Some sports and games have a notion of a “perfect score.” For example, a perfect score in bowling is 300 (twelve consecutive strikes;) a perfect score in golf would be 18 (18 holes-in-one.)
After watching Watson destroy Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter I began to wonder what a perfect score in Jeopardy! would be.
- The player knows (or can guess) all the correct questions for the given answers.
- The player can consistently beat the other players to the buzzer.
- The player knows (or can guess) where all three Daily Doubles are.
- The Daily Double in the Jeopardy! round happens to be on a $200 clue.
- The two Daily Doubles in the Double Jeopardy! round both happen to be on $400 clues.
- The player is willing to “bet it all” at all four opportunities (the three Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy!).
Jeopardy! has three rounds:
- The Jeopardy! round
The player starts this round with $0.
There are six categories with five clues each: $200, 400, 600, 800, 1000. That’s $3000 for each category for a nominal total of $18,000.
But wait – one of those clues is a Daily Double! For maximum value we’re assuming it’s a $200 clue.
The player gets all the normal clues correct and amasses $17,800.
The player then “makes it a true daily double”, gets it right, and doubles their total to $35,600.
- The Double Jeopardy! round
The player starts this round with $35,600. Again, there are six categories with five clues each. But this time the values are $400, 800, 1200, 1600, and $2000.
That’s $6000 for each category for a nominal total of $36,000.
But wait – two of those clues are Daily Doubles! For maximum value we’re assuming they’re both $400 clues.
The player gets all the normal clues correct and amasses an additional $35,200. They now have $70,800.
The player then selects the first of the two Daily Doubles for this round, “makes it a true daily double”, gets it right, and doubles their total to $141,600. (Jeopardy!, unlike some game shows, does not materialize winnings at the end of a round; there’s just a single running total for each player throughout the episode.)
The player then selects the last Daily Double, “makes it a true daily double”, gets it right, and doubles their total to $283,200.
- Final Jeopardy!
The player starts this round with $283,200.
The player looks at the category, bets everything, looks at the answer, writes down the correct question, and doubles their total to $566,400.
Conclusion: A perfect score for a single episode of Jeopardy! is $566,400.
The actual record appears to be Roger Craig’s win of $77,000 on September 14 2010.