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The Prisoner's Dilemma For $100, Alex
February 4, 2014 3:39 PM   Subscribe

Arthur Chu has won "Jeopardy" over the last few days by employing strategies rooted in game theory. This has caused consternation among some purists.
posted by reenum (99 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
I must admit I'm confused by the hate. It's not like any of these strategies were completely unknown, especially Daily Doubling hunting. Nor is he "breaking" the game the way that guy did on Press Your Luck. He's playing smart and he's playing to win, but if he didn't know the answers, he'd still be screwed.
posted by tau_ceti at 3:47 PM on February 4 [38 favorites]


I wish I'd thought of it.
posted by thecaddy at 3:47 PM on February 4


I've seen a bunch of players go double hunting recently - there was one multi-day champ from South Carolina back in June that was relentless about it. Interesting that this guy is tying on purpose though.
posted by LionIndex at 3:49 PM on February 4


I thought this was pretty much standard practice by now. If I had the j-archive data set in some easily searchable form I'd check.
posted by madcaptenor at 3:50 PM on February 4


The whole thing that happens where a bunch of newsy websites are like "people are outraged!" but it's really just some randos on twitter being doofuses is really starting to grind my gears.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:53 PM on February 4 [79 favorites]


Also a fun little aside, he provides a voice to some of the animated Erfworld comic installments.

Erfworld centers around a metagamer type being pulled into a fantasy world of strict game rules, which is a delightful coincidence.
posted by Peccable at 3:54 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


I will never understand why some people object to someone who plays, by the rules, to win. Weird.

Arthur Chu is also, incidentally, the voiceover narrator for Erfworld.
posted by kyrademon at 3:54 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


I like the idea of playing for the tie, and back when I watched the show I wondered why more contestants didn't do it. First off, it's a cool thing to do for somebody, and second, at least one of your next opponents will be a known quantity who you're pretty sure you can beat.
posted by gimli at 3:58 PM on February 4 [15 favorites]


Double hunting definitely harms the drama of the game. If players start with small questions before moving on to big ones, it makes comebacks and upsets much more likely, which directly translates into narrative tension. It's the same reason that the second round is worth more than the first one.

Not that I think that the player really has any obligation to play the strategy that's the funnest to watch. And even if they were, funnest for who? I'm sure there's plenty of armchair strategists who love seeing different approaches.
posted by aubilenon at 4:00 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Damn, I just went to turn on Jeopardy but they seem to be on a break for tournaments.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:01 PM on February 4


Yet another case where people invoke "game theory" as if it had some greater meaning beyond just "knowing and using the rules of the game".
posted by kiltedtaco at 4:02 PM on February 4 [47 favorites]


"I like the idea of playing for the tie, and back when I watched the show I wondered why more contestants didn't do it. First off, it's a cool thing to do for somebody, and second, at least one of your next opponents will be a known quantity who you're pretty sure you can beat."

I imagine that the tying on purpose is getting people angry because it sends someone home without a chance to get to play, ending their dream of being on the show for at least the year and often forever. Jeopardy films a season's worth at a time, bringing in enough new people to fill all of the possible slots, but with a tie the next show's game doesn't need another player.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:04 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


Yet another case where people invoke "game theory" as if it had some greater meaning beyond just "knowing and using the rules of the game".

Well, it does. It's an attempt to study tactics and strategy (in games and game-like systems, such as economics and warfare) in a mathematical and systematic way.

It's also not really what this guy did.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:07 PM on February 4 [21 favorites]


I also don't understand the hate. Personally I wish someone would come along and do this for Wheel of Fortune, which I can't presently stand. You should only ever buy a vowel if it genuinely resolves an ambiguity in the remaining spaces! If you actually already know what vowel it is, don't buy it, just keep track of it in your head!! ARGH YOU ARE GIVING YOUR OPPONENTS INFORMATION AND YOU ARE PAYING FOR THE PRIVILEGE, YOU ARE ALL SO STUPID. (This is where I change the channel.) Also I think it's always mathematically correct to keep spinning and not solve the puzzle until the bitter end, but I would have to figure out the mean dollar amount and count the number of "bankrupt" and "lose a turn" spots to be sure - it is definitely correct until a certain dollar amount.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 4:07 PM on February 4 [15 favorites]


I like the idea of playing for the tie, and back when I watched the show I wondered why more contestants didn't do it. First off, it's a cool thing to do for somebody, and second, at least one of your next opponents will be a known quantity who you're pretty sure you can beat.

