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Who Is Matt Jackson?

Season 32 is only three weeks old, and we already have a contestant whose hot streak has viewers captivated. Matt Jackson, a 23-year-old (22 when he auditioned for the show) paralegal from Washington, DC, has racked up six victories so far. In that time, he’s amassed a healthy $166,401 – and qualified for the upcoming Tournament of Champions (unless, of course, he’s still playing in November!). If you’re asking yourself, “Who is this guy?” you’re not alone. We sat down with our current champion, and he revealed this moment has been a long time coming.

During college, Matt watched his friend Sam Spaulding win $50,000 with a second place finish in the 2010 College Championship. Sam then encouraged Matt to audition, feeling that he would make a good contestant. After taking the College Online Test twice, and not advancing to the in-person audition either time, Matt decided to give it one more shot and signed up for the adult online test in early 2014. He advanced and quickly moved on to the final group. Then he got “the call.”

Having finally made it, Matt said he was determined to make the most of his shot. In fact, he told us that, while preparing for the show, he repeated something of a mantra to himself – “I am not throwing away my shot. I am not throwing away my shot…” – something he took away from seeing the Broadway musical Hamilton (No surprise, since Matt had performed in theatrical productions in his past). His determination, combined with excellent preparation, has worked out well for him so far.

Preparation, as any Jeopardy! champion will tell you, is one of the vital factors to success. Matt’s preparatory methods might seem a little unorthodox, but they were thorough. If you’re considering trying out for Jeopardy!, you might take a page out of Matt Jackson’s book: he deactivated his Facebook account and pared down his social life to the bare minimum, which allowed Matt to dedicate all of his free time to preparing for his moment (we say “moment” because 30 minutes passes by rather quickly once you step on stage).

Matt cites a couple books as particularly helpful tools during his preparation – Ken Jennings’ Brainiac and Bob Harris’ Prisoner of Trebekistan. Matt also lists an inspiration for his game play as last year’s Tournament of Champions winner Ben Ingram. Another tip, one that Alex Trebek also gives at nearly every show taping – and one that Matt followed diligently – is to watch as many episodes of Jeopardy! as possible and “buzz in” at home. After all, the buzzer is one of the most important tools a Jeopardy! contestant can hope to master.

After his preparation was done, he enjoyed the little things. In the video above, Matt recounts landing in Los Angeles for his upcoming appearances.

He seems to be in full swing, which begs the obvious question: can he continue this streak? You’ll have to find out for yourself. Tune in today as Matt Jackson goes for his seventh consecutive win.