Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Exciting Jep Talk

Kim and I never miss a Jeopardy, and if I had all the time in the world, I'd probably do a blog where I talk in detail about each night's contest. In the meantime, I usually don't write about the show here because that would probably bore people to paralysis. But I have to mention something from the other night....

The champion was a woman from my current city of Providence. She'd won one night with about 21 grand and was back to defend her title. On night two, she entered Final Jeopardy with exactly double the score of the person in second place. (The third contestant was in the red and not participating in FJ.) So let's think about this logically:

All she has to do is bet $0 and she's guaranteed to win or tie. Either way, she keeps the money she's earned (about $17,000) and moves on to play again in the next episode.

Now I'm all for Ted Williams not sitting out the season-ending doubleheader in 1941, and Tom Osborne going for two against Miami in 1984. In either case, playing it safe gets the job done, but with a mental asterisk that would stay with you forever. But I think this is different. She's already proven she's a champ on night one, then being a co-champ on night two would keep her going, giving her a chance to continue her reign. And she'd get to keep the money, giving a two-day total of nearly $40,000.

But here's how it played out. Second-place woman, of course, bets it all, and gets it right. Now we're tied. Our champ is shaking her head. Her response is wrong. And she wagered...$5,000!

Terrible job! And not just because she risked an amount above zero, but also because she didn't just bet it all at that point! As long as you're not clinching the tie and saying "I only want to win if I get the answer right (or if the other person gets it wrong)," why not just go ahead and make it so you get the most possible money if you do win? You're move there is to bet zero, but if you wanna take a risk, there's no reason not to take the biggest possible risk, as risking it all in this case is no different than betting one dollar. The only way her $5,000 bet would have even mattered is if she got it wrong and the other person got it right but for some reason only risked a little bit. But you have to know that a person with half your total has to bet it all to have a chance. (Unless she thinks you might do something stupid. Which you did, as it turns out.)

So this woman basically decided $21,000 was enough to just go home with, despite that she could have guaranteed herself $37,000 plus another chance to win more in the next game. How can you be smart enough to be a Jeopardy champ, but not smart enough to know how to play the game?


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Location: Rhode Island, United States