On the other hand... At least one of your opponents will be someone who's had a full game to get used to the feel of playing, has their nerves at least a little bit under control, understands well how the buzzer works, and knows what your weaknesses are.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:07 PM on February 4 [6 favorites]


kiltedtaco, the way Chu put it on twitter was,
It's like telling someone why it's cheaper to buy in bulk at Costco and they're all OMG THIS GUY "USES ECONOMICS"
His twitter is a riot.
posted by daveliepmann at 4:08 PM on February 4 [48 favorites]


I dunno about Jeopardy but I have a feeling coming off like you have a too big vocab and know how to play to win gets you rejected from Wheel.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:10 PM on February 4 [8 favorites]


Okay, I really do not see how wagering for the tie is better. Can someone explain it to me?

I mean, why not just wager one more dollar, and then in certain scenarios you'd be playing against two newbies instead of one newbie and someone who is basically as good as you.
posted by jcreigh at 4:11 PM on February 4


People have been so consistent about calling for the easiest remaining question in each column that I've always thought it was a rule. Doesn't seem like it would be hard to make it a rule if double-hunting is harming the game's entertainment value.
posted by localroger at 4:14 PM on February 4


Okay, I really do not see how wagering for the tie is better. Can someone explain it to me?

It's better because if you're wrong, you don't get to come back for the next game, which is really what you want. One dollar of winnings isn't important. Wagering for the tie guarantees that you come back if you're both right, and since you're the leader, you will come back if the other player is wrong no matter what:

both correct: you come back (so do they)
you're wrong, they're right: you lose
you're wrong, they're wrong: you come back
you're both wrong: you come back
posted by axiom at 4:14 PM on February 4 [12 favorites]


From his Twitter: "To be fair, @Salon, you aren't always easy to like yourself "

Dude's a mensch.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:14 PM on February 4 [19 favorites]


Okay, I really do not see how wagering for the tie is better. Can someone explain it to me?

Game theory: Before the show, all three players make a pact with each other that they will secretly pay the winner $1000 in the event of the winner pulling them through with a tie. The pact is to every player's advantage for every outcome.

I am making this up, but it seems like a sensible thing to agree to. :)
posted by anonymisc at 4:16 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I have a mini-crush on Chu after reading his mental_floss interview. I should have guessed he was on a college Quiz Bowl team! Every team seemed to have their Arthur Chu.
posted by muddgirl at 4:16 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


He said in an interview that his strategy is about the same as the IBM supercomputer Watson's jeopardy strategy previously
posted by Bwithh at 4:17 PM on February 4


anonymisc: "Game theory: Before the show, all three players make a pact with each other that they will secretly pay the winner $1000 in the event of the winner pulling them through with a tie. The pact is to every player's advantage."

This is sort of where I was thinking there could be a problem. I love jeopardy, and love seeing people use strategy, but I have to think that any kind of collusion amongst the players would get you booted.
posted by Big_B at 4:21 PM on February 4


axiom, but wouldn't those same things happen if you wager for the tie + $1, except maybe in some insanely specific circumstances?
posted by jcreigh at 4:21 PM on February 4


Amazing that he gets criticized for playing to win "overtly" and it is more acceptable to play to win "invertly" ....are those words...if I qualified to even be on Jeopardy I might just know.
posted by OhSusannah at 4:26 PM on February 4


Winning on Jeopardy! is all about strategy. I don't really get why anyone would be surprised by this.
posted by Sara C. at 4:26 PM on February 4


I know Keith Williams (Of The Final Wager, mentioned in the philly.com link) through my running club. It's been a lot of fun to see this getting a bunch of press the past few days. It's been years since I've watched Jeopardy (mainly because I don't get home from work until well after it airs) but I may have to catch up on these episodes.
posted by matcha action at 4:27 PM on February 4


Double hunting definitely harms the drama of the game.

Well, then they should change the game mechanics, shouldn't they? It wouldn't be hard to guarantee that the DD came up later, if that was important. I agree that the drama is better if one player doesn't get and maintain a huge lead, but as long as the game allows that, players should be expected to try for it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:27 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I was really proud when the folks on the j-archive forum praised my Final Jeopardy betting strategy.

Did I win? No. But hey, at least I got props for understanding how the betting math works.
posted by Sara C. at 4:28 PM on February 4 [11 favorites]


Before the show, all three players make a pact with each other that they will secretly pay the winner $1000 in the event of the winner pulling them through with a tie. The pact is to every player's advantage

There is no real way to do this, because you don't know who you'll be up against until just a few moments before your game starts.
posted by Sara C. at 4:29 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


WHAAAAT SARA C WAS ON JEOPARDY WHY WASN'T I TOLD.
posted by jcreigh at 4:29 PM on February 4 [8 favorites]


I mean, why not just wager one more dollar, and then in certain scenarios you'd be playing against two newbies instead of one newbie and someone who is basically as good as you.


