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The 15 Most Beloved "Jeopardy!" Contestants of All Time

This list includes big winners—and competitors known for their big hearts.

For almost 60 years, watching Jeopardy! has been a weeknight tradition for countless viewers. The show's longtime host, the late Alex Trebek, became a household name—as have some of the more memorable champions. While plenty of Jeopardy! contestants are remembered because they're controversial, others are simply well-liked as a result of their talent, quirkiness, or gameplay. Read on for the 15 most beloved Jeopardy! contestants of all time.

RELATED: Jeopardy! Slammed for "Shameful" Answer Ruling: "One of the Worst Mistakes I've Seen."

Eddie Timanus

eddie timarus on jeopardy

Eddie Timanus first took to the Jeopardy! stage in October 1999 and was the first blind contestant to be on the show. He won an impressive five games before his streak ended due to the rules at the time, which required champs to retire after five wins.

Timanus went on to participate in several Jeopardy! tournaments, and he's consistently referenced as a fan favorite.

"Love Eddie, definitely a top 5 favorite J! champ for me," a post on the r/Jeopardy Reddit thread reads.

Another poster noted that Timanus was also one of Trebek's favorite players, which is reason enough to put him on this list.

"Eddie was one of Alex's favourite contestants and one of the few who was mentioned in his memoir," a Redditor wrote. "He's a very special champion."

Colby Burnett

colby burnett on jeopardy

Colby Burnett is another Jeopardy! contestant who fans truly adore. In fact, there's an entire Reddit thread dedicated to "Colby Burnett Appreciation."

"Colby is my all-time favorite contestant ever to play Jeopardy," a post on the thread reads. "He was sooo intelligent and fun to watch. Also as a Black long time Jeopardy fan, it felt great to have some representation and for him to be such a good player was the icing on the cake."

Burnett is the only Jeopardy! contestant to win both the Teachers Tournament and the Tournament of Champions (ToC), but fans love him for more than just his quizzing prowess. Viewers particularly enjoyed the AP History teacher's quirky mannerisms and signature confident head turn when he answered questions correctly.

RELATED: Controversial Jeopardy! Player Slammed for "Rude and Gross" Remark During Game.

Matt Jackson

matt jackson on jeopardy

Fans couldn't get enough of Matt Jackson's slow smile when he competed back in 2015.

In fact, Today even dedicated a segment to Jackson's interviews, in which he would start out with a straight face and then gradually break out his smile. His rapid-fire responses to questions also earned him some fans, but the grin isn't something dedicated Jeopardy! viewers will ever forget.

Dana Venator

dana venator on jeopardy

Back in 1987, Dana Venator competed in the Teen Tournament, where she gave some of the funniest answers during the interview segment.

She's another contestant that Trebek held near and dear to his heart. In his memoir The Answer Is…, he even went so far as to dub her his all-time favorite to talk to, per Entertainment Weekly.

RELATED: Why the Original Wheel of Fortune Host Was Fired After Just One Season.

Ken Jennings

ken jennings first jeopardy episode

Even if you've never watched a single episode of Jeopardy!, chances are you've heard the name Ken Jennings. He's won the most consecutive Jeopardy! games and earned the highest winnings of any contestant.

In a discussion of favorite contestants on the r/Jeopardy Reddit thread, fans are quick to dub Jennings the "GOAT," an acronym that stands for the "greatest of all time." There's only more love for him since he took over as the show's co-host, alongside actor Mayim Bialik.

"His timing and thinking on this feet have been impeccable, as is his ability to banter with contestants," a comment on the "Appreciation post for Ken Jennings" Reddit thread reads.

Chuck Forrest

chuck forrest jeopardy

Another fan favorite is Chuck Forrest, who competed all the way back on Season 2 of Jeopardy!.

On a July 2020 Instagram post—which announced a Jeopardy! Vault episode featuring Forrest–commenters were quick to name the alum as one of their favorites.

