“Danger!” has been around for a long time, and the first episode aired in March 1964. Since then, the series has aired more than 8,000 episodes, and each has featured multiple contestants. The game show has become ingrained in the zeitgeist so that people who have never sat down to watch an episode probably know who the late Alex Trebek was and have probably even heard of people like contestant-turned-guest host Ken Jennings.
This is because audiences have long been fascinated with Q&A programs and their winners. We’re fascinated by people who can respond to a wide range of challenging trivia, especially when it’s a large sum of money. Unlike shows like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” “Jeopardy!” doesn’t have a big cash prize. To make a lot of money, you need to be fast, you have to be wise, and you have to win every time you play. It becomes big news when a player takes home several hundred thousand dollars. It’s no easy feat and scarce, but while the show’s biggest winners include people who have made headlines, some have even gone home as millionaires.
The players on this list have raised more money than anyone else in the “Jeopardy!” story. Your regular season earnings have been combined with winnings from any tournament to determine the total. You may be surprised to find out who the richest “Jeopardy!” winner is.
Arthur Chu’s first appearance on “Jeopardy!” was on January 28, 2014, when he won an impressive $37,000. The Cleveland, Ohio-based insurance compliance analyst and columnist quickly earned a not-so-positive reputation due to his unusual style of play. Instead of working from top to bottom in various categories, he randomly chose the answers. Chu’s strategy was to hunt down the Daily Double through a “Forrest Bounce” technique to “control the flow of the game,” as quoted by The Guardian. During its interview with the champion “Jeopardy!”, the outlet noted how Chu’s style “borrow[ed]” from the world of economics and was similar to “game theory.” While these tactics proved successful, fans of the show called Chu “evil” and “smug.”
Still, Chu managed to stay in the program during an 11-game streak, earning $297,200. That made him the tenth most-deserved champion in non-tournament games. Because he achieved “Champion” status, Chu was able to compete in the 2014 Tournament of Champions. He didn’t win first place but earned $100,000 after finishing second. That win put Chu’s lifetime earnings on “Jeopardy!” at an impressive $397,200.
Since rising to fame, he has become a columnist and writes for outlets such as Salon and The Daily Beast, where he covers issues important to him. These include various themes of racism, sexism, and nerdy popular culture. Chu’s website also lists him as a theater announcer and actor, as well as a public speaker and “professional pot shaker and opinion former.”
Austin Rogers was a bartender in New York City when he made waves on “Jeopardy!” in 2017. The champion didn’t have a T.V. when he appeared on the show, but he still managed to make a lot of money. In a press release (via Cleveland.com), Alex Trebek described Rogers as “out of the box, completely different from what many viewers expect from a ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant to be.” Rogers held his position for 12 games, allowing him to win a total of $411,000 over regular play. On two occasions, according to the show’s website, he had the record for the third and fifth-highest winnings in a single game with $69,000 and $65,600. Rogers returned to the game to try at the 2017 Tournament of Champions, where he finished third.
While it would have been natural for Rogers to quit his job and move on to bigger and better things with $400K in the bank, he kept his bartending career at Hell’s Kitchen instead. He spends his time working and hosting trivia nights, as he explained during an appearance on ABC News’ “Jeopardy!” episode in 2019: “I’m working! Why wouldn’t I come here, make money, and go out with my friends?” While he didn’t splurge, Rogers indulged in international vacations and “a 1989 Honda Civic family pickup truck in perfect condition” due to nostalgia stemming from his time in college. According to CNBC, he continued to commute to work on his bike and chose not to upgrade his apartment.
Austin David “Buzzy” Cohen’s journey to earn tons of cash through “Jeopardy!” began in April 2016, when he took home $164,603 throughout nine games. The Los Angeles, California, music executive scored several wins without betting anything on Final Jeopardy. This gave him time to joke with Alex Trebek, similar to some “Saturday Night Live parodies.”
Cohen wasn’t done with “Jeopardy!” with his nine-game winning streak, not by a long shot. According to The U.S. Sun, he was brought back for the 2017 Tournament of Champions, in which he won an attractive quarter-million dollar prize. That got his lifetime earnings to $414,603. Interestingly, Cohen is the only “Jeopardy!” contestant to win this tournament after winning a whopping $0 on the first day. His achievements made him popular with fans, so he was offered a concert as a guest host in May 2021. Cohen took the reins in the Tournament of Champions and again managed to charm the fans. With the hashtag “#HireBuzzy” trending on Twitter regarding the coveted permanent lodging spot, one Pio described it as “very funny, very intelligent, supremely skilled at gambling and hosting, extremely personable and… completely scandal-free!”
It turns out that this funny guy is just as smart with money as he has been in “Jeopardy!” Telling Grow it’s about “making sure” his kids are ready for college and that his and his wife’s retirement plans are in place, Cohen added, “I see retirement as a deferred fun expense because hopefully, I’ll be traveling.”