticism from some fans.
This guy is the Jeopardy! story no one is following. https://t.co/UbGweuyJ6F— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) August 10, 2021
“This was the first time I had performed in front of an audience of more than three people in my life,” Amodio said on “Good Morning America.” “I was worried I would have crippling stage fright, forget my name, forget everything. I wanted to not think about things that I didn’t have to, and so I knew according to the rules that this would be allowed, and I just went with it.”
Amodio earned his 34th victory on Monday. He’s not showing any signs of slowing down as he comes closer to Jennings’ record — which for 17 years has remained untouched.
If Amodio does end up setting a new record for the show, he can smile knowing that he had Jennings’ support along the way.
“Congrats on all your success!” Jennings wrote on Twitter back in August. “Well-deserved.”