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June 11, 2014

Daily analysis, Wednesday, June 11

Yesterday’s video lasted 14 seconds. Today’s is considerably longer. And I make this face somewhere in it.

After a game in which second place had a whole 200 yesterday, we have one of the biggest barnburners of the season. Molly, looking for numero cinco, is in third with 14,000.

Molly Lalonde: 14,000
Darren O’Connor: 22,400
Sari Laufer: 15,400

The Final Jeopardy! category: CAPITAL CITY WORDPLAY

This is a fun situation. Let’s break it down.

Basic strategy – first vs. second

Darren should wager 8,400 to take his destiny into his own hands.

To stay above Darren should he miss and wager properly, Sari should wager no more than 1,400; Molly should stand pat with a zero wager.

Basic strategy – second vs. third

Sari should wager at least 12,600 to cover Molly.

Molly is already capped at zero.

Mind games

Note that Molly’s maximum of zero means she must wager zero — a wager-to-tie situation! Darren can’t tack on that extra dollar lest he lose to Molly by that margin.

Darren shouldn’t assume both of his opponents will wager “small”; if he does, however, he should cap his wager at 5,600.

If Sari wants to go big, she might as well go for everything in case Darren offers the tie as he should.

Molly might go for broke as well.

I’m really shocked by this wager out of Darren. The extra 400 would have provided the same downside potential, and covered the (very rational) double-up by Sari.

Sari’s wager illustrates why I suggest you always wager everything IF getting it wrong will cost you the game.

For you math-heads out there, this wager-to-tie situation has the algebraic formula

2(A – B) = C

… in other words, third has twice the difference between first and second. (Don’t worry about memorizing this one.)

The Final Jeopardy! clue for June 11, 2014 (CAPITAL CITY WORDPLAY):


Correct response: Show


  1. Pat Russell permalink

    Thanks for posting the time the video should be up in your email. I live on the west coast and don’t check for your daily update until the winner is determined in the broadcast. So in my case posting the video any time before about 10:50 Eastern time works for me most days. (The show has been delayed by sports programming a couple of times recently.) It was there when I looked so you have made me a happy camper. Thanks.

  2. Hey Keith, thanks for taking the time and doing this analysis. I actually realized during the commercial break where I was figuring the wagers for each player, that this would be a somewhat tricky one, potentially a special case.

    First to toot my own horn a little bit I actually got the final right and feel pretty good as none of the contestants did. The only country capital that I am aware of which lies on two continents is Ankara. Sari had the right idea, kind of, she put Istanbul, but obviously that is not the capital of Turkey. Well, from there I thought it was pretty easy, the other capital had to end in -ra and the country covered a continent which lead me down to Australia and its capital, Canberra.

    That’s good for me, but anyway, my question for you would be that only Molly wagered correctly and actually could have, should have won the game, had the others wagered “correctly” as well. But most importantly, Darren didn’t wager the $8400 he was supposed to(which could have proven very costly), but by wagering less as he did, he was able to win the game outright.

    I agree with you, Darren should have wagered $8400 to be able to cover Sari doubling up had she gotten the answer correct; fortunately for him, she did not.

    And I was thinking of Darren wagering $8401, but after a quick bit of mental arithmetic during the break I realized that the one dollar could be of extreme importance and could possibly determine the outcome of the game and supposed this is one of those special cases where you have to play for the tie win should it come down to that.

    Getting to the question(sorry it took so long to lay out the underlying logic for the wager decision), I know it’s easy to judge or second guess someone after the fact, but would you say Darren made the wrong wager in spite of the outcome?

    And secondly, is my basic analysis of the situation sound?


    • I don’t have a problem with a player making the “wrong” wager in a mind-games scenario (e.g., “small” instead of “large”) as long as the wager is justified by the math. I’m all about process over outcome, which is why I usually film my analysis *before* I watch Final, as was the case here.

      There was no justification for Darren’s 8,000 wager, so it’s a bad wager. Had he been afraid of Sari wagering, say, 1,200, he should have gone for 5,600 so as to remain above her in any event.

  3. Hello again Keith.

    This was just a thought I had after I finished what I said above and watched some of your videos. I came to realize that people who are into Jeopardy, watch the show daily/regularly, like you and me, are pretty much obsessed with Jeopardy.

    That’s maybe my first overstatement, oversimplification, but I think for the most part it’s probably true.

    Also, for what may be my second over generalization, oversimplification, and this is maybe a little more complex, but based on Sari’s wager of $7,001, which had she gotten it right would have taken her to $22,401, just above the leader Darren’s $22,400.

    I would say that an inexperienced, relatively simple-minded player without a good understanding of the theory and principles concerning optimal wagering, wagers based upon “static” information, where the players stand and where their own wager will place them, whereas a more sophisticated player would wager more “dynamically” based more upon where the players will be, AFTER the final question is answered. The more sophisticated player tries to figure out what the other players will wager and thus where they will end up after the final, and takes that information into consideration when determining his own wager. Basically, I’m trying to say that a more “sophisticated” player aims for where the others will be, not for where they are currently. The sophisticated player knows he needs to hit a moving target, while the basic player sees the targets as stationary and static.

    Probably an oversimplification, but this one is possibly true as well, what do you think?

    And again, great job with this site, it really is helpful for understanding the nuances and finer points of calculating the final wager.


    • Thinking of wagering as hitting a “moving target” is an excellent comparison! I hadn’t really thought about it that way, so thanks for that.

      Glad you’re enjoying the site!

What do you think?