The flip side of that argument is that you may feel pretty confident that you can beat that person again in the regular rounds, and by bringing them along you are reducing the chances of drawing the next Ken Jennings in the next game by 50%.
posted by gimli at 4:29 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


You should only ever buy a vowel if it genuinely resolves an ambiguity in the remaining spaces!

Weird, I figured this out playing our PC game version when I was approximately 10 years old.

Have Wheel Of Fortune contestants usually not ever heard of the game before, or what?
posted by Sara C. at 4:30 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


It's an attempt to study tactics and strategy (in games and game-like systems, such as economics and warfare) in a mathematical and systematic way.

I'm not doubting the intention, but I've just never found this to be particularly enlightening. It seems sorta like a field that invents its own problems to solve, which then sound cool but 90% of the time end up being either not particularly useful or obtainable without "mathematical and systematic" analysis. I'm sure I'm overgeneralizing some and I could be wrong and missing out on some great results that said theory has produced, but I've always been seriously underwhelmed when I've gone looking.

If you actually already know what vowel it is, don't buy it, just keep track of it in your head!! ARGH

Yes this a thousand times yes. I always want to go through the TV and ask these people "Why did you just buy that vowel?!? What did you hope to accomplish?" I think they just feel good about filling in the board, even though they are paying money to do so.
posted by kiltedtaco at 4:33 PM on February 4


I mean, why not just wager one more dollar, and then in certain scenarios you'd be playing against two newbies instead of one newbie and someone who is basically as good as you.

If you think the other player is basically as good as you, and you only are ahead by luck, then yeah, you don't want to tie them, you want to eliminate them so you won't play against them again. But if you think that your lead is because they're worse at Jeopardy! than you, then better to tie them, than to take the risk that their replacement will be a stronger player than they are.
posted by aubilenon at 4:33 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Arthur's a college friend-of-friends; so weird to see him popping up in so many corners of the Internet now.

As for searching for daily doubles and picking high value questions early, did other people not do that while playing Jeopardy-style review games in school? I had to play those games in a number of classes, and every time we'd run through the high-value questions first. Honestly, I always wondered why all the people on TV didn't do that.
posted by ActionPopulated at 4:33 PM on February 4


you may feel pretty confident that you can beat that person again in the regular rounds...

This is an interesting theory, because you meet the pool of potential competitors early in the morning the day of your game. I think it would be a little difficult to size up the competition if you played the first game of the day, but, yeah, if you stick around till after lunch it should be pretty easy to figure out who you do or don't want to be up against.

If you're not the first match and there are a bunch of super smart* people you're glad you weren't set up against, for fuck's sake, play to tie!

*for this, read middle aged white male; the questions skew pretty hard to this demographic, which gives them an edge.
posted by Sara C. at 4:34 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I think they just feel good about filling in the board, even though they are paying money to do so.

Maybe they just like vowels more than whatever things they would otherwise spend the money on after the game!
posted by aubilenon at 4:35 PM on February 4 [9 favorites]


Also I think it's always mathematically correct to keep spinning and not solve the puzzle until the bitter end,

This is one of the things I find boring about watching Wheel of Fortune. I've thought that Wheel of Fortune would be improved by giving the person who solves the puzzle, say, $200 for each undisplayed letter in addition to the money they've already earned. (No guarantee that $200 is the right number.)

Also, it would be nice if the contestants stopped clapping like seals all the time.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:37 PM on February 4 [8 favorites]


There is another good reason not to bet to tie, and that is that winning on Jeopardy! Is not just about lots of knowledge and quick retrieval, but also timing on the buzzer. Hit the buzzer too early, before Alex has finished reading AND a light has run around the board, and you are locked out for key seconds. Champs usually have the edge because the muscle memory is more firmly in place for them. It is not a good idea to share that edge with another contestant.

Former contestant here
posted by bearwife at 4:39 PM on February 4 [12 favorites]


//If you actually already know what vowel it is, don't buy it, just keep track of it in your head!! ARGH
//

The one that causes me to scream at the TV is the contestant that clearly knows the answer and has like 3 Ps and a M left and then spins a $200, calls P and solves the game, leaving potentially thousands on the table.
posted by COD at 4:42 PM on February 4


I must admit I'm confused by the hate.

Possibly because he looks more like Herb Stempel than Charles Van Doren. (Just a thought. I haven't been watching, I've no idea how charming he is or is not on television.)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:42 PM on February 4 [6 favorites]


axiom, but wouldn't those same things happen if you wager for the tie + $1, except maybe in some insanely specific circumstances?

