Imagine that you are Dr. Judy Peterson, professor at the prestigious University of Energy. You have just lost a gameshow to your former college roommate, who calls you “Stupid Judy.” And yet you are the only person in history to play a perfect Jeopardy round.
When Was the Perfect Jeopardy Round Played?
Back in 1996, Stupid Judy achieved this incredible feat as part of Ellen’s Energy Adventure, a ride at Epcot.
The plot of the ride is typical silliness. Ellen DeGeneres dreams she is on her favorite game show, Jeopardy, but all the categories are about her least favorite subject: Energy.
Ellen goes on a time-travel mission for the sole purpose of scamming Stupid Judy out of her once-in-a-lifetime achievement. She even gets illegal Jeopardy coaching from Bill Nye the Science Guy.
So Ellen DeGeneres gets to dance in the balloons while Stupid Judy Peterson stands by, watching this travesty of justice unfold. She is powerless to stop it despite of her doctorate degrees, academic publications, and I’ll say it again, her perfect Jeopardy round.
This goes beyond a silly game show cheating scandal. The antics in Ellen’s Energy Adventure overshadow something truly incredible, and never even hinted at during the ride itself.
By playing the perfect Jeopardy round, Stupid Judy Peterson may actually have proved herself to be one of the smartest individuals in the history of humankind.
Let’s break it down.
How Jeopardy Works
Jeopardy rounds break down like this:
- There are 6 categories on the board.
- Each category has 5 clues, for a total of 30.
- In 1996, Round 1 clues started at $100 and increased in $100 increments. In the Double Jeopardy round, the values are, appropriately, doubled.
- A “Daily Double” is hidden behind one of the 30 clues on the board. Whoever finds it is allowed to wager an amount up to whatever amount they currently hold. The Double Jeopardy round, of course, has two Daily Doubles.
With me so far?
In 2001, Jeopardy raised the starting value of the Round 1 clues to $200. Yet Ellen DeGeneres and Stupid Judy are perpetually stuck in the 1996 version. We know this because Ellen selects a $100 answer to lead off the game.
Ellen gets the answer wrong, of course, because she’s a dirty cheater. This drops her into negative territory. Stupid Judy promptly steals the clue and earns $100.
The rest of the round is shown in montage. Stupid Judy answers every question correctly, but most of the round is played off camera. By the end of the round, Ellen is still at -$100 and Stupid Judy has a commanding lead.
The third contestant, Dr. Einstein, is nowhere, relatively speaking.
We already know Ellen hates energy, and Stupid Judy has her doctorate. So just what is so amazing about this?
How To Play the Perfect Jeopardy Round
According to the rules defined above, each category in Round 1 has a potential value of $1,500 (100 + 200 + 300 + 400 + 500).
It is uncommon for a player to run the table in a single category, but it does happen on occasion. Especially with the good players.
What happens if somebody sweeps the entire board? That’s all 6 categories, each worth $1,500. A grand total of $9,000 up for grabs.
This would be an unprecedented feat in and of itself. It has never happened in the history of the game show. Ken Jennings, who had a famous Jeopardy run a few years ago, set the single-show record and still missed at least 16 clues per game.
The Daily Double Makes the Perfect Jeopardy Round Even Harder
But wait. We must remember that one of the 30 clues in Round 1 is actually the Daily Double. If you hit the Daily Double, you can wager any amount, up to whatever you have already won at the time.
They don’t call it the Daily Double for nothing. If you are confident in your knowledge, you can wager everything. And double your winnings if you get the question right.
Its appearance on the board is random. But in order to squeeze the absolute maximum potential out of the Daily Double, it must appear behind one of the $100 clues. That’s a 1 in 5 shot, only slightly better than a dice role.
That leaves you $8,900 in hard cash from all of the other clues.
But WAIT! There’s One More Thing
It gets even nuttier. Even if you get lucky with the perfect Daily Double location, the players don’t know where it is at. They stumble upon it accidentally.
To play the absolute most perfect Jeopardy round, you need to select the Daily Double as the very last clue on the board.
So here are the steps to playing the perfect Jeopardy round:
- You have sweep the entire board, correctly providing the question to 29 of 30 clues.
- You need to leave a $100 clue as the last clue on the board.
- The last clue needs to be the Daily Double.
- Then you need to wager everything you’ve won.
- Then you need to provide the correct question to the Daily Double clue.
If you do all of those things, it will bring your Round 1 earnings to $17,800.
Go back up and look at the standings in Ellen’s Energy Adventure, right before Ellen goes on her little cheating side trip with Bill Nye.
Dr. Judy Peterson, who is about to get robbed by a jealous former roommate, has just played the only perfect Jeopardy round in history.
And not just our limited theme park history. All of history.
If Ellen DeGeneres had gone back in time several million years (give or take a day) and brought the gift of television to those dinosaurs …
… and if those dinosaurs had invented Jeopardy
… and if Jeopardy had stayed on the air all the way to the opening of Ellen’s Energy Adventure in 1996 …
Odds are still against anyone playing a perfect Jeopardy round during any one of those shows.