Chad Mosher
Jeopardy, Video
Video: “Jeopardy!” Teen Tournament Semifinal Match, For the First Time, Ends With No Winner Thumbnail

Video: “Jeopardy!” Teen Tournament Semifinal Match, For the First Time, Ends With No Winner

It’s hard for a show that has been around for almost 30 years to make new moments, but for Jeopardy!, a first happened on yesterday’s program. The second match in the Teen Tournament semifinals occurred yesterday, with Kelton Ellis leading Joe Vertnik and Tori Amos by a wide – but not uncatchable – margin going into Final Jeopardy. The category was “Capital Cities” and they were presented with this clue: “It’s criss-crossed by dozens of ‘peace walls’ that separate its Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods.” Each player wrote down their answers, but two things were in common as Alex went down the line revealing their responses and wagers: each contestant wrote down “What is Dublin?” and each contestant wagered the entirety of their total. Unfortunately for them, the correct response was “What is Belfast?”

All three contestants lost their bets and finished in a tie with zero dollars. However, on Jeopardy!, $0 is never a winning score meaning that, for the first time this deep in tournament play, a match produces no winner. According to Alex at the end of the program, Wednesday’s winner and, assuming there is one, Friday’s winner will advance to the finals along with the highest-scoring non-winner from the semifinals. The only non-winner with a positive score so far is Irene Vazquez who finished with $100, so the second place finisher on tonight’s program will more than likely also head into the tournament. All three players finishing with $0 in a game has happened at least three times previously since 1984, including on the program’s second episode, but it has never happened this far in a tournament. We have video below of the dramatic ending of the game. Don’t forget to tune into Jeopardy! tonight to see how this unusual situation will resolve itself for Monday and Tuesday’s championship games.

Materials courtesy Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Chad Mosher

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31 responses to "Video: “Jeopardy!” Teen Tournament Semifinal Match, For the First Time, Ends With No Winner"

  • Dave C says:

    I see 3 Cliff Clavins there…. although technically the 2nd place guy did generally what you usually do in that case, although, even in that case, there is a better bet….

    These were the semi-finals, so, there are no “wild-cards” in general like the first round, you really need to win to get in, so, there shouldn’t have been any thought of betting for a WC spot like the first week….

    16,400…. the only person that can beat them can get to 24.000, so, he needed to bet 7,601
    12.000…. this guy thought he needed to bet his whole stash, because he needed to bet to force the 1st place bet…. although the alternate (and better) strategy when the guy ahead of you is not more than 50% of your total ahead of you (in this case, $18k), and 3rd place is no threat, is to bet nothing…. the outcome of the game really isn’t about whether you are right, it is then about if 1st place is right… you betting it all doesn’t change that if the first place person bets how they should be betting. If the person in front of you though is more than 50% ahead of you, you do need to bet enough if you do get it right to be ahead of their bet.
    1,600….. Considering the horrible betting of the first two, she should have won…. she has zero chance of winning if everyone in front of her bets how they “should” be betting… her only chance is them doing what they did, and then she should have bet at most $1,599… leave herself $1 in case the above happens.

    Alas, today’s teens with no reasoning skills, even the “smart” ones.

    • Poochy.EXE says:

      Just a minor nitpick: A Clavin is when someone has a runaway and risks throwing it away with an excessive wager, violating the golden rule of Final Jeopardy! wagering. This was not a runaway, nor was it the two-thirds scenario (which also has a very clearly optimal wager range, but doesn’t guarantee a win).

      But I do agree that Kelton’s wager was daftly excessive. Clavin in spirit but not in circumstances, if you will.

      This is why I believe players should prepare for the show by studying not just material, but also wagering strategy. Trying to figure out the optimal wager on the spot is much easier if you’ve thought out various scenarios ahead of time.

  • CJS says:

    That was a loosely defined category of capital cities. I got it right, but was not confident that was what they were looking for. I can see why all three got it wrong, assuming they were looking for capitals of independent countries, in which case Dublin would have to be right.

    As for the wagering tonight, it can be summarized by the classic expression “Go Big or Go Home.”

