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The 9 Most Controversial "Jeopardy!" Contestants of All Time

Love them or hate them, these nine players caused a stir during their time on (and off) the show.

As one of the longest-running game shows in television history, Jeopardy! has had a staggering number of contestants—almost 60 years' worth, to be exact. With so many different vibes and approaches among them, it's not surprising that some players have ruffled viewers' feathers more than others. From polarizing playing styles to off-putting attitudes, these nine Jeopardy! contestants are an ongoing subject of debate among the show's devoted fanbase. Read on to find out why they're considered to be the most controversial of all time.

RELATED: The 15 Most Beloved Jeopardy! Contestants of All Time.

Yogesh Raut

yogesh raut on jeopardy
Jeopardy! / Facebook

During Season 39 of Jeopardy!, viewers met Yogesh Raut, who held a three-episode winning streak from Jan. 11 to Jan. 16. Fans were quick to call him out for his apparent lack of sportsmanship when he didn't clap for Katie Palumbo after she dethroned him, as well as his "smug and arrogant" behavior during the game.

While some were on Raut's team, others were happy to see him go. However, that certainly wasn't the last we heard from the contestant. Raut took to Facebook to air his grievances about Jeopardy! as a whole, calling the game "a glorified reality show" that shouldn't be considered "the Olympics of quizzing."

Raut continued to post for the next few days, further stoking the fire with fans.

"'Jeopardy!' is a fun TV show but putting it on a pedestal is an objectively bad thing," Raut wrote. "It's bad for the future of quizzing. It's bad for women and [people of color] who want to be treated with the same levels of dignity as their White male counterparts."

Raut's rant even got a response from Jeopardy! legend James Holzhauer, who joked that Raut should get "a lifetime ban" from the game as a result.

Raut has since apologized for offending fans, but his off-putting behavior was noted once again during the 2024 Jeopardy! Masters competition. Fans alleged that the second-place finisher was being "smug" yet again and also displaying an unsportsmanlike attitude.

Arthur Chu

arthur chu jeopardy
ABC / YouTube

Eleven-day champ Arthur Chu is best known for his controversial playing style. In 2014, Jeopardy! viewers were infuriated by his tendency to "hunt for the Daily Doubles"—breaking up the typical (and beloved) normal rhythm of the game. Of course, that has now become a much more popular tactic.

Chu has been dubbed "the most hated champion," thanks in large part to his social media use. When his episodes aired (Jeopardy! is pre-taped), he would live-tweet throughout the show, retweeting critiques and positive responses to his gameplay, Bustle reported.

Chu spoke out on his role as a "Jeopardy! villain" in an op-ed for The Washington Post, where he spoke on his disdain for the continually changing hosts in the wake of Alex Trebek's death.

"Some of the names people called me online stung, but in the end I couldn't be mad; I'd been a fan since I was a child, too, and I knew how it felt to have something you love change unexpectedly," Chu wrote.

RELATED: Jeopardy! Producer Defends "Nightmare" Final Clue Fans Call the "Worst Ever."

Buzzy Cohen

buzzy cohen jeopardy

Some contestants are controversial because people feel so strongly one way or the other. Buzzy Cohen—who won a total of nine games in 2016 and claimed the trophy in the 2017 Tournament of Champions—was one of those Jeopardy! players.

Cohen's celebrations were polarizing, as were his cheeky Final Jeopardy! answers, which he addressed directly to the host. Instead of giving the correct response, on two separate occasions, Cohen wrote, "What is see you tomorrow, Trebek," and "Who is, you aren't rid of me yet, Trebek."

"Has there ever been a more punchable @Jeopardy champion than Buzzy Cohen?" a viewer tweeted in May 2016, with others expressing that they were waiting anxiously for his defeat.

"Someone better beat Buzzy Cohen on #Jeopardy today," a Twitter user wrote on May 23, 2016. "I don't want that smug face on my TV anymore."

Others, however, professed their love. "Latest celeb crush: buzzy cohen, reigning jeopardy champion," a viewer tweeted, while another wrote, "I have an increasingly serious crush on Buzzy Cohen."

The jury may have been out on whether Cohen was adored or abhorred, but he came out on top in the end. He now hosts the This is Jeopardy! The Story of America's Favorite Quiz Show podcast, after co-hosting Inside Jeopardy! with producer Sarah Foss.

In 2016, Cohen addressed the divergent opinions about him in a piece for Thrillist.

