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The Jeopardy! Masters Have Already Outsmarted the Daily Double Format Change

For the first time, Jeopardy! is revealing the location of Daily Doubles — and it may not matter.
  • Amy Schneider and Matt Amodio on Jeopardy! Masters (Photo: ABC/Christopher Willard)
    Amy Schneider and Matt Amodio on Jeopardy! Masters (Photo: ABC/Christopher Willard)

    For Jeopardy! fans, Jeopardy! Masters is a can't-miss event. ABC's primetime series brings together the six highest-ranked, current contestants for a Champions League style competition, including James Holzhauer (star of The Chase and the runner-up in the Greatest of All Time tournament), Amy Schneider, No. 2 on the all-time consecutive wins list, and Mattea Roach, the show's first Gen Z phenom. The winner will take home $500,000 and the Trebek Trophy, not to mention ultimate bragging rights.

    While Jeopardy! Masters doesn't tinker with the tried-and-true formula too much, it does boast one major format change. For the first time in Jeopardy!'s almost 60-year history, the show is revealing the location of every Daily Double for viewers at home. Those who prefer to go Daily Double hunting alongside the contestants (who will, of course, remain in the dark) can "look away," as host Ken Jennings explained at the beginning of the premiere, to ensure their fun won't be spoiled.

    This new element is meant to enliven viewers' experience. Rather than passively watching along as the contestants work their way through the board, fans can cheer them on as they get close to a Daily Double — or tut-tut when they back away from a category at exactly the wrong moment. Jennings explained as much in a recent interview, calling the update "a big game of Battleship." He added, "I really like it because the host always knows where the Daily Doubles are in advance, so I get to watch a contestant who really needs the Daily Double kind of advance towards it. 'Oh, is she gonna get it? Oh no, she's switched categories!' You can really get a sense of how the match is changing and how the odds are changing in real-time."

    Jennings is correct that the Daily Double reveal has the potential to alter the way fans experience the game. In a sense, it invites viewers to step into the shoes of the producers and host, as they become holders of information the contestants so desperately want. For viewers who found themselves stumped by some of the premiere's more eccentric categories — myself included; those "Spoonerism Pairs" ("Bad Salad, Sad Ballad," etc.) were killer — knowing the location of the Daily Doubles may have been a lone moment of triumph amid 42 minutes of confusion.

    However, if Jennings and the Jeopardy! Masters producers were looking for a Battleship-style Daily Double hunt in the premiere, they certainly didn't get it. In Game 1, Matt Amodio, No. 3 on both the all-time consecutive wins list and highest regular season winnings list (with $1,518,601), found a Daily Double on the first turn of the Double Jeopardy! round, prompting Jennings to jokingly ask if he's secretly "watching at home."

    The same thing happened in Game 2. Just seconds after Jennings revealed the location of the Daily Double, Holzhauer guessed that exact clue to kick off the Jeopardy! round. "I think we've figured this algorithm out," said Holzhauer.

    Game 2's Double Jeopardy! round began on a less eventful note, but it didn't take long for Holzhauer to sniff out the next two Daily Doubles — on back-to-back turns, no less. As always, he opted to risk everything on a true Daily Double, both of which were successful. In a wholly unsurprising turn of events, Holzhauer entered Final Jeopardy! with a massive lead and won handily over Roach and Sam Buttrey, winner of the 2021 Professors Tournament.

    Holzhauer's dominant performance — and to a lesser extent Amodio's, as he came in third place despite his Daily Double success — suggests Jeopardy! Masters' big reveal may be better in theory than in reality. Part of the problem is that Holzhauer himself forever changed the game with his savvy strategy of actively seeking out Daily Doubles; as a result, contestants, especially veterans like these, are more likely to hop around the board in hopes of amassing more money (or, in this tournament, points). This kind of erratic approach reduces the potential excitement of the format change, as contestants either land on a Daily Double, or they don't. If players are jumping from one category to the next, it hardly matters that viewers know where the big payday is hiding.

    Of course, with 18 games to go — and three Daily Doubles to be found in each — there's plenty of time for Jeopardy! Masters' format change to achieve the desired effect. Still, these six contestants may very well be too good, and their Daily Double strategies too advanced, for this new element to make much of a difference in the way viewers experience the tournament.

    Jeopardy! Masters airs weeknights at 8:00 PM ET on ABC and streams next-day on Hulu. (For the full schedule, see here.) Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: Jeopardy! Masters, ABC, Jeopardy!, Amy Schneider, Andrew He, James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings, Matt Amodio, Mattea Roach, Sam Buttrey, Game Shows