    Now the question I have is would it have been more fair for them to do a tiebreaker clue in this case, instead of having all 3 be eliminated? I mean it’s a tournament & it’s teenagers.

    • Andrew L. says:

      There is only a tiebreaker clue if there are two or more contestants tied at $1 or greater. As Chad stated, $0 is never a winning score on Jeopardy!.

      • CJS says:

        Now I am going to sound like I’m joking, but what if (and this is a massive if) the last semi-final ends in another 3 way tie at $0? Then what would Jeopardy do? I’m actually curious because I don’t know.

  • ROM says:

    I am 15 years-old, I could apply to become a Jeopardy contestant myself, and after watching that episode, I think I should.

    After Alex was done pronouncing the clue, I yelled out to the bedroom tv, “WHAT IS BELFAST?!?!”, and when I saw that all the contestants wager all their money all on Dublin, I was in shock. I would audition with my parents, but we are so far away.

  • ScottNotSteve says:

    Am I missing something here? Why wouldn’t the leader bet just enough to hold first place if the second placer bet it all and got it right, too. That way if all are wrong, he still wins.

    • Wayne says:

      The only thing you’re missing is the 2nd place person should’ve won by betting nothing. No sense betting anything as the 3rd place person could not catch 2nd place; and the 1st place person had to bet enough that he would fall below the 2nd place person’s total going into the final.

      It never ceases to amaze me how horrible contestants are at basic wagering strategy. Everything they go though to get on the show, yet they don’t give enough thought as to how to play the game.

  • GSN Fan says:

    Very weird last night. The contestant on the left who was in the lead shouldn’t have bet all his money. He had a big lead before Final Jeopardy!, and should have bet everything except $1, at the very most.

    • Curtis says:

      Nah, he should have bet exactly $7,601 (because this is a tournament, it really doesn’t make sense to try to go big – you don’t get to keep your winnings). It’s enough to cover your opponent if they bet everything and get it right, while also keeping the third place player out of the equation – she could double her score and can’t possibly catch you. At that point, you have to hope you get it right (instant victory), or if you miss it, hope your opponent also missed it and bet enough (at least $3,201) that they fall equal to or below your score.

      Now this being said, it’s a lot of game theory that a teenager, in a pressure situation, with x amount of time to decide on their wager (unfamiliar with the rules here, I would assume there’s a limit to keep the show moving) is likely not to analyze. Me sitting here at my computer under no pressure is a totally different scenario.

      • GSN Fan says:

        I wasn’t sure what amount he had before Final Jeopardy!, but I do know he shouldn’t have bet everything (the boy on the left)

  • CarShark says:

    I don’t know anything about Jeopardy betting or game theory or any of that, but I do know one thing: If there are three different scores at the start of Final Jeopardy and it ends in a tie, someone screwed up.

  • Whammy says:

    I read this blog often and rarely post, but this thread is nuts. They are teens; and teens have little foresight. Give all this game theory a break.

    • Dave C says:

      These are not “burn out” teens though… supposedly they are fairly “smart” teens, otherwise they wouldn’t be on Jeopardy. And while the 2nd place betting strategy is a bit esoteric (that you should really bet nothing instead of it all in his situation), what 1st & 3rd should have done is fairly basic… especially first place… I can see 3rd saying “who the heck cares, 1st place wouldn’t be stupid enough to bet enough for me to catch them anyway.”

  • Rusty says:

    All I will say is this: I was shocked to see this happen.

    First, the question was a bit tough since the situation in Northern Ireland has been peaceful most of the contestants’ lifetime and Dublin is more recognizable to Ireland than Belfast.

    Yes, the betting could have been thought out better, but what happen happened. All three of them still get 10K for making it this far, not a bad consolation for a thinking mishap.

    Finally, and I intent this not to be a spoiler, the contestants who are moving on from the third semi-final should make it a fun final to watch.

    • Josh says:

      Nah, I don’t think the clue was difficult. If they remembered anything from their 20th century history classes, they should know that the Republic of Ireland is predominantly Catholic, whereas Northern Ireland (a country of the predominantly Protestant United Kingdom) is a mixture of both. Belfast is its capital, and hence the correct answer.