There's some gamesmanship in terms of the psychology of what you think the other player will do. In this particular situation Chu had $18,200 while the 2nd place player had $13,400 and the 3rd place player had $8,400. The third-place player is incentivized to wager everything in this situation (unless he's very optimistic about the other players either making bad wagers or answering incorrectly), meaning that the other players would like to have a shot at ending up with at least $16,800. If Chu wagers $8,401 (rather than the $8,400 tie bet) and is incorrect he'd be left with 9,799. Meanwhile if the 2nd place player bids $3,600 (enough to exceed a correct 3rd place player betting all -- $16,800) but is incorrect they'd be left with $9,800, which is enough to still beat an incorrect Chu.

tldr: He has to account for other players' possible betting strategies, not just his total money and likelihood of being correct.
posted by axiom at 4:44 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


He said in an interview that his strategy is about the same as the IBM supercomputer Watson's jeopardy strategy previously

Probably not. I played Watson and it didn't seem to have a strategy, or, honestly, be all that great at playing the game. Great at answering questions right, but otherwise not that hard to "beat" as long as you could keep "him" from getting control of the board.

(I came within a Final Jeopardy! of being the only person to beat Watson the day I played, and I'm still bitter about it.)
posted by Sara C. at 4:45 PM on February 4 [12 favorites]


Oh, man, Chu's Daily Double wagering strategy is GENIUS.

$5.

wow
posted by Sara C. at 4:54 PM on February 4


From the Wire piece:
Given that he knows almost every answer, he's perpetually smacking on that buzzer in public view. It's pretty annoying, as the Vine to the right shows.
This makes no actual sense as something to criticize him for. Most Jeopardy! contestants know almost every answer on the board.
posted by Sara C. at 4:56 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


Anything to the idea of game theory helping prevent Cold War -> WWIII on account of the US had mathematicians and the USSR had mathematicians and even when both sides distrusted each other they trusted their mathematicians?
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:57 PM on February 4


you don't know who you'll be up against until just a few moments before your game starts.

Identity doesn't matter - all players should make the pact with all players :-D
To do that, all that's needed for there to be some point before the games where they herd ALL the players into a big room together, and leave them unattended for a while...
posted by anonymisc at 5:02 PM on February 4


They make very clear the strategic reason for betting to tie in the video in the "won" link. It's a multigame strategy.

If you bet to tie in game 1, regardless of whether it ends in a tie or not, your opponents will know that you bet to tie, which means that in game 2, if you are in the lead in final jeopardy, the person in second is more likely to bet everything (as it makes the "both right" variation into a win for them, when it wouldn't be if you bet to win+$1).

This guarantees that the "both wrong" variation is also a win for you (ignoring the third player for now).

That said, I would have bet to tie even though the above thought had never occurred to me. The value of $1 more for me is a lot lower than the value of letting another human being share in the experience of winning tens of thousands of dollars.
posted by 256 at 5:03 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


That doesn't ever happen. By design, I assume. You're always accompanied by the contestant minders.
posted by Sara C. at 5:04 PM on February 4


Also, I have never understood why more people don't scour the high value questions first, though my thought had nothing to do with daily double hunting. It just seems rational, given that rarely is there time for all the questions, to maximize the amount of money you are playing for.
posted by 256 at 5:08 PM on February 4


It just seems rational, given that rarely is there time for all the questions, to maximize the amount of money you are playing for.

You also want to get as much as you can out of the categories that you're strong in. If time runs out before your best category is exhausted, it's way better to be leaving $200 up on the board than $1000.
posted by aubilenon at 5:12 PM on February 4


given that rarely is there time for all the questions

At most, one or two questions get left on the board in round 1, generally speaking. And even that I'd say only happens maybe in 1/5 cases, or so it seems.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:14 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


It just seems rational, given that rarely is there time for all the questions, to maximize the amount of money you are playing for.

I suppose that depends on the perceived likelihood of getting a question right. The expected payoff for selecting a lower-value question is potentially higher than a high-value question if you suspect there's a much higher chance of getting it wrong (or someone else getting it right). I didn't watch the Chu games but the fact that he bet $5 on a sports daily double makes me think he probably wasn't keen on sports questions, so the expected value of a $200 non-sports question was higher than a sports-related double. I'm not super familiar with the various strategies common among current Jeopardy! players, but I suspect there's some level of metagame going on, where you adjust your behavior based on how good you think other players are doing and whether you're leading (and by how much).
posted by axiom at 5:15 PM on February 4


If you go back and watch vintage Champion Tournaments of Jeopardy from like the 80s, plenty of contestants "play the field" for max points or (presumably) to search for Daily Doubles. It's not anything new, but people get used to certain things and then think somebody is an asshole for playing differently. I've always thought, if there's a topic up there you know you're strong in, why WOULDN'T you go for big points early? Seems stupid to do otherwise.
posted by ReeMonster at 5:29 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Kirk & the Kobayashi Maru, that's cheating.

