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‘Jeopardy!’ champ Matt Amodio’s epic winning streak ends at 38 games and $1.5 million

Matt Amodio's final “Jeopardy!” total. (Casey Durkin/Jeopardy! Productions Inc.)
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After 38 wins, $1.5 million in prize money and countless tweets complaining about his use of the word “what’s,” viewers finally saw Matt Amodio lose a game of “Jeopardy!” Or, as the show mournfully announced in a news release, “The Amodio Rodeo is over.”

Amodio, a 30-year-old PhD student at Yale University, was defeated in Monday’s episode by Jonathan Fisher, an actor from Coral Gables, Fla. Amodio was trailing Fisher by $4,000 going into Final Jeopardy!, which featured the category “Countries of the World.” The final clue was: “Nazi Germany annexed this nation & divided it into regions of the Alps & the Danube; the Allies later divided it into 4 sectors.”

Fisher and the third contestant, Nashville statistical research specialist Jessica Stephens, both correctly answered Austria; Amodio guessed Poland. Fisher bet everything and wound up with $29,200 in prize money, narrowly defeating Stephens with $28,799, while Amodio landed in third place with $5,600.

His epic run is the second-longest winning streak in the history of the syndicated game show, behind only Ken Jennings, who won 74 games and $2.5 million in 2004. He’s also third on the list of all-time-highest earners (excluding tournaments), in second place after James Holzhauer, the phenom who racked up $2.4 million over 32 games in 2019. Amodio’s final total was $1,518,601.

In a phone interview on Monday, Amodio said his final episode was taped in mid-September, when he showed up to set after a break of a couple of weeks. (The show films a week’s worth of episodes in one production day.) On his previous trip to the set, he reeled off 15 victories over three days, many of them decisive “runaways” in which he could not be caught entering Final Jeopardy! But this time he found he couldn’t settle back into the groove of filming yet, and he was still feeling a bit “disheveled” that early in the day.

“I got off to an early good start, but Double Jeopardy! went terribly for me. I was pretty soundly defeated,” Amodio said. “It was weird because in previous games, there were stretches where I lost the timing of the buzzer, but it was early enough in the games where the dollar values weren’t so high that I could recover later. … It had never been that long a stretch during a crucial point of time in the game.”

And even though Amodio still can’t quite wrap his mind around his level of “Jeopardy!” success, and emphasizes how grateful he is for everything, the loss still stung. (“I’m a bit of a perfectionist, in case you can’t tell,” he said and laughed.) Once he beat Holzhauer’s 32-game streak, the possibility began to form in his mind that maybe, just maybe, he could get to Jennings’s record.

But then, suddenly, it was over. Before he left, the staff and crew joined for “a very nice moment” for his send-off, and guest host Mayim Bialik initiated a second round of applause with everyone to congratulate him on his victories. “I wasn’t feeling so great at the time, so reaching out to make me feel that way was very nice of her,” he said.

Amodio’s streak started back on July 21, during the show’s long parade of guest hosts after the death of Alex Trebek in November 2020. Amodio went from Robin Roberts to LeVar Burton to David Faber to Joe Buck and then to former executive producer Mike Richards, who was, of course, supposed to become the permanent host, until the Ringer discovered numerous offensive statements he made on his former podcast. “Jeopardy!” eventually severed ties with Richards and installed Bialik, who was originally just supposed to host prime-time specials, as well as Jennings as the guest hosts for the time being. (Only episodes with Bialik as host have aired thus far.)

Amodio insisted that he paid little attention to the drama swirling during his time on the show, and there was no time to really think about the host when he was trying to win. Still, it was a nice benefit that during one of the most contentious times in “Jeopardy!” history, the show also had a history-making contestant to make headlines. “I love the show, I hope I was able to help it out in a time of need,” Amodio joked.

So, what’s next when you win $1.5 million on a game show? Amodio, who is now unfazed with strangers inquiring about his personal finances, sighed that he wished he had a cool answer such as buying a Corvette or diamonds — but he said he’s a frugal guy, so he plans to just leave it as a nice nest egg and hopefully save it until it’s time to pay his future kids’ college tuition. However, he will have to make some changes: “I’m going to be hiring an accountant,” he said. “I’ve always used TurboTax and filed a very simple return, but now things will get a little complicated.”

As he departs the “Jeopardy!” universe (until it’s time to return to the Tournament of Champions), Amodio will always remember the kindness of the “Jeopardy!” staff, the support of the fans and the countless online hecklers who couldn’t get over his “What’s” habit, even though he explained many, many times in interviews that was his strategy to save energy and use every ounce of brain power to think about the clue. Still, Amodio wishes them well.

“All of those people looking for ‘Who?’ are going to have years of enjoyment,” he said.

Read more:

‘Jeopardy!’ champion Matt Amodio on his epic winning streak and staying focused in a season of drama

‘Jeopardy!’ severs ties with executive producer Mike Richards after podcast controversy

Is Mayim Bialik’s dubious science going to be ‘Jeopardy!’s’ next big headache?