40 Of The Biggest ‘Jeopardy!’ Winners Of All Time
Since the first episode of the show Jeopardy! was released on screen in 1984, it receives a large number of audiences, broadcasting over 8,000 episodes now. An incredible number of legendary winners were produced in the show, taking home astronomical amounts of money. Now we will round up the show's biggest winners.
1. Alex Jacob
As a professional poker player, Alex Jacob feels it easy to ake wagers. He won $152,000 in 5 games, qualifying him for the 2015 Tournament of Champions. He went on to win the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions for a grand prize of $250,000.
2. Bob Blake
Bob Blake, an actuary, first appeared on Jeopardy in 1989, won a total of $82,501 over all five games. Because the winnings were higher than the then-limit of $75,000, he decided to donate $7,501 of his winnings to Charity.
3. Gilbert Collins
After succeeding in winning the Teen Tournament, Gilbert Collins decided to win big. He won 5 games in regular ol’ Jeopardy, earning him $84,201 in 2018. He has also a splendid life experience, visiting over 50 countries and speak five languages. Quite impressive!
4. Bob Verini
Having failed the first audition for the show, Bob Verini beat another attempt and successfully made it. He earned $276,802 during all the rounds on the show. Apart from his vast knowledge, Verini is also an actor, playwright and rich experienced in theater productions.
5. Alan Lin
Software engineer Alan Lin spent five whole years trying to make it onto Jeopardy! His persistence finally paid off, and his six day streak earned him $123,600. He later came back to compete in the Tournament of Champions where he got an additional $100,000!
6. Rachael Schwartz
Rachael Schwartz accumulated $147,499 total between her regular Jeopardy! appearances as well as her tournament wins. When asked about her high level of knowledge, she claimed “Even as a kid I used to read all the time. Including at the dinner table.” When asked about what she did with her winnings, the sensible Schwartz shared: “I invested most of my money in mutual funds. The most extravagant thing that I did was to buy myself a $300 briefcase back in 1994. I still have it.”
7. Tom Cubbage
Tom Cubbage is the only contestant to have won both the College Championship and Tournament of Champions competitions till today. He initially won $26,600 during the College Championship and later $100,000 after winning the Tournament of Champions, winning both of these games in 1989!
8. Rachel Lindgren
Rachel Lindgren won five games in a row, which effectively won her $75,999 in winnings. She is definitely one to watch for future championship tournaments. Lindgren shared that ever since her appearance on the show, “My Facebook has been blowing up. I have been offered everything from marriage proposals to flight lessons. It’s fun to be recognized, for now.”
9. Stephanie Jass
Stephanie Jass won a whopping $166,000 over seven games of Jeopardy! in 2012. In December 2017, she was put on probation for hacking into College email database of the school members.
10. Lisa Schlitt
Lisa Schlitt collected $139,100 over the course of 6 games in 2017. The microbiologist made another appearance in the Tournament of Champions, where she earned $15,400. In terms of experience, she’s said: “The expectation kind of weighs on you…up against such formidable people. Everyone there has essentially proven themselves to be the best of the best, at least in the past couple years.” No pressure!
11. Bob Harris
Bob Harris initially won $58,000 on the show and later added $200,000 to his total winnings in 2002. It seems he really has a gift for game shows, as he also appeared on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, winning $250,000 while on that show!
12. Dan Pawson
Poker player Dan Pawson’s grand winnings totaled up to $421,902 over the span of a 9 game streak in 2009. Pawson was able to pay off his student loan payments raising his child with his wife. He also managed to donate a portion of his winnings to charity! Impressive man.
13. Austin Rogers
Over the course of 13 games in a row, Austin Rogers won an impressive $413,000. However, he’s best remembered for having a “Kramer” type of quirkiness. Alex Trebek noted that he was “The expectation kind of weighs on you…up against such formidable people. Everyone there has essentially proven themselves to be the best of the best, at least in the past couple years.”
14. Jerome Vered
Jerome Vered accumulated an impressive $496,602 throughouts his time on Jeopardy! He eventually even played in the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions. Despite his wild success on the game show, you might be surprised to hear that it took Vered four times to actually make it onto the show!
