Reigning Jeopardy! champion Ryan Long continued his winning streak Thursday, nabbing his 15th straight victory on the popular game show.
Long, a 39-year-old Uber and Lyft driver from Philadelphia, now holds the ninth-longest winning streak in the history of Jeopardy!. So far, his encyclopedic knowledge across multiple trivia categories — he refers to his brain as a “storage locker — has earned him $279,400 and a trip to the show’s annual Tournament of Champions.
Not bad for a guy who lived paycheck-to-paycheck after a serious bout with COVID-19 and turned to ridesharing to provide for his 8-year-old son, Nathan.
“The money’s life changing,” Long told The Inquirer. “It’s not like I’m set for life, but if I’m smart with it, I can definitely do some things. I’m very happy and very, very fortunate.”
Long said he hasn’t seen any of his winnings yet because Jeopardy! doesn’t pay out until a contestant’s run on the show is over and has aired on television. He said the biggest change is being recognized around Philadelphia — at the grocery story, at Target, and even while on the phone during a brief interview Thursday afternoon.
“I’m learning to get in and out of places quick,” Long joked.
Though Long has beaten everyone from academics to teachers, some of the wins haven’t come easy. On Thursday, Long entered Final Jeopardy with a $4,000 lead over Tom Philipose, a writing professor from Forest Hills, N.Y.. Neither answered the final clue correctly, but Philipose wagered all his earnings while Long bet just $3,500, winning the game and adding $19,300 to his running total.
On Wednesday, Long managed a narrow victory despite entering Final Jeopardy in second place and getting the clue wrong. Fortunately, challenger Meagan Morrow also guessed incorrectly, and wagered more money, allowing Long to eek by with a $600 win.
“That clue, I knew the answer … I just blanked,” Long said. “Final Jeopardy is a real pressure situation. Sometimes you can know the answer, but other times it’s like your brain just randomly stops working, at least for me.”
Long was also late on the buzzer Wednesday on a clue involving the Phillie Phanatic, which was answered by Vanessa Williams, the assistant vice dean of new programs at Rutgers Law School. Williams, who grew up outside London and moved to Philadelphia about 10 years ago, finished in third place Wednesday, earning $1,000.
“I was fine with missing that one,” Long said. “My Philly sports love is bona fide. If I miss one, it’s okay.”
Williams said she showed up to Jeopardy!’s studios in Culver City, Calif., a day early, and was in the studio audience while Long continued to rack up wins. Unfortunately, she thinks she might have psyched herself out a bit watching him nab victory after victory.
“I think I said something in passing to some of the Jeopardy! team like, “Oh, he seems unbeatable,’” Williams said. “Obviously, I have no basis of comparison, but I do think the vibes were probably a little different than if I had seen several people win.”
“He’s just the nicest guy,” Williams said of Long. “He was just so apparently calm on the surface and really seemed to be genuinely humble, and was so nice to everyone … Chatting with everyone backstage, no one had a bad word about him. Now that he’s beaten us, we want him to just keep winning.”
Top 10 winning streaks in Jeopardy! history
* - Earnings only includes winnings during regular-season play