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This ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant just broke $1 million. Can he surpass Ken Jennings?

He’s not showing any signs of slowing down

Jeopardy!” contestant Matt Amodio has become the third player in the show’s history to win $1 million during regular season play.
On Friday, “Jeopardy!” contestant Matt Amodio became the third player in the show’s history to win $1 million during regular season play.
Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Matt Amodio has now become the third person in “Jeopardy!” history to win more than $1 million during the regular season.

And he’s not showing any signs of slowing down.

On Friday, Amodio, a doctoral student studying computer science at Yale University, secured his 28th victory on “Jeopardy!,” bringing his total winnings to $1,004,001, according to a news release sent to the Deseret News.

The only other contestants to win more than $1 million during regular season play are Ken Jennings — whose legendary 74-game winning streak yielded $2,520,700 — and James Holzhauer, who earned $2,462,216 over the course of 32 victories.

“This was beyond my wildest dreams going in,” Amodio said in a statement. “I knew it was a possibility, but I thought it was a very remote possibility, and to have it actually happen is unbelievable.”

Will Amodio’s winning streak continue? He’s now just a few games away from claiming the No. 2 spot in the “Jeopardy!” Hall of Fame for most games won.

His next appearance airs Monday at 6:30 p.m. MT.

Who is Matt Amodio?

Amodio grew up in Ohio watching “Jeopardy!” with his family, but that didn’t naturally translate to him aspiring to try out for the show. It took major encouragement from his dad to motivate him to audition.

  • “I was only reluctantly trying out because I didn’t think I would make it, and even if I did make it I wouldn’t be very good,” Amodio told Entertainment Weekly. “I only tried out at the behest of my dad, who insisted, as any parent would, ‘My son is awesome. He would do so well.’ And so I said ‘Fine, I’ll do it for you.’”

But Amodio has far exceeded his initial goal of winning one game. And throughout his run on the show, he’s drawn inspiration from the two “Jeopardy” legends he still has a shot at surpassing, mimicking Jennings’ quick approach to the buzzer and Holzhauer’s high-wagering strategy.

  • “There are times when I know a big wager is mathematically the right thing to do, and I just hate it. I really hate it,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I think (Holzhauer) reveled in that adrenaline, and I just really, really wish it wasn’t the right thing to do. I try to suck it up and do it anyway, but it does not come naturally to me.”

Last month, Jennings tweeted that Amodio was “the ‘Jeopardy!’ story no one is following,” the Deseret News reported. For Amodio, who watched Jennings’ legendary “Jeopardy!” run in 2004 with a great deal of enthusiasm, that was a surreal moment.

  • “I was a huge Ken Jennings fan,” he told Vulture. “It was like a sporting event. If there was gear, I would’ve bought gear and a big foam finger to root him on from my living room. I’m a huge Ken fan. Need to say that again.”
  • “Ken, you’ve been a hero and an inspiration to me for almost two decades,” Amodio responded to Jennings on Twitter. “I just want to thank you for everything you’ve given to the world.”

Matt Amodio on his ‘Jeopardy!’ winning streak

Winning streaks like this don’t come often. Before Amodio, the most recent winning streaks of note were in 2019: Jason Zuffranieri with 19 games, and Holzhauer with 32 games, according to the “Jeopardy!” website.

Amodio recently told The Ringer that it can be hard to keep the momentum going when you’re taping five episodes a day.

  • “Knowing that you have to go to sleep early and then wake up early to be ready to do it all again — it’s tough,” Amodio said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why you have so few long-term champions right there, where even if the game weren’t also changing underneath you with new questions, that physical aspect is really tough.”

By the time filming for the 38th season — which premiered Sept. 13 — began, Amodio had 18 wins under his belt. Heading into the new season presented a scenario where the first contestants back knew they’d be up against Amodio, who has dominated in his games.

  • “I kind of expected to be the villain and be hated because I’m the one who’s ruining all these people’s lifetime opportunity to win on ‘Jeopardy!,’” Amodio told The Ringer. “I was just amazed by how happy they were for me. ... I’ve made friends, and definitely that was a thing I did not expect.”

Since the new season premiered, Amodio has tacked on another 10 victories. On Monday, he will attempt to keep inching his way closer to Holzhauer and Jennings in the “Jeopardy!” Hall of Fame.

But in his eyes, the first victory was the sweetest.

  • “Once you win, you’re a ‘Jeopardy!’ champion. ... That’s something nobody can take away from you,” he told Vulture. “You might lose the next game, or you might lose 71 games later if you’re Ken Jennings. You’re going to lose eventually. But that never takes away from the descriptor. I wanted to have that under my belt.
  • “I don’t think anything has surpassed that moment winning the first game.”