Matt Amodio may be the fourth-highest earner in Jeopardy! History, but his unique answering style has stolen the show, for better or worse. Throughout Amodio’s 15-day winning streak, the Jeopardy! Champ has rubbed viewers the wrong way with his choice to answer all clues with “what’s,” regardless of if the answer is a thing or a person, but it turns out there is a strategy behind the madness.
Coming off a stunning winning streak, Amodio, a fifth-year Computer Science Ph.D. candidate from New Haven, Connecticut, opened up about his answering technique in a new interview for the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science. While Amodio acknowledged that “other people have been very upset about me being robotic instead of forming a question differently each time,” he said he has “a strategy where I form all of my questions with a ‘what’s at the beginning.” Amodio said that doing this allows him to “focus on the rest of the clue.” Amodio likened his technique to methods used in computer science.
“That’s the kind of thing we do in computer science all the time. You have a section of your program, and it does ‘A,’ or it does ‘B,’ and it has to decide which,” he said. “Then you realize, ‘Wait, we never actually need to do ‘B,’ so you cut that off and leave a smaller bit of program. It’s cleaner, and where fewer things are moving, there are fewer things that can go wrong.”
Although Amodio’s unique method of responding has irked some viewers, he hasn’t actually broken any rules. In fact, as criticism over his answering quirk grew, the game show came out in defense of the reigning champ. In a tweet, the game show said his use of “what’s” in his responses is “totally acceptable,” and the official Jeopardy! rules state that “all contestant responses to an answer must be phrased in the form of a question,” and the show “doesn’t require that the response is grammatically correct.” This means that Amodio’s “no-frills approach is unique but well with guidelines.” Amodio said he was “glad that Jeopardy! said this was perfectly within the rules,” adding that he has “watched Jeopardy! every day of my life, so I knew it was OK.”
Amodio’s answering style certainly hasn’t impacted his gameplay. In fact, Amodio currently ranks as the fourth-highest earner in Jeopardy! History with a winning total of more than $475,000 as of this publication. He has won 15 straight games and has secured himself a spot in the Tournament of Champions next season.