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Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.

UGA PhD candidate Seth Wilson wins 11 in a row on 'Jeopardy'

University of Georgia PhD candidate Seth Wilson has won 11 games in a row on "Jeopardy," a feat only a handful of contestants has ever reached.

So far, he has pocketed more than $240,000 and is tied in fifth place in the all-time list since "Jeopardy" allowed unlimited wins in 2003. (This site tracks various streaks of five wins or more on the show since that time. Until 2003, winners would be "retired" after five consecutive wins.)

The record set by Ken Jennings 12 years ago remains daunting to overcome: a whopping 74 victories in a row. He became an international celebrity, writing books and continues to ride off the fame of that streak.

UPDATE 10/4: He easily won this 12th in a row on Tuesday.

Want to try out yourself? The next on-line quiz comes Tuesday. 

Wilson, in an interview before his 11th win, said he began watching "Jeopardy' at age 5 with his parents and was instantly frustrated that he didn't know most of the answers. But he kept working at it and became a trivia expert. While in Athens, he won many a trivia night at local bars. He prides himself on preparation and already had a vast knowledge in history and pop culture going into the show. Before taping, he studied on geography, a weak link, but couldn't get himself to get into opera, another soft spot in his canon.

In his first game, which aired two weeks ago, the 31 year old ran the board with George Clooney film role questions and quickly relaxed. He also realized he was good with the buzzer, a key way to beat out his opponents.

Over 10 games, he has been ahead at the end of two rounds nine times. He was forced to come from behind that first game. Only three times has he been so far ahead that he was guaranteed a win going into Final Jeopardy.  (This site provides stats on every single game he has played.)

During one game, Wilson actually blew a Final Jeopardy regarding Coldplay (not a fan) but the other player miscalculated her bet and enabled him to stay ahead. So he did get a break.

Fortunately, the one time he faced a dreaded opera question during Final Jeopardy, he was  so far ahead of the second-place contestant, he didn't need to wager a penny.

Wilson, a Vanderbilt University graduate, said he avoids reading online "Jeopardy' sites where fans parse out the show's contestants. His girlfriend informed him some folks felt he was being too conservative in his wagering and that he wasn't aggressively seeking the Daily Doubles enough.  He didn't object to those critiques and said he may have to alter his strategies during the upcoming Tournament of Champions where he'll be facing off against the best of the best with even more difficult questions.

He said he was a little miffed he missed the Final Jeopardy question this past Friday - although it didn't make a difference since he was so far ahead. The category was corporate logos. The answer: "Created in 1971, this company's logo has been likened to a wing & was supposed to connote motion." He said his brain got stuck on airlines and he missed the question, "What is Nike?"

But to him, "any day you survive to the next round feels pretty good."

And just meeting Alex Trebek was a big deal for him. (See how excited he looks in the photo at the top of this story)  "He's such an iconic figure," Wilson said. "It's like meeting Uncle Sam."

At University of Georgia in Athens, where he lived for three years, Wilson worked on a Ph.D. thesis in theatre and film studies. He hopes to receive his degree by 2018.

He currently teaches as an adjunct professor at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, TX while he pushes forth on his dissertation.

His winnings will defray his student loan debts and enable him to do some travel related to his PhD studies.

The show is pretaped. The show airs locally at 7:30 p.m. on WXIA-TV, the NBC affiliate. He is now tied with the infamous  Arthur Chu for fifth place.

Andrew Moore, a Buford man who won six games in a row in 2013, said he really likes Wilson's energy and rapport and clearly, he has a broad range of knowledge to get as far as he has gotten.

Mark Dawson, a Chamblee resident who is one of the biggest winners in the show's history, said Wilson seemed "oddly nervous" during his 11th show. The show tapes five a day. So this would mean this was his first show he taped on day three.

On Monday night's show, "his opponents weren't outclassed as much as the shot themselves in the foot by missing all three Daily Doubles and guessing too often," Dawson assessed. "He won by making fewer mistakes."

Dawson was surprised all three contestants missed a relatively easy question about Detroit's founder.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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