1. It’s All in the Thumb, or Index Finger, or …
Knowing the answer outright or being able to figure it out quickly are important, of course, but perhaps the most important skill is mastering the buzzer. You can know every single fact in the universe, but if you mis-time ringing in, it does you no good.
You cannot press the buzzer until Alex finishes reading the clue. Too early and you’re locked out for a quarter second—an eternity in Jeopardy time. Too late and someone else will beat you to it. During a pre-taping practice session, we were advised to wait for the last syllable of the last word to start ringing in. I don’t know if that actually works timing-wise, but it is good advice to keep you from hitting the button when you actually have the answer—sometimes only midway through Alex’s reading of the clue.
Some people never get it. They’re the ones you see repeatedly—and often futilely—pressing the buzzer multiple times. Or else they’re the apparent wallflowers who seemingly don’t know the answers but really just can’t press the buzzer at the correct moment. Getting the timing down is crucial. Once you get the hang of it, you can approach a Zen-like state where your timing is second nature and all you have to think about is solving the clue.
That, by the way, is why I wish the Jeopardy producers would go back to limiting repeat winners to five games only, as they did until 2003. Yes, I understand the excitement (and potential ratings draw) of a champion on a long streak, but it’s really unfair to so many contestants to put them up against someone who has mastered a key skill of the game—timing the buzzer.
Based on all this, do you think you have what it takes to be a Jeopardy champ? Coming up, I’ll reveal secrets behind the game and what to expect as you try out.