With 30 games under her belt, “Jeopardy!” contestant Amy Schneider has been on a streak of success, winning more than $1 million and landing in the game’s top four highest-earning competitors.
But, as previous Jeopardy! contestants reveal, winning is not just a matter of having Mensa-worthy intelligence.
Deep dives into databases, honed buzzer techniques, pattern recognition and even children’s books all contribute to gaming the game.
“If anything has been on TV for 35 years, it comes with plenty of trends,” Austin Rogers, a 12-time winner who walked away with $411,000 in 2017, told The Post.
The 43-year-old bartender from Spanish Harlem said that, once he knew he was going to be on the show, he studied 11 hours per day for two weeks leading up to his appearance.
His guide of choice: the fan-run database J! Archive, which maintains more than 48,000 game-board clues from episodes going back to 1985.
“I would open random games [on the archive site] and play them in my head. I noticed what comes up the most. If a question says ‘artist in Iowa,’ it has to be Grant Wood,” said Rogers, whose book “The Ultimate Book of Pub Trivia by the Smartest Guy in the Bar” (Workman Publishing) is out Feb. 22. “And if it says ‘Thornton Wilder,’ the correct response always has to be ‘Our Town.’”
Unfortunately, that was a hard-learned lesson: “Somehow [Thornton Wilder] was the only ‘Final Jeopardy!’ answer I got wrong,” Rogers said. “But luckily I did well enough throughout the game that I still won.”
The J! Archive also offers a search feature, through which users can see which answers are most often repeated on the show. “It tells you that if ‘Cubist’ comes up, the answer will almost always be ‘Picasso,’” said Rogers, who only learned about this function after his run concluded.
Jeffrey Williams, a TV editor from Los Angeles who appeared on one of late host Alex Trebek’s final episodes in December 2020, followed the advice of James Holzhauer — a Las Vegas gambler who famously won some $2.4 million on the show in 2019.
“I picked up a tip from Holzhauer and bought children’s books on world history and geography and presidents,” Williams told The Post. “Holzhauer correctly pointed out that if you understand how the clues are written, a children’s level understanding of the topics provides big enough signposts to get you into the ballpark of an answer.”
Rogers recommends aspiring contestants take note of the show’s frequent pop-culture references. “I watched film adaptations of well-known works that often turn up on ‘Jeopardy!’: ‘King Lear,’ ‘Sense and Sensibility,’ Bible documentaries,” said Rogers, who runs trivia nights at the Brazen Head bar in Boerum Hill.
He also focused on memorizing superlatives — longest rivers and tallest mountains — as well as state capitals. “There is no excuse for a ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant to not know those answers,” he said. “They are easily remembered with mnemonics or songs.”
In order to memorize minerals on Moh’s Scale of Mineral Hardness —Talc, Gypsum, Calcite, Flourite, Apatite, Orthoclase, Quartz, Topaz, Corundum, Diamond — Rogers thought of this mnemonic: “The Geologist Can Find An Ore Quickly Through Correct Data.”
Williams, who practiced 90 minutes a day for three months, said he used J! Archive to “see holes in my knowledge. It showed me that I didn’t know much about Nobel Prize winners. So I went down a Wikipedia rabbit hole on that one — and benefited when a category called ‘First Nobel’ came up. It also helped me to figure out where clues were leading. You start to notice wordplay in the clues, which guide you to the correct answers. You realize that the clues are more than just trivia questions.”
For example, Williams recalled, “In the category of World Capital Bingo, the clue was ‘G, 1812: Not named in honor of a DC college, this capital of Guyana, formerly Stabroek, gets its new name.’ The answer is, ‘What is Georgetown?’ You know that as soon as you hear a DC college that starts with G. I don’t have to know anything about the history of Guyana.”
But before you can show how smart you are, you have to buzz in ahead of competitors. Rogers, who swapped cocktails for club soda and cranberry juice during his two weeks of cramming, focused as much on the physical as the mental.
“I walked around New York with a thumb exerciser on my hand; it’s normally used for rehabbing fingers and has a resistance similar to that of the ‘Jeopardy!’ buzzer,” he said. “I listened to episodes on my phone, practiced buzzing in and looked like a frigging weirdo.”
Williams, meanwhile, studied a book called “Secrets of the Buzzer.” The best tip, he said, “was to relax your arm in order to speed up hitting the buzzer.”
His other advice: “Buzz in as the host says the last syllable.”
Though he competed on only one episode, Williams is grateful for the experience.
“I lost and still think it’s the greatest,” he said, still savoring his “shining moment” of having run the “Shakespeare” category. “In 20 years, when I am eligible to qualify again, will I take the ‘Jeopardy!’ [application] test? Damn right I will! And I’ll take performance-enhancing drugs to increase my reflexes.”