Brad Rutter has a lot to be happy about. The "Jeopardy!" Battle of the Decades Tournament contestant ended up defeating Ken Jennings and Roger Craig to take home a $1 million grand prize in an episode that aired on May 16.
When he entered the competition, Los Angeles-based actor and producer Rutter was the top money winner in "Jeopardy!" history with $3,355,102 in career winnings. With this added $1 million, his new total is $4,355,102.
"It's really hard to describe how proud I am, not just that I won, but to be associated with a first-class operation like 'Jeopardy!,'" Rutter says in a press release. "I knew that Ken and Roger were both fantastic players and that it would come down to the end. We would battle it out and see what was left when the smoke cleared."
Jennings and Rutter have been "Jeopardy!" rivals for almost a decade. Both Jennings and Craig didn't go home empty handed, either. Jennings claimed $100,000 in second place, while Craig earned $50,000 in third place.
The Decades tournament is something of a coming home for the top Jeopardy!champions of the past 30 years. There is Chuck Forrest, who kicked off the whole game-theory strategy, and there's Roger Craig, who finds himself in the Decades finals with Jennings and Rutter, and whose bold wagering made him a bit of a viral star a few years back. The former champions are chummy, they hang out off-stage. "It’s definitely an insider club ... sort of like a weird fraternity," Rutter told The Wire in a phone interview. Jennings, also in a phone interview, described it as "this sort of weird Band of Brothers thing ... if the Band of Brothers guys then had to go shoot at each other on the battlefield." But when it comes to Jeopardy!, it's Brad and Ken, and everybody else.
Brad Rutter has won a grand total of $3,385,702 on Jeopardy!, the most ever. He's never officially been beaten by a human opponent. The one time Jennings bested him was during the IBM Challenge versus Watson, when Jennings came in second and Rutter in third. But Jeopardy! counts that as an exhibition match, so Rutter's official slate remains clean. In his first match against Jennings, Rutter nearly doubled him, $62,000 to $34,599. He's the best ever, money-wise, and he plays like it: there's a slick confidence to his gameplay. During his contestant interview in the semifinals, Brad mentioned buying a Porsche with his winnings; he finds amusement in retweeting his "haters" as his episodes air.
Ken Jennings won the most Jeopardy! matches ever in a row – 74, a DiMaggio-esque unbeatable mark – and has earned $3,196,300. He is, arguably, the most famous of all Jeopardy! contestants; five books, a board game, and a slew of media appearances followed his streak. Most conversations about Jeopardy! players begin and end with him. Jennings plays like the boy-genius-next-door, youthful and affable, like the kid who just can't help but raising his hand in class.
So what is Rutter going to do with the money? It won't go towards a new Porshe.
"Alex [Trebek] expressly forbade me from buying one at the wrap party, and I know which side my bread is buttered on," Rutter jokes. "I still need a new car, though, and I'll definitely do some traveling. I haven't been to Paris in years and spending a week or so sitting at cafes watching the world go by sounds fantastic right now."
I was rooting for you, Roger. We were all rooting for you!