This guy is is taking a longbow and shooting knights as they slog forward through the mud, while aesthetes bemoan a lack of chivalry.

Fire another round, Arthur; there's a weak Daily Double at the joints where the plate armor stops and a circlet for the winner.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:35 PM on February 4 [19 favorites]


I suppose that depends on the perceived likelihood of getting a question right. The expected payoff for selecting a lower-value question is potentially higher than a high-value question if you suspect there's a much higher chance of getting it wrong (or someone else getting it right). I didn't watch the Chu games but the fact that he bet $5 on a sports daily double makes me think he probably wasn't keen on sports questions, so the expected value of a $200 non-sports question was higher than a sports-related double.

But if you look at the expected value for someone else, the $200 question is $200, but a daily double can be worth several thousand. Much better to block them from the high value daily doubles than from a low value easy one, even if you get 0 for the first and 200 for the second.
posted by jeather at 5:49 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I agree that his perfectly legit strategy of hunting for DD is annoying.

The simple way to address this is to hide DDs anywhere on the board, not just in the bottom half.
posted by pmurray63 at 5:54 PM on February 4


I can't help but wonder if there's some link between all the people complaining about how he rides the buzzer and some sort of underlying Asian stereotype.
posted by kafziel at 5:59 PM on February 4 [6 favorites]


WHAAAAT SARA C WAS ON JEOPARDY WHY WASN'T I TOLD.

posted by jcreigh at 4:29 PM on February 4


It's true, she's not on the official MeFite Jeopardy Contestants list, but perhaps she chose not to be? I dunno.
posted by mykescipark at 6:10 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


A while back, I regularly read the Jeopardy forums. Occasionally people would refer to daily-double hunting as if it were somehow cheating, or at least the poorest of sportsmanship.

Didn't get it then, and don't get it now: besides knowing stuff and being fast on the buzzer, success lies in what to choose when and how to bet... I'm really at a loss to see how putting thought in using that to your best advantage is any more scurrilous than memorizing the world capitals.

If I heard of someone trash-talking in the Green Room to try to throw the other players off, that I'd consider bad sportsmanship. Being smart about betting? Don't get it.
posted by Zed at 6:47 PM on February 4


I also don't understand the hate. Personally I wish someone would come along and do this for Wheel of Fortune,

Ignore the category information for the 'thing' category. It is never actually a thing.
posted by srboisvert at 7:08 PM on February 4


The J-Archive is great. Didn't know it was a thing; I guess I assumed the Jeopardy! people would have put the kibosh on something like that.
posted by Mitheral at 7:31 PM on February 4


I can't help but wonder if there's some link between all the people complaining about how he rides the buzzer and some sort of underlying Asian stereotype.

I kinda think he's only catching flak for the DD searching because of his race (and possibly his physique) as well. The multi-day champ I mentioned earlier in the thread did the same thing, going for every clue at the bottom of the board first, but I never heard anyone get mad about it.
posted by LionIndex at 7:39 PM on February 4


If you bet to tie in game 1, regardless of whether it ends in a tie or not, your opponents will know that you bet to tie

Do players watch the filming of other people's episodes? Based on my experience being on a different gameshow, I would be surprised if so. I imagine contestants wait in a green room and emerge unaware of the champion's level of success until Alex announces it.
posted by threeants at 8:03 PM on February 4


Much better to block them from the high value daily doubles than from a low value easy one, even if you get 0 for the first and 200 for the second.

The problem here is that there are a lot more potential DD squares than there are actual DD squares. If you luck out and are a total expert in several categories, then it makes sense to just start at the $1000 clues and work your way across systematically. If you have no special advantage, doing this is likely to lose you control of the board very quickly.

I wonder how Chu's first winning game compares to all this "gamification". He may have used some basic strategies early on and then gotten confident enough to do things like specifically hunt for Daily Doubles in later games.

Either that or the guy has balls of steel.
posted by Sara C. at 8:13 PM on February 4


Do players watch the filming of other people's episodes?

Yes, but it's completely randomized who will go in what order or face which competitors.

Either way, I don't think "but then people will know your strategy" is really much of an issue, since any game you win after the first one is gravy. Long streaks are rare, and it's likely that none of the other competitors would be looking to analyze the current game at such a macro level.

