What Is Jeopardy?
Jeopardy! is a question-and-answer style American game show on which contestants compete to win prize money by answering questions correctly. Jeopardy!, in its current form, has been running for 39 seasons and is possibly the most well-known and iconic game show in television history.
TV host Merv Griffin, who was also responsible for the introduction of the game show Wheel of Fortune!, began Jeopardy! in 1964. In the 1950s, negative viewer responses were rolling in on multiple quiz shows that had eventually been revealed to be rigged. This cultural attitude towards game shows made the scene tough to enter, but Griffin was determined to make Jeopardy! catch on.
The first 11 years of the show were a bit tumultuous, including a cancellation in 1975. Revived only for a year in 1978, Griffin managed to keep the ball rolling until the show started again in 1984, this time seemingly destined to stay for good. For many years, Jeopardy! only had two hosts. Art Fleming was the first host of Jeopardy!, during the 1964 to 1975 run. The most popular Jeopardy! host by far, however, was Canadian-American TV personality Alex Trebek, who became known for hosting the game show from 1984 all the way up until his death in 2020. Jeopardy! has, unsurprisingly, had a difficult time filling Trebek’s shoes, though they have recently alternated between famed former contestant Ken Jennings and actress Mayim Bialik as the current show host.
Three contestants play each Jeopardy! game, competing to win cash prizes. The goal of Jeopardy! is to win the Final Jeopardy! round and so move on to the next week’s game of Jeopardy! to compete again. Jeopardy! is tricky because despite how well you do in the first and second rounds, you could lose it all in the Final Jeopardy! Round by either not wagering enough of your collected prize money or answering the prompt incorrectly and losing the amount wagered.
Jeopardy! is divided into three rounds: The Jeopardy! Round, Double Jeopardy!, and The Final Jeopardy! Round. After all of the questions in the Jeopardy! Round have been answered, contestants move on to Double Jeopardy!, where points, and cash, are doubled. The Final Jeopardy! Round is the toughest, as each contestant writes in a wager they will either add or lose all of, depending on if they answer the final question correctly.
How to Play
The game is played with three contestants. The Jeopardy! board for the first two rounds is set up in a grid of six categories, with five questions in each category, increasing in order of difficulty and dollar amount from bottom to top. In the Jeopardy! Round, the five questions in each category are valued at $200, $400, $600, $800, and $1000, while in the Double Jeopardy! Round, the values are doubled to $400, $800, $1200, $1600, and $2000. The game begins when the first contestant chooses a question they would like to answer by naming the category and the dollar amount of the question, usually by saying they will take “Category X for $200,” or so on for a different dollar amount.
When the game of Jeopardy! begins, each contestant starts out with a total of $0. Once the first contestant has picked a question, the host reads out the clue, and the three contestants each try to buzz in first with the answer. A correct answer means the dollar value of the question is added to the answering contestant’s total. All answers in Jeopardy! must be formatted as a question, for example, “What is…X?” or “Who is…Y?” If a contestant does not answer with a question in the Jeopardy! Round, they will be reminded to, but in Double Jeopardy!, non-question answers will be penalized by getting the answer wrong, even if their answer was correct. If a contestant’s answer is vague but close to correct, the host may ask them to be more specific. If the contestant who buzzes in first gets the question wrong, the dollar amount of the question is deducted from their total. It is possible to have negative dollar amounts in Jeopardy!
If the contestant who selected a question answers it correctly they not only get the money for that question, but also get to select the next question. If they answer a question wrong, another contestant may answer, and if they answer correctly, they receive the money and get to pick the next question. After all of the first round questions are answered, or if the time allotted to the Jeopardy! Round elapses, the game progresses into Double Jeopardy!. In Double Jeopardy!, gameplay remains the same, but dollar amounts attached to questions are doubled, and the contestants are presented with new categories.
In both the Jeopardy! and Double Jeopardy! Rounds, random questions are labeled as the “Daily Double!” There is one “Daily Double!” in the Jeopardy! Round, and two in Double Jeopardy! When a contestant selects the “Daily Double!” question, they may wager between $5 and their entire score or the value of the highest clue in the round, whichever is greater. Unlike other Jeopardy! Questions, only the contestant who selects a “Daily Double!” can answer it, and if they get it right, they win the value of their wager, while if they get it wrong, they lose the value of their wager. Whether they are correct or not, the “Daily Double!” contestant chooses the next question.
