Bradford Gates "Brad" Rutter is the biggest all-time money winner on the U.S. syndicated game show Jeopardy! and the biggest all-time money winner on a game show. In 19 regular season and tournament games, Rutter has never lost a Jeopardy! match against a human opponent. In 2011, both Rutter and Ken Jennings were routed in a two-day exhibition match against an IBM computer platform developed specifically to compete on Jeopardy!: Watson. Rutter finished third in the match: both his first defeat overall and the first time he finished behind a human opponent. Because of the nature of the man versus machine match being declared an exhibition match, none of the records from this match count towards official show records.
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I hold the title of the largest all-time money winner as a contestant on Jeopardy! and have never lost a game…to a human, that is. You can watch me compete in the Battle of the Decades Tournament semi-finals all next week. Go ahead, ask me anything.
Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BradRutter
Edit @ 11:25 EDT: All right y'all, that was a fun 3 1/2 hours. I'll probably check in throughout the week so feel free to submit something else. If I didn't get to one you really want an answer to, hit me up on Twitter and I'll try to get back to you. Thanks everybody!
So, you've won the last three mega-tournaments, and are by any reasonable metric the greatest Jeopardy! Player ever. And yet, Ken Jennings (the guy you've beat twice so far) remains the best-known Jeopardy champion by far. Does that bother you at all?
I hit my knees every night and pray for the Lord to smite him.
Honestly it bothers my friends a lot more than it bothers me, mostly because they don't know him. Not to get all sappy, but he actually is a great guy and a wonderful ambassador for the show.
Do you always have the question's answer in your mind before you press the buzzer? Do you ever press the buzzer without knowing the answer to the question and having to come up with it in that short amount of time?
Almost always. There were a few times in the BotD that I thought I could come up with it after I rang in, and they didn't go so well.
Super jacked guys often get scrawny little punks coming up to them in bars trying to start fights with them. Do you find that people ever pull the same shit with you in a battle of intellects way?
I mostly get the "if you're so smart, tell me what my great-aunt's middle name is, hahahaha." Never fails to bring a smile to my face, and I usually end up buying that guy dinner, which then leads to lifelong friendship.
Brad, I am a huge fan of yours. Thank you for taking the time to do this AMA.
1) People always mention yourself and Ken when discussing the greatest players of all time. Besides you two, who do you consider to be among the best players in the history of the show?
2) Do you think Jeopardy is similar to sports in the "good to be lucky sense"? After winning 4 tournaments and beating Ken twice, it's pretty hard to argue against you being the best, but when you look at the semis of the Million Dollar Masters, the 3rd round of the Ultimate Tournament, and Ken missing the Secretary of State final, it seems like you have a horse shoe on you at all times.
These are both great questions, FWIW.
1) This is like when someone wins at the Oscars and they have a list of people to thank -- I'm terrified of leaving someone out. I will say that Frank Spangenberg and Jerome Vered were the guys I thought were really impressive when I was a teenager. Otherwise, you can't go wrong with any of the Battle of the Decades players. I think Roger Craig deserves a special mention, because he hung super tough with Ken and me in the finals and also because he gave me 20 bucks to drop his name.
2) I think it's good to be lucky in everything, sports, Jeopardy!, whatever. I do carry a horseshoe with me at all times -- it's stashed somewhere very uncomfortable....
Hi Brad. I'm one of the mods of /r/Jeopardy. We'd love to have you stop by and participate whenever you're on Reddit. I'm sure you could provide some interesting insights on game play and overall strategy. I have a few questions for you.
Does coming back on the show for multiple appearances over the years make the game easier or do you find it to be the same level of challenge from your original time on the show?
We all know Alex Trebek will be retiring in the next few years and you have been mentioned as a possible replacement. If you were offered the job would you take it? If not, who would you like to see get the job?
If you arm-wrestled Ken Jennings who would win?
I also wanted to throw out an invitation to anyone reading/posting here that isn't posting regularly at /r/Jeopardy. We'd love have to as many people participating on the sub as possible. So if you aren't already please considering subscribing.
It's become easier for me over the years just because I've sort of got used to it. No one who hasn't been on the show realizes what a bizarre experience it is. The more comfortable you can be in that milieu, the better you'll do.
I'd be crazy to turn it down. That's the best gig in show business, which is why they wouldn't have any trouble finding someone way more famous than me to do it. The person I've heard mentioned who would do a fantastic job is NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan, who hosted VH1's World Series of Pop Culture and absolutely killed the hardest question-reading job I've ever seen on Grand Slam. He's also Canadian, which would seem to be a prerequisite.