Now, if I were playing Ken Jennings, yeah, I'd study up on his strategy. If yesterday's returning champion won like 2-3 of my day's games, yeah, on that second game of the day I'd be watching their style. But if one guy plays one game and bets to tie, I wouldn't assume that in his second game he will also bet to tie.
posted by Sara C. at 8:17 PM on February 4


Oh, and BTW I'm not on the list because I was not aware that it existed and have had no reason to talk about it up till this thread.

I appeared in October of 2007, BTW. If the keeper of the list wants to memail me, I'll reveal my full name, which will enable easy googling of the date.
posted by Sara C. at 8:20 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I appeared in October of 2007, BTW. If the keeper of the list wants to memail me, I'll reveal my full name, which will enable easy googling of the date.

posted by Sara C. at 8:20 PM on February 4


It's a wiki. You can add yourself!
posted by mykescipark at 9:23 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Another mefi contestant here too - Won 1, tanked the second day hard. Here I is

As a viewer, the strategy would annoy me for the reasons already brought up. As a player, the only time I would think it's ill advised is with some of their trickier word game type categories. You want to see one of the easier one's first just to get the pattern in your head.

Otherwise - play away sir, play away.
posted by drewbage1847 at 9:26 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Oh yes, this is my favorite thing on the internet right now! You know that crazy smart guy who you went to college with? The guy who wore shorts and flip-flops all winter long in Eastern PA, who seemed lonely so you thought you'd talk to him in the dining hall one evening just to realize he didn't need friends, the guy who seemed to float--ever quietly and knowingly--through life?

That's Arthur Chu. IT IS AMAZING to see him gain internet fame in this way. It is too beautiful for those of us who have known him. To the extent that he can be known.

Where my Swatties at?
posted by youarenothere at 9:35 PM on February 4 [10 favorites]


the only time I would think it's ill advised is with some of their trickier word game type categories. You want to see one of the easier one's first just to get the pattern in your head

Unless you're confident that you're better at sussing out tricky word games quickly, in which case you're better off going for the top square right away before other folks have figured out the gimmick.
posted by aubilenon at 10:01 PM on February 4


I guess I assumed the Jeopardy! people would have put the kibosh on something like that.

There's enough info there to re-create the game move by move, right down to the incorrect answers. I had a notion of using it to generate an online photonovel of a game, putting word balloons next to the contestants' pictures (and giving Alex a set of stock responses.)

But I feared that they'd put the kibosh on.
posted by Zed at 10:55 PM on February 4


It's kind of killing me how people who should know better act like he's the first person to ever hunt the Daily Doubles.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:34 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


When I saw Chu play, it was pretty obvious what he was doing from the get-go. It was a bit disorienting the way he was hopping all over the board. It may make for sound "theory", but it made for truly rotten play-along-at-home quality.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:43 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Like ActionPopulated and youarenothere (*eyes speculatively*) I knew Arthur in college. His wife was a good friend of mine and we've kept in touch by Twitter -- which, since I now live overseas and can't watch the show, has resulted in the surreal, hilarious, and all too frequently disturbing scenario of following along live by watching the #Jeopardy hashtag. I'm chuffed at his success on the show, but I'm even more impressed at how well he's handling the mass media scrutiny and the torrent of abuse directed at him for his race, his looks, his putative poor sportsmanship, his pressing the buzzer too much... Ugh. But Arthur and Eliza have handled what must be a very weird and stressful situation with humor and grace.
posted by bettafish at 5:30 AM on February 5


Only losers complain about an ugly win.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:25 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, Chu's Daily Double wagering strategy is GENIUS.

$5.

wow


In a category he knew he was weak in, and for a clue which he responded to incorrectly, and thus lost his bet, yes it was a genius bet. Most people wouldn't have even considered the absolute lowball. Most people aren't thinking about it at all.
posted by themanwho at 7:32 AM on February 5


Why is it hard to play at home when the game jumps around? I WANT TO FINISH POTPOURRI FIRST :(

Sheesh, this conniving fellow has really caused a stir.
posted by lordaych at 7:34 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


People are so strange about games. Years ago, I was playing in a chess tournament. I was winning a game. We were getting low on time (the length of a game is controlled by a clock - when you move, you press the clock button on your side, your clock stops, and your opponent's starts).

The opponent failed to press his clock after he moved. So, he continued to lose time. I did the sportsmanlike thing and pointed it out to him, and he pressed it. 2 or 3 more moves, and he does the same thing. This time, I let it run for a minute or two, until he noticed, and hastily pressed it. After I won the game, he refused to shake hands, and denounced me as a "cheater". I thought he was going to spit on me, he was that enraged. You fail to keep up with your clock-pressing obligations, so, I am a cheater? Testosterone poisoning.
posted by thelonius at 8:48 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]


In a category he knew he was weak in, and for a clue which he responded to incorrectly, and thus lost his bet, yes it was a genius bet.