15. Frank Spangenberg
In 1990, Frank Spangenberg made Jeopardy! history when he became the first person to accumulate over $100,000 in under one week on the show. His 5-day streak earned him a totally of $102,597 although he was only able to keep $75,000 due to a winning’s cap at the time. The rest went to a charity of his choosing, a hospice organization. Good to go, man!
16. Eric Newhouse
Eric Newhouse made his first appearance on the show in 1989. He later competed in the same year’s Tournament of Champions and also made it onto Super Jeopardy! His award came to a total of $193,100. Interestingly, he also managed to win several strange items such as a case of red wine vinegar, and a signed copy of Treasure Island. While on the show, he earned the nickname “Powerhouse.”
17. Lara Logan
South African journalist Lara Logan, who works on 60 Minutes, competed on a special episode of Jeopardy! that many viewers may not forget. She appeared alongside CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper, and finally won $50,000 which graciously donated to her charity of choice, Committee to Protect Journalists.
18. Pam Mueller
Pam Mueller competed on the College Championship game series as a representative of her school, Loyola University. Her winnings came to a total of $182,201 and she even won a car, a 2001 Volvo S60! She later went on to earn a PhD from Princeton University and a law degree from Harvard Law! Pam is seriously one impressive woman.
19. Chuck Forrest
In 1985, Chuck Forrest won five Jeopardy! games in a row, making his total winnings to $72,800. He later won an additional $100,000 in the tournament he participated in. His game strategy was nicknamed the “Forrest Bounce,” and included bouncing around from one category to another at random, therefore throwing off his opponents. He said: “The basic point is, you know where you’re going next and [your competitors] don’t.”
20. James Holzhauer
James Holzhauer is the most recent of the hall of fame Jeopardy! winners. He won an incredible $2,464,216 over the course of 32 games, which means he’s the third biggest winner in Jeopardy! history. He was nicknamed “Jeopardy James” during his time on the show. With all the money he won, he donated $10,000 to a Las Vegas organization dedicated to helping displaced teens.
21. Russ Schumacher
Russ Schumacher’s 4 game streak may be short, but don’t count him out! He managed to collect an impressive $345,800 during the games! Before appearing on the show, he said if he won he’d buy his girlfriend an engagement ring with his winnings. He later said: “Little did I know that Jeopardy! would not only pay for the ring, but also a wonderful wedding and a down payment on a house with plenty to spare.” How sweet!
22. Arthur Phillips
Arthur Phillips boasts a total of $63,003 in winnings after 5 games, but this is the least of his impressive talents! Phillips spend his childhood as a child actor and later also became a speechwriter as well as a jazz musician. He’s even an award-winning novelist. Let’s all take him as an example of how to really excel at life.
23. Austin “Buzzy” Cohen
Music executive Austin “Buzzy” Cohen spent 9 games in a row as a contestant on the show, bringing his total winnings to $164,603. He was a fan favorite due to his witty and entertaining banter with Alex Trebek. He even made a hilarious reference to a famous Will Ferrell SNL Jeopardy! parody sketch by saying, “What is, see you tomorrow, Trebek?” He revealed he planned to invest the money he won as a college fund for his kid.
24. Richard Cordray
Richard Cordray won $453,030 throughout his 5-game streak. He spent his winnings on paying off his law school debt, taxes, and buying a brand new car. How sensible! He returned to participate in the Battle of the Decades tournament, but politely turned down his $5000 winnings due to his career as a federal employee.
25. Michael George Dupée
Michael George Dupée won an impressive total of $203,901 in his appearances on the show, which included winning the 1996 Tournament of Champions, making him the 4th biggest winner of the time. He later went on to release a book entitled How to Get on Jeopardy! and Win! It seems that he definitely is an expert on the game!
This Jeopardy! champion is a bit different from the rest on this list, as Watson is not even human! The IBM robot competed against the top Jeopardy! contestants in a battle of machine versus human. Watson initially won $77,147 in two special exhibition games, and later beat the top champions, winning the grand prize of $1 million. Luckily, IBM donated the prize to the World Vision and World Community Grid non-profit organizations.
27. Colby Burnett
Colby Burnett, a high school teacher, appeared in many Jeopardy! games including the Tournament of Champions, in which he won $250,000, the Teachers Tournament, which earned in $100,000, and finally the Battle of the Decades, which won him $25,000. He revealed that he bought a new house for his mother with the money he won. What a great son!
