Who is Sam Buttrey? That would be the correct response to the clue, “This current Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions finalist holds the buzzer in one hand while tapping the button with his other hand.” Buttrey is one of three contestants playing for the title of champion this week. With his unique technique, does the first Jeopardy! Professors Tournament winner have an advantage?
Every Jeopardy! contestant comes on the show with a lifetime full of knowledge at their fingertips. Many players are quiz champions or regulars at trivia night who know information that many people might see as useless. Then again, how useless can it be if knowledge is money? Although all contestants come ready to win the game show with their questions, there is one thing that may give one contestant a competitive advantage over the next—their buzzing technique.
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How a player buzzes is on Jeopardy! is said to be the main reason why a contestant wins the game. Although most players hold the buzzer and click the button on the buzzer with the same hand, there are various ways to ensure you’re the first one to buzz in. Buttrey is trying a new approach that seems to be working in his favor, though he doesn’t seem to think so.
‘Just Wait Til The Lights Come And Do A Thing’
Back in December 2021, Buttrey, an associate professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, won the inaugural Jeopardy! Professors Tournament. The champion competed against 14 other professors from the United States and won the $100,000 grand prize. He’s now in the final round of the 2022 Tournament of Champions.
After Buttrey won the semi-final game of the tournament, the professor was asked about his buzzing technique. Ken Jennings, host and Jeopardy! legend, commented that Buttrey had attracted the attention of the other contestants with his buzzer technique. “What was going on there?” Jennings asked Buttrey. “Do you have any tips?”
“I don’t have any idea what was happening there because I’ve seen these guys,” replied the professor. “They are great players. I just, you know, wait ’til the lights come and do a thing. I don’t know,” he admitted.
Even if Buttrey doesn’t know if his buzzing technique is his secret sauce, many previous winners have said that the way they buzzed in helped them win the game. James Holzhauer, the third-highest winning Jeopardy! contestant in history, said that practicing with a pencil as a buzzer helped him win. Another tournament champion, Buzzy Cohen, has admitted how he “would watch the show and click along to work on the buzzing in. It’s kind of the hardest part of the show.”
Even Jennings has said that a person’s buzzing technique is the secret to winning. “Jeopardy! victory most often goes not to the biggest brain,” remarked the host. “It goes to the smoothest thumb.”
We’ll see if Buttrey has the smoothest thumb this week and can claim the title of champion for the 2022 Tournament of Champions in a best of seven series against Amy Schneider and Andrew He.
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