If you’ve just received the call to play and want to spend your limited prep time efficiently, studying proper Final Jeopardy wagering strategy should be your top priority. Learning the basic rules about how to bet from the various positions you might find yourself in can have as big an impact on your odds of success as an extra year spent studying trivia.
Don’t believe me? Imagine the scores in your game are $21,000, $19,000, and $2,000 heading into Final Jeopardy. You are the person closely trailing the leader with $19,000. What is your move here?
For many people, the instinct is to bet big–likely to bet it all. This sort of bet happens on the show all of the time. (Even Amy Schneider did it in her first game!)
If your goal is to maximize your chances of winning, this is not a great play. The leader has more money, so you will never pass them if they bet to cover and get it right. Most rational leaders will bet to cover.
Let’s say that everyone is equally talented and has a 50% chance of getting FJ right. If you bet relatively conservatively–say, nothing–you will win if the person in the lead bets rationally and gets it wrong. So you have a 50% chance of winning. If you instead go “all-in” like your gut is telling you, you will only win if he gets it wrong (50%) and you also get it right (50%). So you’ve just added another condition and halved your odds of victory to 25%. This is an example of how learning proper wagering can make a huge difference in your chances of winning–and definitely your odds of going on a long streak (unless you are as dominant as Amy Schneider!)
I’m not going to use this page to reinvent the wheel. There are already other fantastic resources out there that will teach you everything you need to know about wagering. I’ll just steer you in the right direction: