NOTE: This is my 3,000th post. I started in late October 2008 and have averaged over 300 posts per year and over 25 per month. Yay!

My wife and I were catching up on recorded episodes of Jeopardy last night and were stunned by what happened–both how one contestant bet and by Alex Trebek’s comment about his bet.

When the second round ended, the score stood as follows:
Contestant A: \$4,000.
Contestant B: \$6,200.
Contestant C: \$12,400.

Focus on contestant C. He has a sure win in Final Jeopardy if he bets \$0. If he did that, he would end with \$12,400. The best B can do is bet \$6,200 and give the right answer, ending up with \$12,400. So they tie and C pockets \$12,400 plus goes on to play again, along with B.

Now cut to the answers.
Contestant A bets \$3,999, gets it wrong, and ends up with \$1. He was probably thinking that contestant B would bet it all and, if he got it wrong, end up with \$0, giving A second place and \$2,000 for second instead of \$1,000 for third. Of course, any bet between \$1 and \$3,999 would have worked from A’s viewpoint.
Contestant B, sure enough, bets \$6,200 and gets it wrong. He ends up with \$0.
As we wait for contestant C’s answer, my wife and I look knowingly at each other: his answer won’t matter because he’ll bet \$0.
WRONG.
Contestant C gets it wrong. But he bets \$1, bringing his final number down to \$12,399. So he got lucky because B got it wrong.

Alex, looking at the bet, says “A wise wager.” Seriously, Alex? I thought we Canadians were better at math than that.