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Del. man uses app to break ‘Jeopardy!’ records

It wasn't just aptitude that helped Roger Craig of Newark, Del., become Jeopardy!'s latest Tournament of Champions winner.

It wasn't just aptitude that helped Roger Craig of Newark, Del., become Jeopardy!'s latest Tournament of Champions winner.

It was also an app.

The 34-year-old computer scientist, who earned a Ph.D just last year at the University of Delaware, did "text mining" of about 211,000 archived posers to "reverse-engineer" the quiz show and solve "a nonlinear optimization problem: How do I study?"

Or so he explained in a video now getting lots of looks online. (Go to:

After all, he slaughtered some very impressive players.

Chess champ Bobby Fischer once said, "I like the moment I break a man's ego" - and he had other grandmasters in mind.

Craig had such a moment during the first day of the championship finals, which aired Monday.

He selected Daily Doubles back to back, bet it all both times, delivered both correct questions - about Anne Bronte and Suriname - and leaped from $9,000 to $36,000.

Hope drained from the faces of his two opponents.

No one else had ever done such a feat or bet so much on a single Daily Double.

In September 2010, Craig set two other records: most money won on a single show ($77,000) and most won in a contestant's first five games ($195,801), as he raked in $231,200 over seven shows.

Tuesday, Craig was seen adding a measly $1,200 (he lost a $14,400 bet in Final Jeopardy) but with the highest two-day total - by far - he walked away with the tournament's $250,000 top prize.

Total winnings: Nearly a half-million dollars.

Host Alex Trebek briefly alluded on Tuesday's show to the secret of Craig's success - and the brazen confidence behind his risky betting: He created a computerized system to guide his study.

He sure did.

Craig had a trivia background - a longtime love of Jeopardy! and competing on college quiz bowl teams - but so did lots of contestants.

He went much further, as seen in video of his August talk about "knowledge tracking with respect to a television game show" at the "Quantified Self Meetup" in New York.

A website,, stores answers and questions from shows dating back to Trebek's debut in 1984. Craig explained he used that data to set up a website to help him practice. Downloaded questions were grouped by using "text clustering ... so all the questions with George Washington would cluster with Abraham Lincoln, and the questions with boron would cluster with nitrogen," he said.

Clusters were given values not just by size - indicating how often similar questions arose - but by dollar values.

Better to study areas with lots of questions with high dollar values than worry about fashion, say, which comes up less often and tends to pay less, Craig explains.

Rising "bubbles" on a tracking chart clearly showed how studying improved his chances.

He added coding to predict how he'd do with various questions, which allowed simulated games to indicate what to work on.

Can't study all 211,000 questions after all, he said.

He was surprised to be so successful - and to have the kick of seeing himself featured on websites like Yahoo! TV was actually less of a big deal, because he doesn't watch much, he said.

"It's amazing to win $250,000," Craig said, according to a University of Delaware piece. "I probably shouldn't admit this, but I'd play the game for free!"

Most of his winnings will go into his savings, but he also planned to travel, and "donate to charity and my alma maters," he said.