Jeopardistas: What do you think of Arthur Chu?

Well apparently this guy, Arthur Chu, has been using game theory to win Jeopardy. Deatails here. The basics are these, he hunts for the Daily Double, starting at the bottom of categories and jumping around. I doubt many here have a problem with it, but many seem to hate it…saying it is isn’t the way Jeopardy! is supposed to be played.

This strategy is nothing new. I don’t have the exact person (Chuck Foreman, maybe?) who did it first to great effect, but that’s been around since the '80s. Bob Harris devotes a couple of paragraphs to this method in his book “Prisoner of Trebekistan.” Chu is just the latest person to use it effectively.

As for his five dollar bet on the Sports Daily Double a couple of nights ago, which I hear is also bunching up panties, so what? If you can’t win on a daily double, then obviously you have to remove it from the other players’ reaches, and minimize the damage an incorrect answer will do to you.

The object of the show is to win. I say sit back, watch and learn something from this guy.

There was a Chuck Forrest on the show many years ago; that’s probably who you’re thinking of. He even has a Wikipedia entry that describes his tactic as the “Forrest Bounce”.

Why do I remember that, and should Jeopardy have a category someday about former Jeopardy contestants?

I always wondered why most people move down a column from least to most money – the questions don’t particularly seem to get more difficult in a manner corresponding to their value. It seemed to me to make more sense to work from the bottom up.

I enjoy getting into a groove with the categories, so I don’t like the jumping around. And he’s boring, so he’s not someone I’m really rooting for, but I have no objection to the way he’s playing. And the $5 bet was smart.

It doesn’t matter where you pick your answers, you still need to know the right question. I think he’s doing a great job.

There are times when it’s easier to figure out the answers to the higher dollar clues if you go through the easy ones first, especially in categories where there is a limited amount of answers (remembering the answers don’t repeat within a category, with very very few exceptions).

And Robot Arm, thank you. I was this close.

Yup. It’s one of those times where good game strategy (defensive play and context-based wagering) decreases the enjoyability of the show.

It’s also tougher for a viewer to play along when he jumps all over just because we don’t have the category names visible all the time, so it’s easy to read a clue and not quite remember the category.

In Jeopardy books, Trebek gently criticizes betting under face-value on Daily Doubles.

Oh, I not-so-gently criticize wagering anything less than the max for the round when yelling at my TV. But the one exception is a category you know you are extremely weak in (I think Chu’s was sports related).

I actually get more upset at people that don’t consider their opponents scores when wagering at the end of Double Jeopardy. They tend to dramatically undervalue the benefit of wagering enough to ensure a runaway (which to me is second only to ensuring you are ahead going in to final).

I’m just wondering, did this guy hire himself a publicist? Because I can’t remember anyone having this much non-Jeopardy! air time after less than five wins.

And if he did, wouldn’t that be against the rules since his last episode hasn’t aired yet? I’ve heard that Sony is really tough on their non-disclosure until the contestant’s final episode has aired.

I got OTA-TV for the first time two years ago and only watch Jeopardy now.

I found the answering questions from the top of the column downward boring to watch. Chu is the most interesting digression I have seen.

I have been frustrated almost daily by the betting. It seems to me that only occasionally does a contestant calculate the value of a bet. Chu is a charming exception to the silly betting.

The subject of Daily Double strategy has been much studied and the general consensus is that in terms of pure game theory, almost all Jeopardy! contestants bet WAY too low. You should be very aggressive on Daily Doubles, though obviously proportional to your understanding of the category and the tactical situation. When I get on (positive thinking! positive thinking!) I’ll probably assess the categories as such:

Category 1: Subjects I Am Virtually Certain To Get The Answer To (Baseball, most sports, anything to do with Canada, most geography, etc.) - Bet everything

Category 2: Subjects I Have A Pretty Good Chance At - (most types of history, common science, etc.) - Bet much more than the max on the board, specifically to either have more than twice the next person’s score, or get above half the leader’s score.

Category 3: Subjects I Am Not Good At (biology, art of almost any kind, some literature categories, drama) - Minimize the damage. Bet the question value and possibly less.

As I said, though, it depends on the situation and remaining categories, value left on the board, and such.

