Ken Jennings Reveals 'Jeopardy's' Flawed Prize System - Winners Really Lose

By Dave Basner

July 1, 2022

Jeopardy is often in the news because of a returning champion who has already banked over six-figures due to their multiple appearances on the show, but not every winner is a big one. Because of the way the game show is set up, the victor might not take home that much cash at all. In fact, former champion and current temporary host Ken Jennings just revealed that in some cases, the winner will get less than a runner-up.

It all comes down to the prize structure. Jeopardy wants to make sure no one goes home empty-handed, so no matter how much the third place finisher winds up with, even if they end the game in the negative and don't get a chance to play the Final Jeopardy round, they still leave with $1,000. Same for the second place finisher, except they get $2,000. Meanwhile, the winner takes home all the cash they earned during the game.

In a perfect game, getting all the questions right and finding Daily Doubles at the end of the rounds to get the max value, a player could potentially win up to $566,400, a huge prize. However, the most ever won in one game was James Holzhauer's $131,000 in April, 2019. More often, players get less, and if it is a particularly hard Final Jeopardy clue where each of the players risks nearly all of their money and get it wrong, the first place winner could wind up with just a few dollars.

Of course, they do get the chance to do it all over again when they return to play, but if they wind up in third place on that show and take home just $1,000 in addition to the few dollars they previously won, then they are taking home less than the second place winner got on the episode they first appeared on.

The revelation has fans surprised and also suggesting a minimum amount of winnings for first place.

Ken made sure to point out that the chances of a returning champ winning big are worth more than any consolation prize.

Jennings is taking a break from hosting while Mayim Bialik stands behind the podium. You can find out more Jeopardy insider secrets by following him on Twitter here.

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