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Matt Amodio is back on ‘Jeopardy!’ Can he catch James Holzhauer and Ken Jennings?

Matt Amodio is now 3rd all time in “Jeopardy!” winnings with $574,801.

Matt Amodio is now 3rd all time in “Jeopardy!” winnings with $574,801.

“Jeopardy!”

As “Jeopardy!” returns for its 38th season Monday, eyes have been fixated on the show’s revolving door of hosts.

But its current star may be the returning champion — Matt Amodio — who is looking to cement his name high atop the show’s record books.

Who is Matt Amodio?

Well first off, he’s the guy who keeps winning on “Jeopardy!” The show has been on hiatus since Aug. 13, but before that, he reeled off 18 straight victories.

Amodio is from New Haven, Connecticut, and attends Yale University as a fifth-year Computer Science Ph.D candidate, according to the prestigious school.

He said in an article for Yale that American history is among his favorite categories on the show. Celebrity marriages, on the other hand, not so much.

Amodio said he became knowledgeable in so many subjects by reading — often by falling down Wikipedia rabbit holes, according to the Associated Press.

“This is just how how I spend my day, or my nights when I’m done working,” Amodio said.

His strategy — with a little controversy

Bet big to win big is the strategy for Amodio, who puts down hefty portions of his winnings when presented with a Daily Double clue. This has helped him pave the way to many insurmountable leads by the time Final Jeopardy rolls around.

He told Vulture he always wants to bet on himself when gets gets a Daily Double question. The results appear to be working in his favor.

“So, the main thing I went in with was the idea that I know a lot of the Daily Double answers, not every single one, but I know a lot,” he told Vulture. “If I have the opportunity to, I’m not gonna let timidity get in my way. I’ll bet on myself and try to take the game out of the control of the opponents. It’s scary.”

It’s the way he answers questions that has left many “Jeopardy!” viewers annoyed and searching for the rules book. His use of “what’s” regardless of the question, instead of “what is” or “who is,” forced the game show to say, yes, the way he is wording his answers is “totally acceptable.”

But he knows what he’s doing. In a joking response to the tweet from “Jeopardy!,” Amodio said he always carries a copy of the show’s official rules. He told Yale his answering strategy was done to eliminate unnecessary mental labor.

I didn’t think it would be overly noticeable to viewers. Maybe some super die-hards, it would raise their eyebrows, but I left wondering if anybody would ever comment on it at all,” he told The Washington Post. “Then, not only did somebody comment on it, it was kind of the main focus of the discourse. … I actually found it kind of amusing, that people could be so irritated by it. But the only problem I had was when people interpreted it as a sign of disrespect. That was obviously not at all what I intended.”

A look at the numbers

With his 18 straight wins, Amodio is shooting up the record books for the show. By week’s end, he could surpass David Madden and Jason Zuffranieri (19 each) and Julia Collins (20) for the third-most consecutive games won in the show’s history.

At that point, he would have just Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer ahead of him. Those two are perhaps the show’s most notable legends, having won 74 and 32 straight games, respectively.

How has he done it? Amodio has answered correctly on 91% of his responses and has an average margin of victory of $23,055, according to the show.

Amodio already ranks third on the show’s single-game winnings list, having amassed $574,801. But to surpass Jennings and Holzhauer, Amodio needs nearly $2 million more in winnings.

Jennings won the most money in regular-season play on the show with more than $2.52 million, while Holzhauer won $2.46 million.

At his current pace of $31,933 per victory, Amodio would need to win 79 straight games total to surpass Jennings — five more games than the reigning champion won in a row.

Mike Stunson covers real-time news for McClatchy. He is a 2011 Western Kentucky University graduate who has previously worked at the Paducah Sun and Madisonville Messenger as a sports reporter and the Lexington Herald-Leader as a breaking news reporter.
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