      • CJS says:

        Was the clue difficult? Maybe. The average person is more likely to know that Dublin is the Capital of ALL of Ireland and not assume that the clue was referencing to just Northern Island & Belfast.

        Was the FJ category misleading? Absolutely, and that’s wha ultimately caused the triple-0 tie.

        • CJS says:

          *Northern Ireland

        • Poochy.EXE says:

          That’s just another aspect where studying the show itself would’ve paid off. I find that the FJ! categories are usually significantly harder than their categories sound, while the Daily Doubles’ barks are worse than their bites.

          I think Roger Craig and Ken Jennings both knew this and wagered more aggressively on DDs (and I believe they were right to do so), and to a lesser extent Colby Burnett in this year’s Teachers Tournament. I’m a bit more hesitant about trying to predict their psychology on FJ! since both Craig and Jennings had a high ratio of lock games, which would discourage overly aggressive wagering in the first place. But I believe most contestants tend wager too little on DDs and too much on FJ!, including this match.

  • AEI says:

    Actually, I wonder if this wasn’t a function of having the “dollars” in front of the clues. Contestants in the tournaments are playing for “points” until the finals.

    I understand why they do dollars, but I think betting strategy would be a lot different if they told people “only the player with the most points advances.”

    But at any rate, why the player in the lead risked everything still boggles the mind.

    • Andrew L. Budny says:

      AEI, the contestants always play for cash durring the tournaments, whether it the teen, college or kids weeks. The only time points were played for was durring the 13 week Super Jeopardy tournament which aired on ABC in the summer of 1990 and that was durring the preliminaries and quarter finals.

      But getting back on topic, this was an absolute shocker to me. I can’t believe all three players got zero and in a tournament no less. But it does make a great moment in Jeopardy tournament history none the less.

      • Chad Mosher says:

        No, the dollar figures remain since that’s how Jeopardy! rolls, but the “money” they “earn” before the finals isn’t awarded, so they may as well be referred to as points. You could earn a score of $50,000 in the quarterfinals, but all that is is a big score and a guarantee of being a semifinalist where the minimum payment is $10,000.

  • CM says:

    Question: Will the players on Monday know about this situation going into their game or do they have no prior knowledge of the semi-final games played before them? There’s a bit less pressure going into Final Jeopardy knowing that you can still advance as one of the top two finishers (especially since you’d only need to finish with more than $100). Hypothetically, should only two players make it to Final on Monday, they’d both be assured of advancing presuming they know what happened on Thursday and Friday. That might not be the case if they were unfamiliar with how the previous games played-out. Can anyone clarify–do tourney contestants know the results of their competitors’ games?

    • Chad Mosher says:

      This happened on a Thursday, so Friday was the last semifinal. Contestants are sequestered from seeing each other’s games during the quarterfinals, but they are not in the semifinals.

      • AEI says:

        In this particular instance, this strikes me as an “unfair” rule. Knowing the exact score they need to overcome in order to advance gives the players on day three a huge advantage over their opponents on day one.

        • Poochy.EXE says:

          To be fair, the rule only becomes unfair in the event of a 3-way $0 finish in one of the first two semifinals, and this is the first time it’s happened in 29 years. They probably never thought it could happen.

          It’s like the first 6-way tournament tie in the history of the Japanese quiz show “Super Time Shock” – the show wasn’t prepared for it, because evidently nobody ever thought all 6 players could tie at the exact same score. They had to resort to rock-paper-scissors to break the tie. Mind you, this is also a show that’s been airing for decades in Japan, and it took until 2009 for that tie to happen.

  • The Graduate Kid says:

    I am not sure this the 1st 3 $0′s, or as it should be called, 3 0′s, in the same show of a Jeopardy! tournament. I recall a 3 0′s show during a show 1-5 in a seniors tournament. 5 top scoring losers got to continue play in that tournament.

  • peddy says:

    A 3-way $0 finish? Alex should force the Jeopardy Teen Tournament into a Tie-Breaker Question OR Award the contestant with the high money total after Double Jeopardy 1 of 4 Wild-Card spots to high finishers among the non-winners by default!!!

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