It’s not uncommon to find the occasional ‘quirky’ contestant popping up in a Jeopardy! episode. The age-old game show is such a proven commodity, however, that it doesn’t really require up-beat personalities or crazy characters to be entertaining. In fact, I usually find the contestants who do try to break the humor mold to be distracting, out of place, and largely unfunny. Alex Trebek is all that I need.
That is likely why my first inclination watching contestant — and now 6-time returning champion — Austin Rogers was to cringe. Maybe it felt like he was trying too hard to inject humor into a program that didn’t need it. Maybe it was the jazz hands. Or maybe I didn’t appreciate a Wes Anderson character adorned in clashing color patterns sharing his disdain for Don Henley and the Eagles — twice.
But the longer I watched, the faster I started cheering for the hipster bartender from Williamsburg, Brooklyn (probably). Because in the end, the reason we watch Jeopardy! (apart from the obvious: keeping up the illusion that we retained anything at all from British Lit) is for the chance to witness the next Brad Rutter, Ken Jennings, or Roger Craig. Translation: We want to see supremely intelligent individuals vying for game show history.
Austin Rogers (aka. the bearded bartender) has now won six Jeopardy matches in a row and is making waves on social media with his wacky, confident personality and risky wagers on Daily Doubles. Alex Trebek was astute in pointing out: “He’s got hair, he’s got chutzpah and he’s got broad-based knowledge.” Here’s what we know about the bearded Jeopardy contestant right now.
Rogers full name is Austin Tyler Rogers and he lives in Manhattan, New York City. He works as a bartender as well as a freelance writer. After graduating from Macalester College with a Bachelors in Arts (History/Music) in 2000, he worked in marketing as well as an Events Manager for the Asia Society for nearly a decade. We don’t know Austin’s exact age, but if he graduated college in 2000, then he’s probably 37 or 38 years old.
Rogers has now accumulated $257,700 in earnings, averaging an unprecedented $42,950 per win. And as incredible as those numbers are, it’s Rogers’ approach to wagering that makes him a truly unique contestant.
Rogers’ goal – it would appear – is to amass a total score more than double that of the next closest challenger before reaching Final Jeopardy each night. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t that the goal of every contestant?” The simple answer is “yes” — but only to an extent. With the opportunity for all three contestants to wager any money value up to their current individual score totals, Final Jeopardy presents a higher statistical variance for determining the episode’s winner than any other point in the game. Some would posit that employing more risk when wagering for Daily Doubles in hopes of reaching that “safe” plateau (achieving a score of at least two-times more than the next closest opponent before entering Final Jeopardy) would be the most statistically effective approach to winning the game show.
Austin Rogers would likely agree. Where Rogers’ approach differs with that of other contestants is his perception of risk. Any contestant would be thrilled to enter Final Jeopardy having doubled-up the second-place opponent’s score so that even a null-wager would award them a guaranteed win for the day, but rarely are they willing to put all of their money on the line during the earlier rounds to actually get there. Austin Rogers has shown that he is.
Throughout his first several victories, Rogers shocked viewers by regularly wagering between $5,000 and $7,000 in the Jeopardy round, even though his podium showed less than $10,000 at the time of the bet. On Monday of this week, Rogers held a commanding lead in the Double Jeopardy round, and despite likely having already guaranteed the victory, the bartender still announced a bet of $15,000 (which he answered correctly). Yesterday, he wagered $34,000 of his $35,000 score in Final Jeopardy, walking away with a one-day total of $69,000.
In case you were wondering, Austin has now set the following marks:
Austin’s single-game total of $69,000 is the third-highest of all time, after Roger Craig’s $77,000 on September 14, 2010 and Ken Jennings’ $75,000 on July 23, 2004.
Combined with his win yesterday of $65,600, Austin has earned $134,600 over his last two wins; this an all-time record earning for back-to-back wins.
Austin’s 6-day total of $257,700 is the highest of all time of any player through 6 games, surpassing Roger Craig’s $230,200.
Austin’s $34,000 Final Jeopardy wager from Monday is, to the best of my knowledge, the largest Final Jeopardy! wager in the history of the show.
The high-risk, high-reward approach actually provides Rogers with a sizable margin of error throughout the rest of the game, provided he continues answering correctly. In yesterday’s episode, Rogers trailed by approximately $1,200 going into the first commercial break. He was not nearly as active on the signalling device, and his opponent Amy Servat (an English teacher from Houston, Texas) appeared to be more comfortable overall with the categories in the opening round. Rogers quickly turned things around thanks to lofty Daily Double wagers, this despite not having answered anywhere near the same number of questions as his opponent to that point. And so even on days when the categories don’t necessarily agree with him, Rogers has proven the Daily Double to be a powerful equalizer.
So just how much is Austin Rogers benefiting from high-risk wagering? Rogers’ average Coryat score is $17,760 (A Jeopardy! Coryat score is a player’s score if all wagering is disregarded. In the Coryat score, there is no penalty for forced incorrect responses on Daily Doubles, but correct responses on Daily Doubles earn only the natural values of the clues, and any gain or loss from the Final Jeopardy! Round is ignored).
Rogers is averaging $42,950 per win and an average Coryat score of $18,767, which means that roughly 56% of his earnings have come via Daily Double and Final Jeopardy wagers. If you need that to be put in perspective, it’s a lot. Through his first 6 wins, Rogers has answered 12 of his 13 Daily Double questions and all 6 Final Jeopardy questions correctly. The bottom line: If anyone is going to end his run, they will have to find a way to take control of the board and deny him the Daily Doubles (Rogers has uncovered 13 of the 18, or more than two-thirds of the possible Daily Doubles across his 6-wins).
Nerdy advanced analytics lessons aside, Austin Rogers has propelled Jeopardy! into the “must-watch” tier of television. His risk-inherent approach is not likely to lend itself to a Ken Jennings-esque 74-game win streak, so it’s best to get on the bandwagon as soon as possible.
Statistics courtesy of The Jeopardy Fan