"Chuck Forrest was my hero…I was in 9th grade when he was champion and tournament of champions winner," a comment reads.

Another added, "Chuck Forrest is one of my favorites. I saw all five of his wins back in the day when Jeopardy was on at 4 pm."

According to Distractify, Forrest is known as the "Alexander the Great of Jeopardy! players," and he also coined a controversial strategy: the Forrest Bounce. The technique involves jumping from category to category, rather than clearing a category before moving on to another. It's a strategy that's been used by other big winners, including James Holzhauer.

In 2024, Forrest caused a stir when he came back for the Jeopardy! Invitational Tournament, where he was a quarterfinalist.

James Holzhauer

James Holzhauer on Jeopardy!

Speaking of Holzhauer, he's another household name, record-breaker, and potential GOAT. He's beloved by fans for his sheer talent at playing the game and his "perfect combo of knowledge, strategy and guts," a comment on the Reddit thread discussing fan favorites reads.

Holzhauer is second only to Jennings in highest winnings (during regular-season play), but thanks to his bold wagering style, he holds all top 10 spots for single-game winnings.

"James is my favorite, because he is the reason I started watching the show," a Redditor wrote, also acknowledging his fondness for Forrest.

Another wrote that watching "Jeopardy! James" was reminiscent of "watching Michael Jordan in his prime."

Alex Jacob

alex jacob answering daily double

Another Jeopardy! contestant beloved for his quirkiness is Alex Jacob.

On a separate post in the r/Jeopardy subreddit, one fan named him as his favorite because "he was so odd."

"Alex is absolutely my favorite contestant of all time," another wrote. "I've always been in favor of betting big on Daily Doubles, and the way he bet was awesome. While most people's dream is to be on Jeopardy and say 'I'll make it a true daily double,' my dream is to be on Jeopardy and say 'bet it all' and wave my hand just as Alex would when he bet on DD."

Interestingly enough, not everyone was a fan of the former professional poker player initially, but he ended up winning them over.

"Alex Jacob is memorable because I wasn't too sure about him at first, but he grew on me to the point that he's up there on my list," a Redditor wrote.

RELATED: Jeopardy! Champ James Holzhauer Says Recent Winner "Should Get a Lifetime Ban."

Julia Collins

julia collins jeopardy

Julia Collins is a name that pops up often on lists of Jeopardy! favorites.

"She was obviously very smart but not at all cocky or [conceited]," a comment on Reddit reads.

Another agreed, adding, "Lots of great players but [Julia] was sooo much fun to watch compete…I went straight home after work to watch her shows and was so bummed when she finally lost. Truly a magical run that I enjoyed immensely. She will probably always be my favorite. I just found her so endearing."

One fan pointed out that Julia was one of the "big shot women" to compete—winning 20 games in 2015—and another said that her story was one you wanted to root for.

"Julia Collins was particularly gratifying because she talked of paying off her student loans, and it is so nice that with her winnings she can do that and still have extra for herself (not common on J!) Can you say 'goals?'" a Redditor wrote. "Plus she is such a good sport."

Brad Rutter

brad rutter jeopardy

Brad Rutter is yet another that fans adore, both for his skill—he holds the record for the highest all-time winnings, including tournaments—and his overall attitude.

"Brad is probably the best jeopardy player of all time," a Redditor wrote, noting that he's also a "cool dude."

Another Redditor speculated that Rutter would have won more games had his run not been stopped after five wins (like Timanus).

"I think he and Ken would be close in number of games won if Brad hadn't been capped," a comment reads.

Frank Spangenberg

frank spangenberg on jeopardy
ABC / YouTube

Back in the '90s, New York City cop Frank Spangenberg won five straight games before being required to put down his buzzer after hitting the maximum streak. He set a new-one-day winnings record in his last game, and he held the record for five-day total winnings for 29 years until Holzhauer broke it in 2019.

