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How Much Money Can You Really Win On Jeopardy!?

Insight into what's possible if you're the world's luckiest game show contestant, from a Jeopardy! hopeful.

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As I filtered through my email this evening, I found an invitation to register (again) for the Jeopardy! online test. I take it every year, and still the closest I ever came to being a contestant was in 1996, when I tried out in person at the Hilton in New York. I made it to the third round, where I was unceremoniously cut from the pool of potential contestants.

While I wait for the day when I get the inevitable call from the contestant relations department, I've decided to spend some time figuring out exactly how much I'll win in my first appearance. Look out, Ken Jennings!

This calculation assumes several things:

* The dollar amounts for the categories will remain as they are today.

* I will be rewarded, Cliff Clavin style, exclusively with categories for which I am an undisputed expert.

* Both of my opponents will be common clams (or some other type of bivalves), with no ability to press the button, let alone hold the buzzer.

* All three Daily Doubles will be hidden under the lowest value clues on the board, and they all will be selected last.

* All Daily Double wagers will be maximum "true daily double" wagers.

* The Final Jeopardy wager also will be a maximum wager.

Jeopardy! Round

Beginning with round one, the Jeopardy! round, I can select clues in any order. I will ring in and offer a correct response for every single clue. The bivalves will occasionally spit, but will never ring in. As you can see, the Daily Double will be hidden under the $200 clue in category six. This will be the last clue chosen. By this time I will have accumulated a total of $17,800. I will bet it all and offer a correct response on the Daily Double, bringing my grand total to $35,600 for round one. Not too shabby.

Double Jeopardy! Round

Now that I've amassed a small fortune in the Jeopardy! round, it's time to take on the Double Jeopardy! round. My starting position is strong, and there's a better-than-average likelihood that Trebek will see me again tomorrow, but not before I add to my bankroll. I have $35,600 at this point, and I'm ready to take on another round of categories that somehow all align with my areas of personal expertise.

I start ripping through the Double Jeopardy! categories with the same ease I had in round one. Once again, I'm able to choose whichever clues I want, as long as I select the Daily Doubles as the last two clues. As you can see, they're hidden under the lowest value clues in categories five and six.

The total possible take for the Double Jeopardy! round after giving correct responses to all clues but the Daily Doubles is $35,600. When I add that to my winnings from the Jeopardy! round, I have a staggering $70,800.

Now it's time to reveal the Daily Double clues. After finding the first one and betting everything on it, I offer a correct response and wind up with $141,600. Side note: this far exceeds the highest one-day total in Jeopardy! history. Roger Craig won $77,000 in 2010. In any event, we know that the final clue also is a Daily Double, and we know that I'm going to bet all $141,600 on the clue and get it right.

I've now set all kinds of records, and I'm sure to be the talk of pop culture with my grand total of $283,200, but I'm not finished yet.

Final Jeopardy!

It's time to make real history and bet everything I have on Final Jeopardy!, which of course is a category in which I'm an expert. My hand may shake a bit when during the commercial break I write down the number $283,200 as my Final Jeopardy! wager, but I'm confident in my expertise.

Needless to say, we come back from the break, the iconic theme music plays, and I write down a completely correct response. I've now doubled my winnings, coming away with a cool $566,400.

So there you have it; the maximum possible take for a game of Jeopardy! is a whopping $566,400. I think I'm beginning to understand why they haven't called.

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