"Anyone who wins a couple games and shows a little personality on Jeopardy! is divisive. And Twitter is divisive," Cohen wrote. "People try to post the strongest opinions for attention and that's how you get attention. People won't retweet 'Buzzy seems like an OK guy and is a really good player.' Instead it's 'I want to punch Buzzy Cohen in the face,' or 'I want to marry Buzzy Cohen.'"

Jake DeArruda

jake dearruda jeopardy

Another controversial Jeopardy! character is Jake DeArruda, who was critiqued for his on-stage behavior in 2023.

The three-day champ, who was just 23 at the time, would make faces and what some considered arrogant gestures throughout the game—and would even interrupt host Ken Jennings, TV Insider reported. Twitter was flooded with less-than-kind critiques of DeArruda's expressions, with some calling him "annoying" and even "insufferable."

Foss and Cohen actually stepped in to discuss DeArruda's behavior and the backlash on the Inside Jeopardy! podcast in February 2023, calling attention to his age.

"I've heard from a lot of people this past week who want to talk to me about Jake, positive, negative, somewhere in between," Cohen said on the podcast. "And I think that when you're a smart person, you get up on that stage, especially when you're young … and I'm not one to judge how someone wants to play this game and how they want to be on the stage."

Foss stressed the need to be compassionate online, as contestants "are just people who are coming on the show they love and doing it the best way they know how to do it." The producer also added that the contestant's friends attested to his kindness and "he certainly was that way to us in the study when he was here."

DeArruda wasn't too fazed either, posting a photo where he's been "showered" in champagne on Twitter. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to drown out the haters," he tweeted.

Matt Amodio

Matt Amodio after his tenth win on "Jeopardy!"
Jeopardy! / YouTube

Another Jeopardy! contestant who's been dubbed the "most annoying" is Matt Amodio, who won a whopping 38 consecutive games in 2021.

Once again, fans had problems with Amodio's gameplay, particularly the way he would answer questions. For every clue, regardless of whether it was a person, place, or thing, Amodio would precede his answer with "what is," as opposed to "who is," Decider reported.

If he landed on a Daily Double, he also wouldn't use the typical phrasing and "make it a true Daily Double" when risking all of his winnings. Instead, he would just say his total amount.

"Is Matt the most annoying contestant ever? Is it so hard to say 'who is'? or 'make it a true daily double'?" a viewer tweeted in July 2021.

"Without a doubt the most annoying contestant ever. he should be penalized every time he refers to a person as a what," another fan wrote.

But some came to Amodio's defense, clarifying that the rules don't require responses to be "grammatically correct" in terms of the who is/what is structure.

"The rules say your response must be in the form of a question," a Twitter user wrote in response to critiques about Amodio's answering style. "The rules do not require your response to be grammatically correct. I know that won't change your opinions, but I'm just telling you the facts."

Another predicted that Amodio would be around for a while, advising other viewers that they "better get used to and get over hearing What's." (As it turns out, this was true, as Amodio recently finished sixth in the 2024 Jeopardy! Masters.)

Amodio also responded to critics and said that the negativity didn't really affect him. "I get a lot of 'what's Matt' and I think they're trying to be mean, but I've just kind of taken it on my own. So, it feeds me. I like it," he said during a Q&A video posted on Jeopardy!'s YouTube channel.

James Holzhauer

james holzahauer on jeopardy

Right above Amodio in terms of highest winnings during regular-season play is James Holzhauer—and he's a polarizing Jeopardy! contestant in his own right. A professional sports better in real life, Holzhauer took a different approach to the game, tending to go big whenever he would land on a Daily Double.

When he wanted to go all in, Holzhauer would push his hands forward, as if he were betting all of his chips on a poker table. Many viewers were in awe of his trivia prowess, but Variety suggested that he was "a more advanced player, a perfect one," who made Jeopardy! boring to watch.

Holzhauer would also bounce around from category to category, disrupting the typical strategy that devoted viewers cherish, not unlike Chu. Beyond that, he was known to leave little notes alongside his Final Jeopardy! responses, similar to Cohen.

On top of everything else, Holzhauer was later critical of production—although many fans agreed with his statements.

In 2021, Holzhauer spoke out against ousted Jeopardy! producer Mike Richards, TV Insider reported. Richards' departure came after controversial comments he made in 2013 and 2014 resurfaced, along with claims of workplace discrimination and a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination and retaliation.

In response to Richards' dismissal, Holzhauer tweeted on Aug. 31, 2021, "Do I think Mike Richards's podcast comments were appropriate for polite society? No. But did he deserve the benefit of the doubt for the job he did running Jeopardy? Also no." His next tweet included a GIF from The Wizard of Oz of the song "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead."