Fans on Reddit fondly remember the champ as both "an outstanding player" and a "real gentleman." Illustrating both of these qualities, when he broke $100,000—players were capped at winning $75,000—he donated the remaining $27,597 of his winnings to the Gift of Love Hospice in New York City.

"One of my favorite players!! I remember his original run on the show," a fan wrote on a July 2020 Facebook post, when the show was airing old episodes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I remember this guy! When I was a young kid my brothers and I watched him the first time he was ever on jeopardy," another comment reads. "We talked about him for years afterwards (to this day in fact!) we used to say he was the smartest guy we ever saw."

Many on social media also pointed out that Spangenberg may have won many more games if given the chance, and he did actually go on to compete in future tournaments, winning the 10th Anniversary Tournament in 1993.

Larissa Kelly

larissa kelly jeopardy
ABC / YouTube

Larissa Kelly is beloved by Jeopardy! fans too, and she's consistently mentioned on the GOAT Woman edition thread on Reddit. She was the first female champion to ever win more than five games in 2008, also holding the record for regular-plan winnings for a female champion until Collins usurped her.

"Larissa Kelly is in a league all to herself. She could probably give Ken, Brad and James a run for their money, given the opportunity," a Redditor wrote.

"I think a lot of us will agree on Larissa Kelly. I've only seen her in the All-Stars, but she really stood out to me there," another added.

RELATED: The 6 Most Controversial Jeopardy Contestants of All Time.

Sam Buttrey

sam buttrey on jeopardy
ABC / YouTube

This list certainly wouldn't be complete without Sam Buttrey, who started out playing and winning the 2021 Professors Tournament. Throughout his appearances in additional tournaments, fans couldn't get enough of his wit, affable personality—and resemblance to actor Steve Martin.

Buttrey has several dedicated Reddit threads with fans pronouncing their love for him, including one named, "Sam Buttrey is a national treasure." The original poster writes, "That's all, the guy just makes me smile every time he's on. In a show famous for its often humorless contestants, it's a relief to see someone who's not only really good at the game, but (gasp) actually visibly having fun with it."

Others were quick to agree, with one writing, "Sam might be the most beloved player in jeopardy of all time. I hope he reads these appreciation posts!"

Another joked that their enjoyment of Buttrey goes beyond the Alex Trebek Stage. "Just give Sam his own show. I don't care about what. I'll watch," they wrote.

Amy Schneider

amy schneider jeopardy
ABC / Facebook

Jeopardy! powerhouse Amy Schneider has a place on a fan-favorite list as well. She won 40 straight games between Nov. 2021 and Jan. 2022 and clinched the win in the Nov. 2022 ToC. She is second only to Jennings with her winning streak.

On a Facebook post celebrating Schneider's ToC win, a fan wrote, "I think she's my favorite contestant ever. So happy for her."

In response to another Facebook video, another fan dubbed Schneider: "One of the greatest Jeopardy champions EVER!"

But beyond her brains, others celebrate Schneider as a role model and representative of the LGBTQ+ community.

"I heard Amy speak via Zoom to a Montreal audience. What a great spokesperson she is for Jeopardy, the LGBTQ+ community, and people in general. Go see her if you get the chance!" a viewer wrote on Facebook.

Arthur Chu

arthur chu jeopardy
ABC / YouTube

Peruse any list of controversial Jeopardy! players and you'll definitely stumble upon Arthur Chu's name. Chu was an 11-day winner, but while some deemed his tough to watch, others couldn't get enough of this Jeopardy! "villain." He pops up on Reddit lists of fan favorites, and he's also got his own threads dedicated to discussing his strategy and the criticism he received.

"Arthur played the purest form of Jeopardy there is. He hunted for Daily Doubles so the other contestants couldn't get them; to do this, he picked clues out of order. This also kept his opponents off-kilter," a fan wrote on a Reddit post discussing the flak Chu received.

"I thought he was a blast to watch," another added of Chu. On a separate thread a viewer said, "I loved Arthur! Totally unaware that anyone hated him!"

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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