As to bouncing up and down the values, though, I don’t really see what Arthur is getting out of it. While I haven’t thought through this a lot, the order in which the clues are uncovered seems irrelevant. In most Jeopardy! rounds, all, or very close to all, of the clues will be uncovered anyway, so it really makes no difference whether you work up or down. If he’s trying to pop the Daily Doubles early that’s fine but they’re proportionally less valuable to him if caught early, and since he’s very good, I don’t know why he would try to get them later. Suppose, someone soon when I am on the game please God please God please God, the category BASEBALL comes up. It’s effectively certain I know all the answers and will run the category; Jeopardy!'s standard of difficult on baseball questions is child’s play to an obsessive fan. How should I begin?

Obviously, I should NOT start at the bottom. In fact, I should not start with that category at all; I should play for at least 5-10 questions to try to win some money, and THEN start with baseball once I get control of the board, and start from the top. Then if baseball does have a Daily Double I can double up my score with ease, but I’ll be doubling up more money. If I start Baseball at the $1600 clue and hit the Daily Double, I just threw away the chance to double what I would have earned from the three lower value clues. That would be $4800, a gigantic chunk of money that would be a decisive margin in a lot of Jeopardy! matches. If the lady next to me who’s a savant in physics wants to blow all that money by not starting at the top in the Physics category, she’s welcome to go right ahead and do that.

I don’t see how this idea is any less valuable for any player with any confidence at all in a category. Picking out the Daily Doubles is only advantageous if you believe your opponents to be better than you, and therefore more likely to use them to dominate you. At this point it seems clear Arthur can’t seriously think he is worse than the average opponent.

In general, the manner in which contestants bet in Jeopardy! is indescribably terrible. As Jas09 points out they not only underbet but make utterly mystifying decisions that suggest they don’t even know what he score is. (It also applies to buzzing in at the end; I’ve seen situations where Player 1 is leading 16000-13800, there’s one $2000 clue left, and he buzzes in. Why would you do that?) In fact, the betting is so wildly out of proportion to the contestant’s trivia knowledge that I find it hard to understand aside from maybe being a symptom of stage fright.

Oh, and a final note: Anyone who has a personal problem with Chu’s strategy is a complete and utter imbecile who isn’t smart enough to be an alternate on “The Price is Right.” The man is playing for real money, life-changing money, and if he’s got a strategy to win he should damn well do it. The name of the game is to beat your opponents and win a whole bunch of money. It’s not about being nice, it’s about bringing home the bacon, and he’s not cheating so I say good for him.

That doesn’t matter for his strategy. He’s just as happy finding daily doubles in categories he has no clue about.

The Daily Doubles add variance, so if he’s really better than his opponents, it’s to his advantage to get them off the board. Also, I think it can be confusing to opponents to not know what category is coming next.

I’d have to agree with that. Zinging around the board must be offputting; heck, just watching I’m sometimes confused by the question because I’m not sure of the category.

Of course, now it occurs to me that of course the other advantage to DD mining is that you deny your opponent the opportunity to do precisely what I suggested I would do; rip a preferred category in the hopes a DD is there. If I’m hunting for a DD in Baseball and you know nothing about baseball it would still be to your enormous advantage to uncover that DD even if you don’t know a baseball from a football; get the DD, bet nothing or very little, and now I can’t use it.

Here’s a recent article from a contestant who was trounced by The Bounce, and what he has to say about the whole kerfluffle.

This. He’s not using any information or strategy that isn’t available to any other player; there’s nothing unfair about what he’s doing, and it’s not against the official rules. The only reason people are whining about “that’s not how you’re supposed to play the game” is because few people have ever played it that way before - and the only reason for that is that most people don’t put much thought into it.

For a similar situation, see Michael Larson, who worked very, very hard in the early 1980’s to memorize the light patterns on the game show “Press Your Luck” and was able to pull off a mind-blowing winning streak. Fellow contestants who hadn’t won a goddam thing were weirded out by Larson’s insistence on taking chance after chance after chance, thinking he was some kind of crackpot compulsive gambler. The show’s staff suspected he was cheating, but in the end they determined he was not: like Chu, he was not using any information or strategy that wasn’t available to any other player - and wasn’t against the official rules - and so they handed over his massive winnings.

I don’t get the criticism for only betting enough to tie for the win. Doesn’t that give his opponent the opportunity to also win some money? Shouldn’t he be commended for that?

I’d do that. We’d both come back the next day, and maybe my opponent would do the favor back.