The Top 10 Jeopardy! Winners Have Some Incredible Paychecks
IT’S SAFE to say Jeopardy! is an American institution. The long-running quiz competition show has aired since 1964, providing generations of families with head-scratching trivia for decades. And even though you’re not actually on the show, admit it: you shout out the answers even when no one is around. It’s hard to resist!
And the best part about Jeopardy! is that any contestant can become a household name if they’ve got the smarts, the strategy, or both. Ken Jennings, the Jeopardy! player with the longest winning streak, was a software engineer who competed on his college’s quizbowl team before he went on the game show. Brad Rutter, another high-earning winner, was a college dropout who worked at a record store. The show offers the dream that anyone can apply, qualify, and win if they put in the time to become a walking encyclopedia. Plus, it’s a stark contrast to the more physical competition shows out there, like Survivor or The Amazing Race. Who needs to do all that running around when you’ve got a game where you stand and hit a buzzer?
With all the impressive winning streaks and formidable players over the years, it would be a waste for the show to hand major winners their checks and never feature them again. So over the years, Jeopardy! has brought back the best of the best for special competitions, where viewers can marvel at their smarts and root for their favorites.
Here are the top 10 winners of Jeopardy! based on earnings.
Who are the top 10 Jeopardy! winners?
10. Mattea Roach ($570,983)
Roach’s run lasted for 23 days, spanning from April to May 2022. A tutor from Toronto, Roach amassed $560,983, then went on to gain $10,000 from the Tournament of Champions, along with a $2,000 consolation prize. In total, Roach earned $572,983.
9. Matt Jackson ($613,612)
While attending Yale, Jackson tried twice to qualify for the Jeopardy! College Tournament, but wasn’t successful. He managed to make it onto regular Jeopardy!, however, where he went on a 13-day winning streak. He won $411,612 and an additional $2,000 for his consolation prize. In 2019, he took home another $100,000 as part of Ken Jennings’ team on the All-Star Games. Jackson’s grand total is $613,612.
8. Larissa Kelly ($661,930)
A college professor from Newton, Massachussetts, Kelly’s original 2008 run lasted six days and totaled $222,597, along with a $1,000 consolation prize. In 2009, she gained another $100,000 when she became the first runner-up in the Tournament of Champions. In 2014, she received a $5,000 invite to 2014’s Battle of the Decades. She also received one-third of a $1 million prize at the 2019 All-Star team tournament. In total, her winnings are $661,930.
7. Cris Pannullo ($749,286)
Panullo boasts a 21-day streak in which he won a whopping $748,286, along with a $1,000 consolation prize on the day of his loss. He’s in sixth place for most consecutive wins.
6. David Madden ($763,733)
An art historian from Ridgewood, New Jersey, Madden had a 19-day run resulting in $430,400 in winnings along with a $1,000 consolation prize. He also took home one-third of the earnings from the 2019 winning All-Star team (with Ken Jennings and Larissa Kelly). He also got another $10,o00 as a consolation prize from the Tournament of Champions. In total, Madden has won $763,733.
5. Matt Amodio ($1,529,601)
Amodio had an impressive 38-day winning streak which got him $1,518,601. Yeah, you read that right. In addition to his $1,000 consolation prize, he also won a $10,000 consolation for participating in the Tournament of Champions.
4. Amy Schneider ($1,634,800)
The highest-earning woman in Jeopardy! history (and the first openly transgender player to compete in the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions), Schneider’s streak went on for 40 days and won $1,382,800. She then appeared in the Tournament of Champions, where she won, adding another $250,000 to her total. Along with her consolation prize of $2,000 from her regular run, Schneider has won a total of $1,634,800.
3. James Holzhauer ($2,964,216)
A sports gambler from Las Vegas, Holzhauer had an unforgettable play style over the course of his 32-day streak, jumping around the board for the highest paying questions and always going for a True Daily Double to get a major lead on his opponents. His cash winnings from his original run totaled $2,462,216 along with a $2,000 consolation prize. He earned $250,000 from the Tournament of Champions and another $250,000 when he got first runner-up in 2020’s Jeopardy!: The Greatest of All Time tournament. Holzhauer in total has won $2,964,216.
2. Ken Jennings ($4,370,700)
You might think the former contestant and now co-host of Jeopardy! would take the cake, but while Jennings has the longest winning streak, he hasn’t won the most money. Jennings had an unbelievable 74-day winning streak, amassing $2,520,700. His run benefited from a rule change that allowed contestants to stay on until they were beat, rather than a previous 5-day limit. As for the rest of his total, Jennings has come back for numerous tournaments.
A 2005 Tournament of Champions event got him $500,000. And in 2011, Jennings participated in the IBM Tournament (where he famously went up against Brad Rutter and IBM’s computer Watson) and won $150,000 as first runner-up. In 2014, he reappeared for Battle of the Decades and took home $100,000 as first runner-up. In 2019, he appeared again as a captain on the All-Star Games tournament, where his team won first runner-up and he got $100,000. Finally, he won a whopping $1 million in the Greatest of All Time Tournament. All in all, Jennings has won $4,370,700 from Jeopardy!.
1. Brad Rutter ($4,938,436)
Rutter’s original run on Jeopardy! only lasted for 5 days, as he played back when the rules limited winners from playing for more than what would equate to 5 weeknights of airtime. he won just $55,102 for his 2000 appearance, but has since proved to be one of the best players of all time.
Since 2000, Rutter has won $100,000 from the 2001 Tournament of Champions, $1 million for the 2002 Million Dollar Masters Tournament, $2 million from the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions, and another $1 million from Battle of the Decades. In more recent years, he won $200,000 for the IBM Tournament (but donated half to charity, as did Jennings), a third of the $1 million prize for the 2019 All-Star Games and $250,000 from a third-place finish on the Greatest of All Time Tournament.
Milan Polk is an Editorial Assistant for Men’s Health who specializes in entertainment and lifestyle reporting, and has worked for New York Magazine’s Vulture and Chicago Tribune.
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