Top 10 Best Jeopardy Players EVER
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
Many have played, but only a select few can truly be called the best Jeopardy players of all time. Our countdown includes Jerome Vered, Julia Collins, Brad Rutter, and more!
Many have played, but only a select few can truly be called legends. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Best Jeopardy Players of All Time.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most talented, successful and accomplished people to ever answer in the form of a question. For our ranking, we’re taking into account not only the total earnings of a given jeopardy player, but also records they may have broken and their performance in tournaments. Note: we’ve tried to be as accurate as possible with the total number of winnings, but some sources may report slightly different earnings.
#10: Austin Rogers
Just managing to crack the top 10 is this New York City bartender, who earned $411,000 during regular season play and $461,000 when taking into account tournaments. Rogers is something of a fan favorite because he doesn’t fit the archetype of Jeopardy contestants. His mannerisms have drawn comparisons to Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld, and given his propensity for striking a pose and various other eccentricities, we definitely see the similarities. Not only is Rogers 10th in terms of total earnings, but his performance ranks among the top 10 longest consecutive winning streaks. He also scored two of the 10 highest single-day winnings in the show’s history at the time of competing.
#9: Jerome Vered
Upon retiring undefeated from the regular season in 1992, Jerome Vered had already earned himself a place in the Jeopardy record books. His winnings as a five-day champion, $96,801, placed him second only to Frank Spangenberg and his $102,597 run. By taking home $34,000 in just one episode however, he set a new record for single-day winnings. In tournaments, including a third place finish in the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions, his total winnings have soared to $499,102. And Jeopardy isn’t the only trivia-based game show on which Vered has excelled. He appeared on “Win Ben Stein’s Money”, where he became the first person to win all of it. The show subsequently hired him as a researcher.
#8: Roger Craig
With $530,200 in winnings to his name, this computer scientist is not only 8th on our list, but the contestant with the eighth highest winnings in Jeopardy history. In 2010, however, he further distinguished himself by earning more money in a single day than any contestant before him - a whopping $77,000. This is a record that he would hold for nearly a decade, until it was finally surpassed in 2019. Though his name might not be as instantly recognizable as some of those that we’ll be discussing later, it’s worth mentioning that in the 2014 Battle of the Decades, he finished third - behind only game show legends Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.
#7: Matt Jackson
Don’t let his relatively young age fool you, Matt Jackson has got a headful of knowledge well beyond his years. Born in 1992, Jackson honed his trivia skills at Yale as part of the Quiz Bowl team, taking home the top prize at a number of national level competitions. It’s on Jeopardy, however, that he really made a name for himself as one of the top trivia contestants in the country. The champion had a 13-game winning streak and went on to earn a total of $413,612 in the regular season alone. The 2015 tournament of champions saw him finish second, helping him to reach a total winnings of $611,612. Boom!
#6: Julia Collins
This supply chain professional is a bonafide Jeopardy legend. With a bachelor’s degree double-majoring in art history and history, plus a master’s in logistics and engineering from MIT, Collins comes armed with a very well-rounded knowledge base. And she put it to good use! A 20-day champion, she holds the third longest winning streak in the history of the show. Over the course of her epic 2014 run, she brought in a whopping $428,100, which is the fifth highest regular season winnings on record. At the time, that figure put her in third place behind only David Madden and Ken Jennings. That same year, she also came in third place in the Tournament of Champions.
#5: Larissa Kelly
Before Julia Collins came along, this academic and science fiction author held the title for the highest winnings by a female contestant in the regular season. Other records that she’s held include the longest streak of correct answers, longest winning streak by a female player and (most impressively) the highest five game total in the show’s history. While these have all been surpassed in years since, because of her performance in the 2009 Tournament of Champions and 2019 All Star Games, she remains the highest winning female contestant (including tournaments) and fifth overall with $660,930 in total winnings. Fun fact: Jeopardy is actually a family affair for Kelly - both her husband and sister have competed as well.
#4: David Madden
Jeopardy contestants come from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions. But there’s no denying that “art historian” is a good position to be in when stepping up to the podium. And in 2005, Madden certainly put his knowledge of art (among other subjects) to good use when he won 19 consecutive games for a total of $432,400. This makes him tied for not only fourth most consecutive games won, but also fourth in regular season winnings. But wait… there’s more! When you add his various tournament winnings, David Madden is also fourth in total winnings with $773,733. So all things considered, we’d say that this Jeopardy champion has earned his fourth place ranking! He’s since gone on to found the National History Bee and Bowl.
#3: James Holzhauer
This professional gambler and Illinois native might be third on our list, but he earns this spot by being first in many regards. In 2019, he broke the single-day winnings of the aforementioned Roger Craig by over $30,000. Since that day, he has gone on to top that record three times - most notably on April 17th 2019 with a staggering haul of $131,127. As of early 2020, Holzhauer currently occupies every slot on Jeopardy’s ranking of the top 10 single-game winnings. His run lasted an impressive 32 consecutive games, which makes him the second longest running champion in the history of the show, and the player with the second highest earnings in regular season play with over $2.7 million.
#2: Brad Rutter
If Holzhauer is first and second in multiple key categories, how is it that Brad Rutter beats him out for second place on our list? Simple, Brad Rutter has made more money playing Jeopardy than any other player in the history of Jeopardy. And quite frankly, with an all-time winnings of $4,688,436, it’s by a pretty significant margin. The funny thing is… he doesn’t crack the top 10 for consecutive games, regular season winnings or single-day winnings. He had an impressive 5-day run in 2000, but it only added up to $55,102. It’s the tournaments that have made Rutter a legend and a millionaire. Until the 2020 “Greatest of All Time” event, he remained undefeated in Jeopardy against a human opponent.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
#1: Ken Jennings
When you think of Jeopardy icons, the next name that comes to mind after host Alex Trebek is Ken Jennings. Now, there are those that feel that Brad Rutter should be #1, and given that Rutter has won nearly $1.3 million more than Jennings, we can understand the argument. But here’s the thing: Jennings has the highest regular season winnings of all time, and given the large cash prizes of the tournaments, this feels like a more honest metric of success. Plus, when you add to that the fact that his consecutive winning streak lasted 74 games (and that second place is 32 games), well… that’s a pretty solid argument. Lastly, his 2020 Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time victory seals the deal.