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Some final thoughts on ‘Jeopardy!’

Portrait of Martin Luther (Wikimedia Commons)

Now I know how Weird Al felt.

The one thing I couldn’t talk about in the interview I posted in this space Tuesday night about my experience on “Jeopardy!” was what actually happened on the show.

Honestly, I had forgotten some things until I watched Wednesday night, such as how well I knew my six-letter anagrams. (Watching myself on television was kind of surreal. My family would cheer when I got answers right and groaned when I missed. “Don’t worry,” I said after a wrong answer. “Plenty of time for a comeback.”)

But I remembered exactly how the game ended. I was slightly disappointed to get the Daily Double on the second-t0-last clue in Double Jeopardy! because a) Astronomy is not my best category; and b) I wanted to make sure I had enough money to have a shot in Final Jeopardy!

I guessed right and was able to close the gap between first place and myself to under $3,000 before Final Jeopardy!

And then 16th Century People happened.

When I saw the Final Jeopardy! category, I immediately thought, “This is going to be either very easy or very hard.” A couple of explorers’ and artists’ names crossed my mind, but not the person who ultimately turned out to be the correct answer. (He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is pictured above.)

Once the clue was revealed, all I could think of was, “The pope.” I figured that would be too generic but nothing else came to mind, so I went with my first instinct. (Most people I’ve talked to since the show aired said they thought of the pope as well. Even Alex Trebek told us after the show that was a hard question.)

I also knew, once the clue was revealed, that I would lose. In my preparation for the show, I decided that I was going to bet on myself in Final Jeopardy! That is, I didn’t want to bet $0, get the answer right and lose because I didn’t add to my total score. So I assumed both myself and the person in first place would get the answer correct and that I could go over-the-top with my bet.

My wife and a friend who is a professional poker player both pointed out that if we both were to get the question right, I would probably lose no matter what. This would mean I should bet a small amount of money (say, under $1,000) and assume first place would get the answer wrong, with my response not being a factor.

I had not thought about that, and that was the right strategy. But in the heat of the game, and with only a few minutes to figure out my gameplan, I decided to go big.

And I would probably do it again if in the same situation.I went to California with nothing and came back with a tote bag, a hat, $2,000, no regrets and the experience of a lifetime.

In related news, I’m now accepting offers to join Trivia Night teams.