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Breaking Down Four Rare Jeopardy! Scenarios

Our experience from producing a daily quiz show over the past 32 seasons has taught us a profound lesson: prepare for the unexpected because it is almost certainly bound to happen. But even now, some scenarios pop up so infrequently that they require a look at the rules before proceeding with the game. And while we have a contingency plan in place for every possible scenario, some – as you’ll see – have not been set in stone. We hope this glimpse into our game book gives you some valuable knowledge to drop the next time you watch Jeopardy!

1. Tie Breakers

There can only be one winner. This has long been the case in tournament play and was recently adapted into regular game play. A tie at the end of Final Jeopardy! sends the game into a tie-breaker clue. 

If there are two or three players tied for first place after each contestant unveils their Final Jeopardy! response, Alex will present one more category and read the clue. The clue has no dollar value and does not increase the player’s winnings. The first contestant to buzz in and respond correctly is declared the winner. Should all participating contestants fail to provide a correct response, this process is repeated until one contestant responds correctly. The most recent instance of this rare tie scenario happened in 2014 at the Teen Tournament. Watch below to see how it played out.

2. No Winner?

In regular game play, if all three contestants wager everything in Final Jeopardy!  and respond incorrectly, there is no returning champ. The subsequent show begins with three new players, as Alex explains below.

3. Ties for Wild Cards

The four tournament Wild Cards who proceed from the quarterfinals to the semis are decided by highest dollar amounts of non-winning players. This is a particularly rare scenario, because quarterfinalists are sequestered until they play and there is no way they can know what a qualifying amount may be. So, what are the chances of a tie? Well, you may remember this scenario from the 2016 College Championship: three contestants - competing in three separate quarterfinal games – all had the same totals at the end of their games in the race for two remaining wild card slots. In this case, first we go to find who was leading at the end of the Double Jeopardy! round, and if there’s a tie there, back to the end of the Jeopardy! round.

Here’s an infographic to show you how it all worked out:

Incidentally, this is also how Jeopardy! decides 2nd and 3rd place contestants who are tied at the end of a game in regular play.

4. All Contestants In Negative After Double Jeopardy!

The Jeopardy! rule book is not a gilt-edged tome bound in Moroccan leather. It’s a living document which states that: “In the event all three contestants have $0 (zero) or minus amounts at the end of ‘Double Jeopardy!’, no Final Jeopardy! round would be played.”

This is one rule that has not yet been put to the test and we’re betting that EP Harry Friedman might make the decision to play the final clue for fans at home to enjoy. If he doesn’t, our best guess is that viewers would be treated to somewhere around 3 minutes of…

Any special cases or odd scenarios you’ve witnessed that don’t appear here? Tweet us @jeopardy.