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Lowest Possible Jeopardy Score

How low can you go?

At the time of writing (April 2014), the lowest score obtained on a game of televised Jeopardy! is -$5,100 (I’m sure someone on the internet will correct me if I am wrong).

That might sound bad, but what is the lowest (theoretical) score it is possible to obtain on the game?

Paradoxically, to achieve this minimum score would take a fair amount of skill. You’d need to have lightning reflexes to be able to buzz-in to answer the question before anyone else. You’d then have to make sure the answer you gave couldn’t possibly be correct (Or I guess you could simple say nothing at all and time out each time).

Maximum Jeopardy!


Last year I wrote an article calculating the opposite:
What is the highest possible score obtainable in a game of Jeopardy?

[Spoiler Alert: It’s $566,400]

Minimum Jeopardy!

To get the very lowest possible score, we have to hope that each of the Daily Double squares lives under the lowest possible score on the board. Landing on the daily double allows a player to wager any (positive) amount up to his current score or the value of the highest question on the board. This latter part is crucial to maximizing our loss as it turns a ‘vanilla’ $200 cell on the first round into another $1,000 question.

In Double Jeopardy!, the Daily Doubles can turn two $400 squares into two additional $2,000 questions.

Putting it all together

The worst score is achieved by hitting the Daily Double on the first round, betting the maximum possible $1,000, getting it wrong, then answering all the other questions wrong. Your score at the end of the first round would be:

5 × ($200 + $400 + $600 + $800 + $1,000) +
($1,000 + $400 + $600 + $800 + $1,000) = $18,800

At the end of the first round you'd have lost an impressive $18,800

In Double Jeopardy, you could lose an additional $39,200

4 × ($400 + $800 + $1,200 + $1,600 + $2,000) +
2 × ($2,000 + $800 + $1,200 + $1,600 + $2,000) = $39,200


The grand total would be a loss of $58,000. Sadly, since you'd finish Double Jeopardy with a negative score you are not eligible to enter Final Jeopardy so your losing ends here!


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