’Jeopardy’ Intimidating But a Lot of Fun

’Jeopardy’ Intimidating But a Lot of Fun

Inside look at the pressures and joys of being on ‘Jeopardy’

Luigi de Guzman is often asked how a person studies to be on Jeopardy and his joke answer is “Gone With the Wind.” He says the person who chooses the categories over time really likes this category a lot. 

But the real answer is that you watch the show and get a sense of what comes up a lot. “Those damn Etruscans.” The serious answer is that people compile the categories, about 180,000 back to 1984. “You skim them and get a sense of what’s out there.” He says people really obsess a lot about knowing things. “I don’t know all the kings and queens, etc.” But he says if you pass the Jeopardy test you probably already know enough to be on the show. He says the two categories that Jeopardy people say they don’t know are the NFL and opera.

The category that everyone dreads “and I absolutely did not want was anagrams. Some of the word play categories are very challenging like ‘triple rhyme time’ and the ‘before, during and after’ because you have to think on your feet.”

“I tell everyone ‘take the test, it’s so much fun.’”

— Luigi de Guzman

De Guzman, an Arlington resident, appeared on Jeopardy the first time in 2021 when he won five games which qualified him for the Tournament of Champions. There was a gap in the competition due to the writer’s strike and he finally appeared in the quarter finals on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. In an exciting last minute game de Guzman won that match and advanced to the semifinals which will air on March 11 and will determine who advances to the finals. Since the shows are filmed months before they are aired, the outcome has already been determined but the contestants are sworn to secrecy.

“It’s a heavy secret to bear alone. You can tell nobody.” The Jeopardy contestants form group chats and talk to each other while they wait.  

In de Guzman’s quarterfinal match Feb. 29, another contestant took an early lead. “Juveria came out like a house on fire.  When you get punched in the face, you take it pretty hard, but you have to just focus on the next clue.” He says that he and Juveria had done a lot of prep over zoom together and knew each other well. “We are very good friends. I knew she could do this.”

But he says the Jeopardy staff told him during the commercial break that they had observed he was tripping the switch before Ken had stopped talking which is considered a false start and penalizes you with a fraction of a second. “That doesn’t sound like much but it gives the other contestants a chance to hit the buzzer first.” De Guzman says he came in so nervous that he had no feeling and couldn’t tell he was tripping the switch.

“The Jeopardy crew wants everyone to do their best so when they see you are doing something like this, they tell you. I was able to switch myself.” He says that in the first 30 clues he attempted to answer 24, Juveria  27 and Kevin 21 but de Guzman says he only got in on time seven times. “That’s how tough these games are.”

Things started to change when de Guzman got the first daily double and said “all in please,” betting all of his money on the correct answer. Soon after, he hit the second daily double under the “Name” category and correctly answered Haile Selassie, which put him in the lead. Finally it got down to the last question and he was neck and neck with Juveria who had $23,400. De Guzman had $22,000 and Kevin Belle had $5,400. In the end de Guzman was the only contestant with the correct answer of Eurostar (rail). “Now you advance to the semi finals.”

De Guzman may have had an advantage on that answer, having attended the University of Cambridge for his BA and the London School of Economics for his Masters before getting his law degree at Catholic University. (De Guzman grew up in Fairfax County and attended Flint Hill School.)

He says there are three things that govern your appearance on Jeopardy—you, the board and the draw which is the people you play against. “The only one of these you can control is yourself.” He explains you may get a really tough draw of other competitors or you might get a particularly difficult set of categories on the board. 

De Guzman says the response around Arlington to his Jeopardy appearance has been really interesting. “After the initial run I was getting recognized every so often.  I’d go to the grocery store for a loaf of bread and someone would recognize me. One day I was having lunch at Rocklands and some guys at the bar had me come over and talk about it. They were so proud to see someone from Arlington on Jeopardy.”

He says it’s kind of cool that you don’t realize whose day you made by just showing up. De Guzman added, “It’s a wild thing to become a guest in 10 million living rooms. The first time Johnny Gilbert said my name  to 10 million viewers, I’m not going to lie. It was kind of intimidating. 

“The experience of actually being there is surreal. Inside you are screaming. You kind of need the commercial break to calm down.

“But I’ve got to stress this was really a great experience, the people you share the stage with, the other past contestants who are from Arlington. We all became friends. It’s a weird interim option to normal life|, a wonderful interruption, and you form a strange bond. I tell everyone ‘take the test, it’s so much fun.’”