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October 21, 2013

How to calculate The Final Wager using pen and paper

It’s easy to calculate proper Final Jeopardy! wagers using a whiteboard, a computer, or the J! Archive’s wagering calculator. But when you’re on the actual show, you’ll have the simplest of instruments: a stack of index cards and a Sharpie.

Here are suggestions for how to use them.

The first video shows how to use a single index card to calculate the proper wagers when only two players are involved.

I write the scores vertically to fit everything on a single card – and for reasons I’ll explain in the following video. You can develop your own technique so that you know whether a wager is a maximum or a minimum.

The second video introduces my strategy for calculating with three players. You’ll need four cards: one for each two-player game (first vs. second, second vs. third, third vs. first), and a “master” card, onto which you’ll transfer the maximum and minimum wagers you calculate.

The games I use for examples are all from Season 20, for nostalgic reasons:

Video one:
October 17, 2003
June 2, 2004

Video two:
April 26, 2004

  1. Josh Woo permalink

    A stack of index cards? They didn’t even give me THAT when I was on the show! Not like it would’ve mattered in the end for me, but…still.

    (Sept. 26, 2003 was my airdate, if you must know)

    • That’s strange, Josh – as I recall they were blue in color, and maybe a little bigger than what I show in the video. My first taping was a few days after your airdate.

      Do you remember your strategy behind your wager?

      • Josh Woo permalink

        It could be very well that they gave them to us, but I was so

        I was 11 years old at the time, so naturally there was little to no strategy behind my wager. I remember thinking, “The Toy Box? Shoot, I know virtually nothing about that…” Basically I was ahead by a grand going into FJ, made a three-digit wager to basically guarantee myself second, but was banking on 2nd place to get it wrong. (She didn’t.)

        I hope I didn’t make any new gray hairs appear on your head after you see what the scores and wagers were…though I’d be curious to know what I SHOULD’VE done.

      • Ha – no sweat. I don’t expect Kids’ Week contestants to know what to do. The Teens, on the other hand …

        I’ll feature your scenario later this week if you like!

  2. Josh Woo permalink

    That’d be awesome.

    Y’know, looking back, maybe that’s why they didn’t give us cards, they didn’t expect us to know that kind of math. Would surely explain why someone earlier in my same week blew the wad from the lead!

What do you think?