Ken Jennings on His Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time Win: 'I Just Remember Feeling Shock'
On Tuesday night, Jennings won the trivia game show’s Greatest of All Time tournament after several intense nights of play against fellow Jeopardy! greats James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter. During an interview on Good Morning America on Wednesday morning, Jennings, 45, said that he felt “shock” after realizing he had won.
“I just remember feeling shock. I’ve been in a lot of these Jeopardy! super tournaments and I have an amazing talent for finishing second,” he joked. “So I had no idea what to do when you actually win. It turns out you walk over and stand by [host] Alex [Trebek].”
During the interview, Jennings also explained his strategy during Tuesday’s match-up — including his decision to bet zero dollars during the Final Jeopardy round.
“There’s a little bit of math that goes into wagering on Jeopardy!” Jennings explained. “And generally what happens is the person in second should often make a very small wager. You’re counting on the person in first to make a big wager, so it doesn’t matter at that point. If they get it wrong, they’re out. So it doesn’t matter what you wager, you want to risk as little as possible for that eventuality.”
Though Jennings walked away with the trophy (and the $1 million prize that came with it!), he admitted that either Rutter or Holzhauer had an equal chance at winning the tournament.
“Honestly, James was building a lot of momentum in last night’s game,” Jennings said. “He was coming for me — it looked like I had put the game away and he came racing back … So it was not a dominating win at all. I think all three of us are very experienced Jeopardy! players and if you run this back ten times, you’re gonna get a different winner, you’re never gonna the same winner twice in a row.”
During the interview, Jennings also revealed that he kept his win a secret from his kids and parents until it aired on Tuesday.
“I just thought it would be more fun for them to have the surprise, and it was a lot of fun watching it together,” he said.
The Greatest of All Time competition also came amid host Trebek’s ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer.
On Wednesday morning, Jennings opened up about what it was like to have another chance to play Jeopardy! with the legendary and beloved game show host.
“It’s always a delight to see Alex, he’s a guy who loves his job, thrives on Jeopardy!, even facing this tough cancer diagnosis, I think work is something that helps get him through it,” Jennings said. “He would never give that up if he could avoid it.”
“But with these tournaments where he knows the three contestants, there’s something special there because there’s a connection and there’s some affection,” he continued. “I think he knows how much he means to us, and he appreciates seeing Jeopardy! played well. So it’s very special, it’s very poignant to have one more chance to play with Alex.”