‘Jeopardy!’ champ can thank Biden for his win

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Sam Deutsch of Bethesda knows the answer to “What is it like to win $100,000, Alex?” after being crowned Jeopardy! College Champion.

The Richard Montgomery High School graduate was the only one of the three contestants to write the correct question to the final Jeopardy! clue, identifying Vice President Joe Biden as the senator who cast 12,810 votes from 1973 to 2009. The show aired Feb. 12.


Biden sent Deutsch, 20, a congratulatory letter. The student had entered the two-day final in second place, by a dollar, having earned $22,000.

He credited his success partly to his high school’s international baccalaureate program and also to his participation in its Quizbowl team, “which really helped me prepare for the pressure of answering the questions, but a lot of my knowledge has come from what I’ve learned in school or just what I’ve read on my own.”

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A student at the University of Southern California, Deutsch wants to attend law school, but probably will work for a few years before enrolling. He also hopes to travel.

Deutsch is in USC’s liberal arts general education honors program, majoring in political economy and double-minoring in business law and consumer behavior.


His economics and businesses classes might be the key to making his $100,000 prize go a long way.

“I’m going to invest a lot of it and use it in the future to help pay for law school. That said, I’ll definitely set some aside to hopefully go back to Tokyo for a post-graduation gift,” he said.

Deutsch, who had his bar mitzvah at Temple Sinai in Washington, also plans on donating some winnings to the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown University. “My mom is a survivor and a huge inspiration,” he said. “Every year, she has run in fundraisers for breast cancer research, and I look forward to supporting her this year.”

When he’s not studying, “I really enjoy listening to music. I’m into all sorts of stuff from hip-hop to indie to electronic, and L.A. is great because I’m able to go to concerts all the time here,” Deutsch said. “My love for music led me to get into DJing with my roommate.”

He is a great admirer of Kanye West, and mentioned the hip-hop artist while on Jeopardy! — although he was not quick enough on the buzzer to answer a question about his idol.

Deutsch pointed to West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and said it was “honestly the album that got me through high school.” He called it “incredibly well made and powerful.” Deutsch also is a fan of the musician’s line of fashion, especially his shoes.

“I greatly respect how he’s not afraid to say what he thinks. While I may disagree with some of the things he says, I know that it’s coming from an honest and authentic perspective, not one warped by a PR machine.”

As for his other likes, Deutsch is a fan of the television show Mad Men, and definitely enjoys his lox and cream cheese.

Traveling is another one of Deutsch’s loves. He spent last summer in Japan and Korea. He spoke to WJW from the Netherlands, where he is studying. “”I’ve been to five countries in the past few weeks alone,” he said.

To become a Jeopardy! champion, Deutsch bested 14 other bright college students. He called his first appearance, shown on Feb. 3, “very nerve-wracking … just because you have to get used to the whole environment.” (The programs were recorded in January.)

His goal “was just to make it to the semifinals,” he said. “Actually, winning the whole thing wasn’t even on my mind.”

His nerves aside, he had a great time. Host Alex Trebek is a “funny guy” and “is pretty skilled at witty banter.” However, to make sure the host didn’t show any favoritism, he didn’t really mingle with the contestants, Deutsch said.

Winning that much money was great, but Deutsch said he was truly pleased “to see all the friends, family, teachers, classmates and people from Bethesda cheer me on. That’s all that matters to me.”

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@SuzannePollak

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