Ken Jennings Reveals The Secret To Winning On ‘Jeopardy!’


Before Ken Jennings was a host on the popular game show “Jeopardy!,” he was a contestant, and an amazing contestant at that. He won game after game after game.

If you think Jennings won so many games because he was smarter than the other contestants, you’re probably wrong. According to Jennings every contestant on the show is very smart.

In an interview with CNN, Jennings explained, “We find smart people, and everyone there could pass the same difficult test.”

If every contestant on “Jeopardy!” is approximately equally smart, and if Jennings doesn’t think his brain power is what caused his winning streak, what was the reason for his success on the show? According to Jennings, “Often the margin of victory is just reflexes.”

Jennings explained that the trick to winning “Jeopardy!” doesn’t necessarily have to do with whether or not you know the answer. The trick is buzzing in at the exact correct second.

Let’s assume that all of the contestants know the answer to the question. It’s the contestant who buzzes in the second the buzzers are activated that will end up winning.

Jennings shared, “You can’t buzz as soon as you know the correct response. You have to wait for the host to finish reading the question, the clue. At that point the buzzers are activated, and if you buzz early, you get locked out, and of course if you’re too late you get beat by your competitors. So there’s a very narrow window you’re trying to find.”

Jennings was definitely a pro at buzzing in at the correct second, and he thinks he knows why. He shared, “Rhythms of the host’s voice are very important, and I almost think that was my secret sauce.”

He went on to explain that he had been watching “Jeopardy!” since he was a child, and he knew exactly how Alex Trebbek, the long-time host of “Jeopardy!,” would read each clue. Jennings explained, “I had been watching Alex since I was 10 years old, and I knew how he would say every clipped syllable in the clue I was reading, and then I knew what the rhythm would be.”

Does it surprise you that Jennings believes the secret to winning “Jeopardy!” is more about reflexes than knowing the correct answer? Did you know that contestants would get locked out of buzzing in if they tried to buzz in too early?