If a contestant ends Double Jeopardy! with a score of $0 or a negative dollar amount, they are automatically eliminated, and do not progress to Final Jeopardy! If all three contestants have $0 or less, all three are eliminated, and no Final Jeopardy! occurs. This did occur on at least one occasion, during Art Fleming’s tenure as host. However, the rule is not set in stone.
Final Jeopardy! is where the game gets most difficult. It is the final round of Jeopardy! and consists of a single category and question that all contestants must answer. Prior to the revelation of the question, each contestant wagers an amount from their earned dollars that they are willing to bet on answering the question correctly, writing it down on their screens, which are hidden from the other contestants. When the host asks the Final Jeopardy! question, a short pause is given, and each contestant writes down their answer in the time allotted. This round is all or nothing. Whatever the contestant bets, they will add to their score if correct and will lose if incorrect.
The winner of the game is whoever has the most money at the end of the Final Jeopardy! Round. This contestant then gets to return for the next game, with no limit on reappearances. The longest-running returning champion in Jeopardy! history was Ken Jennings, who won an astonishing 74 games of Jeopardy! in a row in 2004.
Summary of Rules
- Jeopardy! consists of three rounds: the Jeopardy! Round, Double Jeopardy!, and Final Jeopardy!
- There are three contestants, and the Jeopardy! grid consists of six categories with five questions each.
- In the Jeopardy! Round, questions are worth $200, $400, $600, $800, and $1000.
- In Double Jeopardy!, questions are worth $400, $800, $1200, $1600, and $2000.
- Contestants select questions, buzzing in to give answers.
- Contestants must phrase their answers as questions, such as, “What is…X?” or “Who is…Y?”
- If the buzzing contestant answers correctly, they add the dollar amount of the question to their total and get to pick the next question.
- If they answer incorrectly, they lose the dollar amount, and another contestant may answer and pick the question.
- In the Jeopardy! Round, there is one “Daily Double!” question, and in Double Jeopardy!, there are two. “Daily Double!” questions allow the contestant to wager as much as the highest clue or their total score, whichever is greater.
- If a contestant has $0 or less at the end of Double Jeopardy!, they are eliminated.
- In Final Jeopardy!, all three contestants answer one question, wagering a dollar amount between $0 and their entire score before the question. They then write their answers down when the question is given, and earn or lose whatever they wagered depending on whether they are right or wrong.
- The contestant with the most money collected by the end of the game wins!
- The winner of each week of Jeopardy! plays again the next week, and continues to collect money from each game they win until they finally lose.
What Is Jeopardy!?
A 39-season American game show, Jeopardy! is a series of compiled questions and answers that contestants guess in order to win prize money. Jeopardy!’s theme song, which plays while contestants record their answers, is nothing short of iconic. Jeopardy! is also known for the question-style format that contestants relay their answers with. Jeopardy! began in 1964 and has been running on television almost continuously since.
How do you play Jeopardy!?
Jeopardy! is made up of three contestants playing three rounds of trivia. The first two rounds of Jeopardy! are fairly simple: a clue is given, and you record your answer in the form of a question (“What is X?”). The final round is a bit tougher, as you are asked to wager any or all of the money you’ve earned so far and will either come out with that money added to your total or taken away from it. To become a Jeopardy! contestant, you must complete an online Jeopardy! test. Those with passing scores will be entered into a random selection pool and invited to audition, and only those who impress during their audition will be asked on the show.
Who hosts Jeopardy!?
Mayim Bialik is the current host of Jeopardy!. This American actress is better known for her starring role in the NBC sitcom Blossom and for her prominent role as Amy Farrah-Fowler on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Bialik has been hosting since 2022. The best-known Jeopardy host was Alex Trebek, whose Jeopardy! reign ended upon his passing in November of 2020. Trebek hosted the game show for 37 seasons and almost single-handedly built the show into the American classic it is today.