(WTNH) – He ranks third in the “Jeopardy!” Hall of Fame for consecutive games won and highest winnings in regular-season play.
Who is Matt Amodio?
Amodio, a Yale Ph.D student, has officially become the third player in the game’s history to win over $1 million during regular-season play, earning a total of $1,004,001 during his 28-game streak.
Amodio spoke to WTNH earlier this week, saying he used to dream of becoming a sports legend like Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth throughout his childhood. Instead, he now stands almost side-by-side with Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer.
As fans of “Jeopardy!” know, that’s rarified air: Jennings and Holzhauer rank first and second for total winnings during regular-season play.
“I see my face and my name next to these legends,” Amodio said of his fellow “Jeopardy!” champions. “And I’m like, OK, this is just a childhood dream. And this isn’t real.”
Amodio, a Yale computer science Ph.D. student, says he has far exceeded his own expectations. Heading into next week’s games, he’s officially a “Jeopardy!” millionaire, a feat accomplished by only three other players in the show’s history. (In addition to Jennings and Holzhauer, Brad Rutter has well surpassed the million-dollar mark, though Rutter earned most of his winnings during tournament play.)
Growing up in Ohio, Amodio said he watched “Jeopardy!” all the time with his family. But these days, watching an episode on TV is a totally different experience.
“It’s a crazy feeling,” he said. “I finally got to see what it’s like to be on the stage and have that perspective. And so for the first time I’m watching these episodes and saying ‘Oh, I know where that camera is.’ Or ‘Ah, I know where they’re looking when they’re facing that way.’ And so it gives me that insider feeling”.
Despite all of his success on the show, Amodio has faced a slight bit of controversy for how he plays — specifically, his strategy of starting nearly every one of his responses with “what’s,” instead of “what is.”
Amodio says there’s a reason for this approach, telling “Jeopardy!” fans that he chose “what’s” because it’s the “simplest, most repeatable” phrase he could think of.
He’s not breaking any rules, but he does acknowledge that some of the show’s fans were a bit irritated by him early on.
“I have thick skin. There was a part of me that actually was amused by how annoyed they were,” Amodio said. “But, also in the back of my head, I knew we were only three games in, and they said, ‘I can’t wait for this guy to lose.’ And I was saying, ‘You might have to wait a while.’”