The Jeopardy! showdown fans have been waiting for is really happening, and Alex Trebek already knows who he thinks will win. The trivia quiz show announced on Monday that Trebek will host a special Jeopardy! tournament on ABC in January where three of the greatest contestants of all time will play for a million dollars and the title of Jeopardy! GOAT.
It’s an event that Jeopardy! fans have hoped would happen since James Holzhauer first stood out as an exceptional player and started his record-breaking run of 32 straight wins. The records that fell, of course, were not the win streak, but the huge single-game totals he put up. Last week, Holzhauer added another $250,000 to his winnings by coming out on top in a hotly-contested Tournament of Champions where he beat Emma Boettcher — who ended his win streak earlier in the year — in the finals.
This GOAT Tournament is something brand new, though, and was invented for the sole purpose of pitting Holzhauer against Jennings, who won 74 straight games, and Rutter, who has never lost a Jeopardy! game to a human being and holds the all-time winnings total in the show’s history. Holzhauer jokingly taunted Rutter on Twitter with a wrestling reference before the GOAT tournament was announced, so it’s clear that everyone saw this coming and plans to have fun with it.
— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) November 16, 2019
But Rutter does have a reputation at stake here, and being known as the Greatest Jeopardy! Player Ever would be a nice title for any of the three to own. So the competition is going to be serious, and most assume that Holzhauer will, once again, be the favorite here. Alex Trebek said as much to USA Today when he gave an interview about the tournament when it was announced.
“You have to realize, I think, that Ken and Brad are going to be at a slight disadvantage,” he told USA Today. “They won the majority of their monies 10, 15 years ago, so they’ve aged a bit.”
Jeopardy! contestants often call it an athletic event as much as a mental one because of the importance of the signaling device. Getting the timing right there is as important as actually knowing the answer so, like video games, it’s considered to be advantageous for younger players with better reflexes.
“Are their reflexes going to be as good as James Holzhauer’s? Who knows?” Trebek said. “But we’re going to find out in this tournament. It’s going to be a blast, we’re all excited about it.”
This isn’t just speculation from Trebek, it’s something Jennings himself has referenced multiple times as a then-hypothetical matchup with Holzhauer was floated. He’s called it a “young man’s game” a number of times and laid out the same argument: Holzhauer is fresher, has been studying, and is younger than both himself and Rutter.
Whether that’s just hedging on his part or genuine analysis is debatable here, but Trebek saying the same thing makes it pretty clear that James is the odds-on pick to win another million dollars. Rutter, for his part, seems to like his chances as the underdog.
It’s all very exciting, and what’s great is that all three seem to enjoy talking a bit of smack about what’s a glorified trivia contest between three extremely smart, social media-savvy nerds. January isn’t that far off, but it’s going to be a fun lead-up to see who the GOAT really us.