As for Holzhauer's snarky tweet about Raut, he later insinuated that was sarcasm, as he, too, isn't afraid of speaking out against Jeopardy! higher-ups.

RELATED: Fired Jeopardy! Host Says Aaron Rodgers Was "Most Prepared" to Replace Alex Trebek.

Austin Rogers

austin rogers playing jeopardy
ABC / YouTube

Viewers have also been divided over Austin Rogers.

Rogers was a 12-game champion in 2017, most recently finishing as a quarterfinalist in the 2024 Jeopardy! Invitational Tournament.

However, while he certainly demonstrated trivia prowess, he also became known for his personality, his hair, and his humor on screen. His offbeat approach made Rogers a favorite among some viewers—and led to him going viral on social media—but other Jeopardy! diehards held a different opinion. A 2017 headline in The Washington Post even dubbed him a contestant "some people love to hate."

"He just has an annoying personality [in my opinion]," a Redditor wrote on a thread discussing people's opinion of Rogers. "He seems like the kinda guy that, if you had a one on one conversation with him, he would be constantly trying to one up you and prove how intelligent he is. The guy's smart, sure, but there's something to be said for modesty."

Rogers certainly took the internet by storm, but there are viewers who remain staunchly in his camp. "There are two types of people in this world: people that like #austinonjeopardy and people that don't matter," a Sept. 2017 post on X reads.

For his part, Rogers didn't get too bogged down by the criticism—but he wasn't a fan of his "quirky" moniker.

"Stop calling me 'quirky'! Why am I quirky? There are so many more words in the English language," he told in 2017. "Look, there's this really stale and staunchly conservative—not in a political sense—following of Jeopardy! and if the natural state of things is altered, people act like gravity has failed. They're so into it. I get it, it's fun—but lighten up a little. It's a game show."

Mattea Roach

mattea roach on jeopardy
ABC / YouTube

Mattea Roach is a more recent standout star, winning 23 consecutive games in 2022. However, Roach, who now uses they/them pronouns, also received some flack for their gameplay. Viewers took issue with Roach's hand movements—particularly the rotation of their wrists.

"My wrist has received fan mail. If anything, my wrist received a lot of hate mail. A lot of people really didn't like it," Roach said in a 2022 interview with Vulture, which also discussed their "divisiveness."

Other Jeopardy! fans took issue with some of Roach's reported side chatter during gameplay.

"[They] commented on [their] wrong answers out loud while the next person was trying to ring in. Extremely annoying," a Redditor wrote in a thread discussing the Vulture interview.

Another alleged that after responding incorrectly to a clue, Roach would sway focus and "keep talking."

"This may be done intentionally distract the other contestant whose turn it now is to attempt the clue. It disrespects the other contestants and the game itself to keep up a constant flow of chatter," the Redditor concluded.

However, Roach also had a response to these claims as well.

"The craziest takes I saw were people speculating if I was doing it to distract the competition. I looked at the other contestants if they got a Daily Double or if they were telling their anecdotes. During the game, I was only looking at the board," they told Vulture, arguing that you don't have time to play "weird mind games" during the competition.

Roach continued, "I would never want to be deliberately distracting to another player, because it's so unsportsmanlike. I like to think it didn't have that impact. If production sensed it did, I certainly think I would've been told to tone it down."

Laura Ashby

Laura Ashby Jeopardy

Two-time champion Laura Ashby may not have had an extended run on Jeopardy!, but she certainly made an impression on viewers. It wasn't her opinions or appearance that caused a stir, however, it was her voice inflection.

Ashby was trending on Twitter with the hashtag #JeopardyLaura, as fans couldn't get over her unusual lilt. A 2015 article in Forbes highlighted the criticism Ashby was getting, which included earning the title of the "most annoying Jeopardy! contestant ever."

A five-second clip of Ashby's gameplay posted on YouTube garnered over 100 comments, with many viewers voicing their frustration and annoyance. One viewer said her voice was "like nails on a chalkboard," while others said she sounded like a Valley Girl.

"It is difficult to describe what she did with her voice, but it was painful. I remember the local radio stations even bringing it up," a Redditor wrote in response to a discussion about "disruptive behavior" by Jeopardy! players.

Still, some were more sympathetic, with one Redditor pointing out that Ashby's time on the show "really brought out some of the worst in people."

They added, "It makes me sad to be reminded of how awful folks were to her."

This story has been updated to include additional entries, fact-checking, and copy-editing.

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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