Ken Jennings Explained Why Playing ‘Jeopardy!’ Is Nothing Like Watching At Home

If you’re going to take advice from a former Jeopardy! champion, Ken Jennings — the most winning regular season Jeopardy! player and now the GOAT thanks to his tournament win over James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter in January — is a great guy to pick.

Jennings has been on a victory tour of sorts, beginning with an interview in which he essentially declared he’s retiring from Jeopardy! Many fans hope another GOAT-style tournament could bring him out of that declared retirement if the competition (or money) is right, but we’ll have to wait and see on that. In the interim, Jennings is dishing out some advice on how best to approach taking the Jeopardy! stage yourself.

Speaking at Sloan in Boston on Friday, Jennings described how different it is to grab the signaling device for yourself compared to playing along at home. As Nicole Yang of reported, Jennings understands that most people are “scared sh*tless” of going on the show for themselves, but stressed the only way to find out if you’re good is to try it.

“Nobody knows if they’re good on ‘Jeopardy!’ until they go on ‘Jeopardy!’ ” Jennings said. “People are just scared [expletive] and rightly so. The longer you’re there, you’re getting a little more comfortable.”

Jennings, of course, is very good. But he said the home prep that many Jeopardy! players dabble in — ringing in on a homemade buzzer, standing in the same shoes they wear on stage, and trying to get the timing of host Alex Trebek’s voice down — does little to actually get you ready for the big time.

“Playing ‘Jeopardy!’ is nothing like watching it,” Jennings said. “Watching ‘Jeopardy!’, it seems like a sedate, polite experience.”

The story also includes some tidbits we already know about Jeopardy! game theory, such as it’s statistically likely that Daily Doubles are found in the bottom half of the board and that Jennings gets them correct more than the average player. It’s that kind of game theory that made Holzhauer a star on the Jeopardy! stage over the last year, and like Holzhauer, Jennings’ best advice for prospective players is to try and try again (and again) when it comes to taking the test to get on air. Thankfully, you can now take that test any time you’d like, too.