I have 2 inches and 30 pounds on Ken but he's a well-known steroid user so put your money on him.
Hi Brad, I’m a big fan!
I’ve got sort of a personal question for you- we share the surname “Rutter” and I recently traced my lineage back to Leacock Township in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I know you’re from the same area… Do you happen to know anything about your genealogy? If I’m distantly related to you I would be sooooo excited!
As a follow up, how far removed would a relative need to be for you to bone them?
I don't know too much about my genealogy but if you're a Lancaster Rutter we're almost certainly related.
The followup would depend on a number of factors -- age, appearance, adventurousness, etc.
If you could revive any game show from the past that has been canceled, which would you choose?
I loved Press your Luck when I was a kid, but it didn't work nearly as well when they brought it back. I'd love to go on a new version of Supermarket Sweep and shove other people out of the way while loading up my cart with laundry detergent, diapers, and Folgers coffee. Good times.
What's your advice to a person like me that is trying to compete on "Jeopardy!"? I've taken the test twice so far but haven't had too much luck (42?/50). Any tips/ways to prepare to compete in general?
Really, the best way to prepare is to watch the show every night. Write the categories down and keep track of what you know and don't so you'll know what you have to get better on. Once you get called for an audition, remember that it's an audition for a TV show. They're looking for high-energy people who can take direction. Be as close as you can be to that type of person.
Hi Brad! I'm a really big fan.
I remember when Julia Collins lost on a John Irving question he ended up sending her a book. Did anybody interesting ever contact you after your appearances?
PS I once got in an argument with a friend about who was the best Jeopardy contestant of all time. I was Team Brad. It almost ended our friendship.
It's never too late to end that friendship. Thank you for your support.
Nothing exciting. I've just been pitched on all manner of lame startup ideas.
What's the greatest interaction you've had with a fan?
My favorite fan story is the one Pam Mueller told the other night. In case you missed it...
We were walking down 43rd Street in Manhattan when a guy on the other side of the street starts yelling, "Jeopardy! Jeopardy!". I start waving to him in a very Johnny Hollywood, "thanks for watching" type way and am feeling very pleased with myself. The next thing out of his mouth is...
"You're the girl from Jeopardy!"
Hi Brad! I loved watching you on the Battle of the Decades this year! I and a couple other jeoparteens were wondering what you thought of this year's teen tournament. Any advice about life after Jeopardy? Thanks so much!
Hey Alan! That was as exciting a Teen Tournament as I've ever seen. Tough break for you in the finals. I guess my best advice is never to get tired of talking about the experience. Jeopardy! is such an institution with so many hardcore fans that it will open doors for you that may not have opened otherwise. Give my congrats to the other #Jeoparteens.
Generally speaking, what category/subject are contestants least prepared for?
Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. I can't say there's any particular category I've noticed contestants doing poorly on.
Are you dating anybody, or are you single and searching?
I'm always searching for people with witty Reddit handles.
Hi Brad, I recently was on the show which will air later this fall. What I found most interesting was how fast the show moves compared to watching it at home. There seems to be more time to process everything on the couch. What did you find most surprising about the show on your first appearance?
I absolutely found the same thing. It's almost like they spring everything on you before you're ready. I've been on something like 25 shows and I've gradually felt more ready, but it still moves really fast.
The other thing I noticed the first time was just how different the studio is from what I'd imagined it to be. I thought there was a big audience, but there's maybe 200 people, and the set looks huge on TV but you're actually only 10 feet from Alex.
How important is the undefeated streak to you? You have a rare opportunity in a competitive venue to go out on top with an unblemished record. If you "retired" right now, then your four tournament wins, three of which were against all time greats, is pretty hard to argue against for you being the greatest Jeopardy player of all time, regardless of what happens in the future.
Assuming you came back for more tournaments and kept winning them, would you eventually reach a point where you wouldn't want to come back because it would jeopardize the streak (assuming you're not at that point already)?
I'd put it in the "kinda cool, but not that important" category. It's so much fun to play, not to mention the fact that I get paid whenever I go back and let's face it, I don't have anything else really generating much income.
First off, you are an amazing player. Second, the TotD was by far the best thing Jeopardy has ever done.
My question is were you guys just having fun and sort of messing about in the final? I'm not saying you weren't serious and being competitive, but it was the most relaxed 2 games I've ever seen?