28. Mark Lowenthal
Mark Lowenthal managed to win $159,901 in the 1988 Tournament and an additional $10,000 in the Battle of the Decades tournament. Lowenthal has also written five books, including a college textbook on the topic of national security and intelligence. He has also co-authored a book with fellow Jeopardy! champ Chuck Forrest, Secrets of the Jeopardy! Champions. He has also written 90 articles!
29. Nancy Zerg
Although Nancy Zerg’s one-game winnings of $15,401 may seem meager in comparison with other champions on this list, she does have one serious accomplishment to boast: she beat Ken Jennings, the most successful Jeopardy! contestant of all time! After this incredible feat, she said it was incredibly difficult to stay quiet for three months until her episode aired. We bet it was worth the wait!
30. Seth Wilson
Then-PhD candidate Seth Wilson played over the course of 12 Jeopardy! games and won a whopping amount of $256,002. When asked what he’d do with his winnings, he shared he would pay off his student debt and take a trip abroad to Europe. He also shared that one of his favorite memories of his time on the show was: “The first category on my first day was ‘George Clooney Movies’, and I ran that category, so I got to run a category my first taping of Jeopardy!”
31. Ben Ingram
Ben Ingram, who boasts a degree in biology as well as time spent as an IT consultant, was quite the contestant by winning a very respectable $177,534. However, he also managed to take it all in the form of $250,000 after winning the tournament he participated in.
32. Tom Walsh
Tom Walsh managed to win a total of $184,900 while a contestant on Jeopardy! in 2004. He went on to compete in a tournament, in which he won another $236,900. Walsh later shared: “My winnings are allowing me to support work that helps people in the developing world, such as education for refugees from Burma, and microcredit for people affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa. It’s amazing that Jeopardy! could end up being a blessing to people on the far side of the world, but it is!”
33. Joon Pahk
Joon Pahk was already an impressive guy before he participated in the Jeopardy!. At only 32 years old, he was already working as a physics professor at Harvard University. Nevertheless, he continued being an impressive individual by appearing on the game show for eight games in a row. On his experience, he shared: “You can’t tell anyone the results so it’s a little difficult.” We can only imagine how challenging it must be to stay mum until your episodes air!
34. Jason Keller
Jason Keller collected $213,900 in nine games in a row. Keller has been an avid fan of Jeopardy! since he was a young boy. He’s shared: “This is something that I’ve wanted for a really long time, and I’ve usually been an optimist…I always felt that it would happen eventually.”
35. Larissa Kelly
Larissa Kelly had an impressive seven-game run which earned her a total of $223,587. Interestingly, she is not the only member of her family to have appeared on the show. Both her husband and her sister have also been contestants on the show. Kelly earned a PhD in 19th century Mexican archaeological history and is also a science fiction writer. She’s seriously impressive!
36. Tom Nissley
Tom Nissley appeared in eight games in a row, racking up $235,405 in prize money. He holds a PhD in English Literature and has edited books for Amazon. With his winnings, he purchased a book store in Seattle named Phinney Books that he is currently running.
37. Dave Madden
Dave Madden made Jeopardy! history by setting a record of playing in 19 games in a row, which brought him the title of second longest streak at the time, earning $403,400 total. Madden is an art historian and a trivia buff in general. He’s founded and serves as executive director of the International History Bee and Bowl as well as the National Science Bee, and the International Geography Bee.
38. Dana Venator
Dana Venator may not be at the top of the list of highest earners, but she certainly won many hearts of viewers. She competed on the very first Teen Tournament in 1987. Even Alex Trebek greatly enjoyed her presence on the show due to her quirky personality and funny anecdotes. She shared that she’s played the bagpipes in the woods once and also purchased bathrooms from the hotel she was staying at during her time on the show!
39. Arthur Chu
Arthur Chu accumulated an impressive $37,000 in his first of 11 games total on Jeopardy! His total winnings came to $298,200 in the end. He later appeared in the Tournament of Champions and finished in second place, earning him an additional $100,000. He is currently a writer for Salon and The Daily Beast and writes on topics such as sexism in nerd culture as well as racism.
40. Julia Collins
Julia Collins made Jeopardy! history by setting the record of the second most games won in a row after she made it to a 20-game winning streak. She earned $429,100 total over the course of the 21 games she played. She also became the highest earning female Jeopardy! contestant during her time on the show.