That's why it's so genius.

As a non-sports person, a sports category was my kryptonite. Luckily mine didn't come up till Final Jeopardy, which made betting a bloodless math problem (also there's a strategy to thinking about Final Jeopardy clues). And I got it right, anyway.

But, yeah, the strategy of DD hunting and being completely fearless about what the category is because you can just bet $5 if you think you won't get it is BRILLIANT on a level that is hard to explain. It would be really fucking hard for me to just go balls to the wall and ask for Sportsball for $1000 right out of the gate. The $5 wager lowers the stakes.

This guy must have ice water running through his veins.
posted by Sara C. at 10:34 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


People are so strange about games.

One thing that's interesting about Jeopardy!, which almost nobody who hasn't been in the Pool Of Potential Competitors knows, is that the game itself operates at a much higher level than it seems to on TV.

As a viewer, Jeopardy! looks like smart people in classy outfits answering hard trivia questions.

The reality is that the clues are the easy part. When you decide to try to get on Jeopardy!, there are at least two trivia tests (maybe three?) which act as an immediate weed out. If you get into the contestant pool, you officially know enough stuff to win at Jeopardy!

Underneath the clues there's an entire other game which is mostly about hand-eye-coordination, timing, and various kinds of strategies. There are board-domination strategies, wagering strategies, Final Jeopardy strategies, clue-parsing strategies, etc.

It's weird. If I could do it again, I'd have spent my prep time playing video games rather than studying. Because the actual game that you play when you go on Jeopardy! is really a hand-eye-coordination game, not a trivia game.

When you play the game of Jeopardy!, you buzz in first or you die.
posted by Sara C. at 10:42 AM on February 5 [6 favorites]


As a non-sports person, a sports category was my kryptonite. Luckily mine didn't come up till Final Jeopardy...

You and me both, friend, you and me both.
posted by themanwho at 11:32 AM on February 5


(I've added Sara C. and drewbage1847 to the Jeopardy Contestants page on the wiki.)
posted by Zed at 11:38 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


The fact that there are so many mefites who have been on Jeopardy also blows my mind. Let's do some math.

There are about 230 million people over the age of 18 in the United States. There are about 6,000 episodes of the Trebek version of Jeopardy. Let's say there are 2 new contestants per episode. That's 12,000 contestants, and (230 million)/(12,000) = One Jeopardy contestant per 19,167 people in the US.

There are 36 mefites that we know about who have been on Jeopardy, and as of the end of last year, there were 62,569 Metafilter accounts. That's one Jeopardy contestant per 1,738 Metafilter users, a rate 11 times higher than the general population. And that's a conservative estimate, because presumably there are some mefites who have simply never mentioned that they were on FREAKING JEOPARDY. I mean, JESUS CHRIST, do we also have any Nobel Prize winners who just never found the right thread to bring it up?

In short, Metafilter users are about 10 times more likely to have been on Jeopardy than the general population, which given the way Metafilter skews, is not that surprising.
posted by jcreigh at 12:34 PM on February 5 [16 favorites]


I think if everyone starts doing Daily Double hunting, the obvious change is going to be requiring contestants to wager at least half or a quarter of the amount they already have if they decide to go in on a Daily Double. (Sorry if I missed a comment to that effect).
posted by Gnatcho at 12:45 PM on February 5


I doubt they'll change rules, or at least not anytime soon -- they're pretty conservative. In 1985, at the beginning of season 2 of the Trebek show, they implemented the requirement that contestants can't buzz in until after Alex finishes the prompt. Not counting changes to the clue values or winnings, I don't think there was another change until they suspended the champions retire after 5 games rule in 2003. In the middle of Jennings' run, they changed their procedures to give the newcomers more practice with the buzzer, but I wouldn't count that as a rules change. And so far as I know, that's it.

And Chu's run and thus the show is getting a lot of attention. That'll probably be good for a short-term bump in their numbers. If the numbers decline amidst continued complaints of champions daily-double hunting through the year, then, yeah, they might change something.
posted by Zed at 1:09 PM on February 5


It totally tickles me how many mefites have been on Jeopardy. It's never something I've aspired to, but indirectly knowing people who have done it makes me feel happy. Yay everyone!
posted by stoneweaver at 1:19 PM on February 5


The problem with changing the rules to avoid Daily Double hunting is that it's not really "cheating". There are plenty of ways to get burnt trying to do that.