If you let the pressure get to you, you'll lose. I was talking to Harry Friedman (J!'s executive producer) afterwards and he told me how tense the atmosphere in the studio was during the final. I said that funnily, it seemed like the three least nervous people in the place were the three guys playing. Harry wisely said, "I think that's why you were the three guys playing."
Hello Brad! Thanks for doing this AMA. How did you mentally prepare for your Jeopardy appearances? Also, do you have any tricks you use to up your proverbial game?
That's a dynamite Reddit handle, by the way.
I smoke meth in the green room bathroom out of a tin foil pipe right before I go on.
For real, I just try to relax and have fun when I'm up there. It's so easy to psych yourself out and that's what I try to avoid.
Who, in your estimation, has bigger balls: Roger Craig or Chip Kelly?
I was expecting more from Chip after watching him at Oregon, although the unceremonious release of Desean Jackson took some stones. Gotta give this one to the Rog though.
As your username is CockySmugDBag, I expect no humility here. If you weren't capped at 5 wins, how far do you think you would have gone?
I get this one a lot, and I really have no idea. I feel pretty confident in saying more than 5, but I couldn't really be any more specific. I read somewhere that even if you gave Ken a 99% chance of winning any individual game (not far off, IMO) his odds were less than 50% to win 74 straight. Jeopardy also sent me DVDs of my original appearances as part of the Decades tournament, and the first thing I noticed when I watched was how much better I am now than I was back then.
I feel that Watson had an unfair advantage -- that you and Ken had to divvy up the nuanced questions between yourselves while Watson picked the low-hanging fruit. One Brad against two Watsons would have won handily. What do you think?
Not much to disagree with here, other than "unfair" -- we were informed in advance about everything Watson could do, and were well compensated for taking part.
You just keep getting sexier. How do you do it? ;-)
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Hi Brad. I made some fan art a few months ago. Do you like it? What are you eating right now?
Bitchin'. 5 lb bag of Good n' Plenty.
Internet trivia for 100: In 2007, this openly gay youtuber became famous over night for his viral video demanding that people everywhere "leave Brittany alone".
We haven't forgotten Chris Crocker already? What's this world coming to?
Hi Brad! Would you say that "farming" qualifies as your least favorite category of all time?
Dan Pawson, is that you?
Hey Brad. I just want you to know that, as a fellow trivia enthusiast, your wit, charm, and taste in suits makes you my favorite Jeopardy! champion. As for a question, what do you do in your free time? What sort of hobbies, sports, etc. do you enjoy?
Thanks. If you follow me on Twitter you know that I'm a huge Philly sports fan and I spend a lot of time complaining, mostly about the Eagles and Flyers. I also enjoy hiking around the hills of L.A., film, improv, pina coladas, getting caught in the rain....
Hi Brad, I loved your story about your shot glass collection in college. I am currently a college student with a shot glass collection and get crazy looks from people who automatically assume the worst about my actions when I tell them I have one.
Are you still collecting shot glasses? And which is your favorite in your collection if you have one?
Nah, not anymore. In my case those assuming the worst were correct.
I do 2 too! I've even gotten it right a couple times.
1) Watson's buzzer advantage was insurmountable. Ken and I are known as the fastest guns in the West and we were basically fighting for its scraps.
2) Absolutely. I was even doing it in the audience during the Decades tournament. Like mcyjjj, I"ve gotten it right a couple times.
BRAD! When can we watch Pub Quiz??
Hopefully soon. Watch the trailer @ pubquizcomedy.com
Ever meet any of the others we see/hear on Jeopardy, besides Alex and other contestants? For example, Johnny Gilbert or the Clue Crew?
All of the above, and they're all great. Johnny in particular is the epitome of old-school Hollywood cool.
How confident are you on bible trivia? I never thought you would have missed the FJ about Seth
Not my best or worst category. If I'd actually needed to come up with Seth I might have.
Has having the name Brad ever been a hurdle in your life?
No, because I am a classy and erudite Bradford. Can't speak for those toothless, trailer-park dwelling Bradleys.
Back in 2003, you proctored an Academic Bowl meet where I was a contestant. I remember you. You were looking for titles for a potential game show. We suggested Stump the Chump (as you were a bit of a smug asshole). You were not impressed (and that is putting your reaction kindly).
I know you are kind of embracing the whole "being a jerk" thing now (at least as far as I can tell from your username). I think this is the main reason that most won't regard you as the ultimate Jeopardy champion. Ken Jennings actually seems like a nice guy. Ever thought about changing your attitude to improve relations with fans/your image?
<3 u too xoxox