Part of the dream of Jeopardy! is its tantalizing promise of transforming a life’s worth of useless accumulated knowledge into cold, hard cash. Nowhere else in our society can memorization of facts about Ivy League schools or impractically long rivers be instantly translated into thousands of dollars on the go; very few car dealerships accept “I know all the Best Picture Oscar winners since 1956" as the functional equivalent of a down payment on a new Honda.
This weekend, Jeopardy! added a new name to its very small list of the very biggest winners, with contestant Amy Schneider—“An engineering manager from Oakland, California”—becoming only the fourth contestant ever to break the $1 million prize money mark in regular play. (Contestant Brad Rutter, whose original run on the show pre-dated the rule allowing winners to stay on indefinitely, continues to hold the winnings record when the show’s various tournaments are taken into account.)
Schneider is currently on a 28-game streak, having first taken up the far-right champion’s podium late last year. Most of those have been so-called “lock” games, i.e., ones where Schneider so thoroughly beat her opponents before Final Jeopardy that the final question became moot. (That being said, she sailed past the million mark by nailing a tricky Thor Heyerdahl question that both of her opponents on Friday missed.)
Schneider is the second contestant, after Matt Amodio, to make more than $1 million on the show since the death of Alex Trebek in late 2020. It’s not entirely clear why the show’s winnings have escalated so much in recent years, although plenty of contestants seem to be following in the footsteps of James Holzhauer—a professional gambler with a taste for going heavy on the Daily Doubles to stretch his swiftly insurmountable leads over opponents.
Schneider is currently just four games short of cracking Holzhauer’s win record, although she’ll have to hang in there quite a bit longer to catch up with Amodio, who won 38 consecutive games last year. (Ken Jennings, currently hosting the show, still reigns supreme at 74.) In terms of money, she has a long way to go just yet; Amodio ended his run with $1,518,601, while Holzhauer and Jennings both left the show with more than two million dollars apiece.