For one thing, controlling the board doesn't give you first dibs on answering a clue. If I pick "Sportsball for $1000" and one of the other players is a huge sports nerd while I'm just picking it in hopes of getting the DD, I could easily lose control of the board if it turns out not to be the DD.

Secondly, while DD hunting subtly helps your odds by taking those questions out of play, if you get both and either lose money or get a tiny amount, the game isn't called "Daily Double!", it's called "Jeopardy!" You need to get the Daily Doubles to win (mostly), but there's a limit to the value of DD hunting.

Thirdly, "hunting" narrows down your choices to about half the board. You can't actually know which spots are going to yield the DD. If this is your third or fourth game and you're settling confidently into a rhythm, you might be able to count on controlling gameplay enough to make DD hunting work for you, because as I said, most competitors know most of the answers anyway. But in any given game, it's not like we're talking about "guarding" base when you played tag in elementary school. It's not an automatic win.
posted by Sara C. at 1:36 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I particularly enjoy the "he's not qualified to kiss Ken Jennings ass" type comments after reading the mental_floss article. OK, Ken Jennings is a natural brilliant trivia god, and barely did any preparation at all. He certainly had years of practice absorbing information and developed some techniques but I think the dude's a natural. He can systematically move down each category and win. Good for him.

But then this scrappy guy knows he's not a natural, knows he has to practice, figures out how he wants to win, devotes his life to winning for a full month, and people are upset because they're accustomed to watching the show a certain way. And I think a lot of these people, based on my own prejudices just reading their comments, would normally be all in favor of the scrappy-take-all-comers underdog who finds a way to win. And they would be very much against a silly "sense of entitlement" about something as insignificant as a TV show going the way they want.

It reminds me of a Louis CK bit where he complains about people who insist on holding up traffic trying to cut across to a turn lane because they ended up in the wrong lane. Instead of just going to the next block or two, they insist on fucking everyone else's commute. There's not really a direct analogy there, but the bit is centered on the "but I wanted it to be like the way I wanted it to be!" mentality where people act like dicks or spite themselves over the most trivial nonsense instead of just navigating their way around it.

OK, you want contestants to play down the board systematically. Good news! 99% of the game is played like that. Now, someone wants to change things up and keeps winning. Maybe enjoy the change-up for a change? If it throws your game, consider how much harder it is for the other contestants, and particularly him, who has to stay on top of all of them. Now, try to keep up. Don't worry, it'll go back to the way you want it to go sooner or later.
posted by lordaych at 8:51 PM on February 5


The fact that there are so many mefites who have been on Jeopardy also blows my mind. Let's do some math.

I'm curious: how many mefites have been on
_ _ _ _ _
_ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
?
posted by madcaptenor at 9:09 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


My favorite memory of trying out for Jeopardy - other than I never realized I could be that much of a stress ball - was the day I showed up for the second round of tryouts. Second floor, crappy hotel near Culver City. The floor had a couple of those small conference rooms that you jammed into a lousy off-site meeting/seminar with bad pastries and lukewarm coffee. One of those rooms was the jeopardy room. Across the hall was the mega ballroom. That's where they were doing the Wheel of Fortune tryouts at the same time. Little room, little noise, studious people. Big ballroom filled with big noise and cheerleaders exhorting the action.

It amused me the difference. And yeah, I realized I was being a snobby elitist high on my own self-evident intellectual superiority. Still was amused because I'm petty in my own small way. (Never mind, the fact that my wife could wax me Wheel of Fortune)

Incidentally - help boost the population of Jeopardy Mefis! - You can practice and register online at Jeopardy.com. The test for this season is over, but hey, it's fun.
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:34 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Jeopardy, the official sport of MENSA!
posted by spitbull at 5:47 AM on February 8


Arthur Chu feature on Daily Beast. He returns tonite!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:25 AM on February 24


Excited Arthur won again! I'm sorry I missed this thread the first time round. As someone who knows him a bit, I've really enjoyed his time in the news, and I've been impressed by his classy (and hilarious) responses to his twitter detractors. The Daily Beast article Potomac Avenue mentioned made me laugh since shorts and a T-shirt are very much a thing this Swattie associates with Arthur. Ken Jennings did a fun interview with him yesterday too.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:58 AM on February 25


Excited Arthur won again!

And again, and again, and again! Friday's show (28 Feb) was a nail-biter, but he pulled it out. Dude is up to $261,000.

He'll be back in two weeks, and I'll bet he wins more. He is good stuff.
posted by heyho at 10:42 AM on March 1


Best Week Ever clip
posted by heyho at 12:24 PM on March 1


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