If you ever dreamed of being on a trivia game show, Jeopardy! champion and “Chaser” from The Chase (Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET on CityTV in Canada) Brad Rutter, the all-time biggest money winner in Jeopardy! history, is spilling tips on how to be a trivia master.
Rutter explained to Yahoo Canada that sometimes, when it’s a contestant’s first time answering trivia questions on TV, they have that “thousand yard stare,” looking nervous, and oftentimes they don’t do as well if they can’t keep their cool.
“For the contestants...it's nerve-wracking being up there and if they could just take a breath during the commercial breaks, that's probably going to work out better for them,” he said.
For Rutter, he tries to “switch off” as much as possible trivia-wise during the commercial breaks but he is still thinking of some funny jokes he can come back with in the next segment.
“That's been the toughest part of the job for me, just trying to put on a good show because the trivia aspect is pretty natural to me at this point,” he said.
The most important tricks to win Jeopardy!
Another piece of advice from the trivia G.O.A.T., related to Jeopardy! in particular, is that being able to get to that buzzer first and optimizing your chances on Daily Doubles is “pretty much everything.”
“If you get on the show you have enough knowledge to win.I'd say the buzzer is the most important just because most of the time all three people know the right response.”Brad Rutter, highest-earning Jeopardy! winner ever
“That was the genius of the original Jeopardy! concept [with] the Daily Doubles, the game can turn in a second.”
Rutter added that he believes fellow Chaser and Jeopardy! champion James Holzhauer is the person who brought people’s attention to the importance of betting big in the Daily Doubles.
“Most people really just don't bet enough,” Rutter said.
“If you're on the show, you probably have a 60, 65 per cent chance of getting a Daily Double right. So if you run the numbers out on that your expected value is a lot higher if you bet big than if you just bet $2,000 or whatever, which I used to do because nobody had ever really thought about that before when I was first on the show.”
Why The Chase is different
Moving onto The Chase, Rutter’s big piece of advice is “don’t be afraid to pass.”
“There's no penalty, there is for us the Chasers because in the Final Chase, if we pass it's just as bad as a wrong answer and the team still gets a push back opportunity but for the team, if you don't know, don't waste time,” he explained. “You only have two minutes up there, you just throw that question out and get a new one.”
How does ‘The Chase’ work?
In The Chase, a team of contestants battle against a quiz champion to win money. Three of the greatest Jeopardy! contestants of all time, Rutter, Holzhauer and Ken Jennings are joined by British chaser Mark "The Beast" Labbett in the current second season of the show to try to stump contestants.
In the Final Chase, the final round, players have two minutes to give as many correct answers to a set of questions as possible, with each correct answer moving the team up one step on the game board. The Chaser then has two minutes to do the same but if he passes or misses a question, the team has a chance to essentially steal that question and move ahead. The Chaser has to catch up to the contestants before the time runs out to beat them.
Rutter describes the show as the “best of both worlds” combining Jeopardy! and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, moving at a rapid pace of close to 150 questions per show, on a good night.
“On Millionaire, it's all about the dramatic moments where a person gives their final answer and then there's a dramatic pause, and then they reveal whether they're right or wrong, which we have in the Individual Chase portions of the show,” he explained.
“It's really compelling to see when the contestant is one step from the bank and they're not sure whether their answer is correct and they show the wrong answer, and then they wait to reveal the Chaser’s answer and there's that tension of whether we got it right and caught them, or whether they're going to get it right and get to the bank.”
Rutter explained that this team approach to The Chase allowed these trivia champions to pick up some pointers from each other.
“That was one good thing about having Mark there this time because he's played more Chases than anybody else,” he explained.
“He was giving us little tips, especially if you're facing a team that put up 21, 22 questions, the instinct is to rush a little bit but don’t, take your time. It'll accelerate by the end and if you're trying to spit out answers too fast you can make mistakes that you wouldn't otherwise, which I thought was really useful advice and helped me out, certainly.”
The legacy of ‘Jeopardy!’
Moving from Jeopardy! into The Chase, Rutter recognizes that Jeopardy! is an institution and the legacy of the late Alex Trebek coming into homes every night made fans feel very connected to him and the show itself, in addition the viewer’s ability to play along from their couch.
But Rutter shared that Trebek also had these great personal interactions with the contestants as well.
“In the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, which was 15 years ago now,...Ken and Jerome [Vered] and I were getting ready to go up and play the finals, and we all were just nervous wrecks,” he revealed. “I think it was Jerome who said ‘well how about we just take out pants off...that’ll cut the tension.’”
“When we were getting ready to play, Alex came out with no pants on… I think that tells you all you need to know about Alex, everybody loved the fact that he took the game and the contestants very seriously, but he didn't take himself seriously, I think that's great advice for anyone.”Brad Rutter, highest-earning Jeopardy! winner ever