Game Two Recap...  Mark Dawson

After reading the contestant biographies and thinking about the diversity and commonality that this group of individuals contained. It was especially
remarkable to see the variety of approaches that my fellow contestants utilized. While I had not done much of anything to get ready for my regular season shows, there was no way that I could have participated in this once
in a lifetime event without preparation. I thought that my regimen was
extensive, at least until I read Alan's bio. Wow! I mean WOW!

My personal theory for Jeopardy is that good preparations account for only about 5-15% of your actual performance. At this level, though, that 5-15% may make the difference. For hitters in the Major Leagues, 5% can literally move you from the farm team to the All-Star team. Still more important aspects are "a lifetime of paying attention" (a la Brad Rutter) and your readiness to play on a given day. I rate each of these at around 40-45% of your actual performance; the important difference being that you can't do very much to adjust the former, while the latter can vary wildly, even from minute to minute. In my bio, I mentioned a number of things that I did to get myself mentally and physically ready, especially aclimating myself to my environment and getting plenty of sleep. The fourth factor is strategy. (To those wondering whatever happened to buzzer skills, the above numbers are based on each player being equally frustrated by the buzzers. I believe that economists get past this sort of detail with the simple phrase "ceteris paribus" --- all other things being equal. And they give Nobel Prizes for
that kinda stuff!!!)

For the first round of the ToC, winning was not my primary goal: my goal was survival. Based on what had happened in the 2000 ToC, the 2001 ToC and the Million $ Masters tournaments, combined with the very good advice presented on the Jeopardy bulletin boards, I had come up with what I thought was a reasonable amount of money to be needed to give one a better chance of moving on as a qualifier, than by risking money on Final Jeopardy. For the M$M, several had mentioned a $20,000 cut-off, which is exactly where the cut-off occurred. For the 2001 ToC, Lan made the cut with just $2,400 (old values).

At first, I had decided on a target of $21,000 (Ah, but a man's reach should
exceed his grasp -- or what's a heaven for? R. Browning), with $18,000 as the actual point at which I would not bet on Final Jeopardy. After some additional math, I adjusted these numbers down to a target of $18,000, with $16,000 as my actual cut off. I reasoned it this way.... In all of my previous games, I was getting to a little more than one third of the questions. The Jeopardy boards hold $54,000 (not including DDs). One third of that is $18,000. If I played accurately, then I could rack up enough to secure a semifinals spot, without risking anything on a DD or on FJ, simply by getting "my one third" of the questions. The day before the taping, I wrote in large, colorful block letters $16,000 and posted it above the
television in my hotel room, so that I would be able to focus on that number
despite all of the distractions of the studio.

For the first round, my "draw" wasn't important to me. It was a tremendous
relief to not be playing against anyone. I was simply trying to reach a target.
I would have been happy to have come in third, as long as I met my goals,
scoring $16,000 AND securing a spot in the semi-finals.

When I was included in the names called for game 2, my momentary
evaluation of the situation was: I'm glad I'm going early, while I'm still
fresh, and that the chief danger of playing against Trevor and Max was that
Trevor would get all of the topical stuff, and that Max would cover all of the
"been there, done that" stuff, pretty much leaving me to pick up the academic crumbs. I felt great getting out on stage, thinking that the nervous energy would soon dissipate and I would be in fine form. As the game progressed, however, a sort of a blue funk descended upon me, and I played the entire middle portion of the game in some sort of dream sequence fog. It was so bad that for a time, I completely stopped reading the clues (the kiss of death) and was simply listening along as Alex read them out loud. I managed to get back on track long enough to make a little run at the end and when the board was clear I looked up to see that, not only was I in first place, but that my score was precisely $16,000.

At this point, I had two choices, I could play to win (an unbelievably strong
temptation) or stick to my game plan and bet zero. Trevor was close behind me, so a miss on a bet to win would have, in all likelihood, put me out of
contention for Round 2, so I put that out of my mind. If Max bet to double, then she would be $800 points short of $16,000, that meant that I
had $799 of wiggle room. I could still bet, but make sure that I was ahead of at least one other person in qualifying for the second round. I bet $799.

As it turned out, Trevor's strategy was similar to mine, but his target was
$18,000. He won the game in fine fashion. Max had bet it all and finished with $0. Once we joined Kathy, Ben and Brian in the audience, I learned that I was ahead of three others in the line for qualifying spots, so I liked my chances. Boy was I glad that I didn't have another game to play that day.
I was spent.