Feb. 28, 2012 — -- "Jeopardy Villain" Arthur Chu once again played for the tie -- only this time, he didn't get it.
Instead, he won for a ninth straight time.
Heading into "Final Jeopardy!" at the very end of tonight's pre-taped episode, Chu had $22,400 to $11,400 for his nearest challenger, Semret Lemma. Chu could have bet $401 or more to ensure victory -- but his $400 wager and correct response brought him to $22,800, only enough to ensure a tie if Lemma bet everything.
Both opponents guessed correctly, but Lemma did not bet everything. So Chu won again.
Chu's unconventional tactics -- including sometimes wagering only enough to ensure a "Final Jeopardy!" tie, picking squares off the board out of the conventional order, usually playing the higher-value clues first and betting big on the "Daily Double" selections that often appear there -- have made him a hero to some but earned him the sobriquet of "Jeopardy Villain" among the show's purists.
Traditionally, "Jeopardy!" contestants play the game board in a particular order, going through the clues in each category from lowest value to highest. And on the "Final Jeopardy!" question, they usually wager to win.
However, Chu, 30, an insurance compliance worker and voice-over actor from Broadview Heights, Ohio, has disrupted the normal paradigm, deploying elements of game theory and other unconventional tactics during his matches. He doesn't bet that extra dollar in "Final Jeopardy!" to ensure victory if he's right, noting that if he and another player both are wrong in their responses, that dollar could cost him.
Read More: How 'Jeopardy Villain' Kept Winning
In an interview with the longest-running "Jeopardy!" champ ever, Ken Jennings, who once won 74 straight, Chu said at first he was uncomfortable with hostility online toward his tactics, and derogatory comments about his sometimes rumpled appearance and his intense "Jeopardy!" game face.
"It’s natural and human to care what other people think about you," Chu said. "If I’d not been playing for enormously high stakes on 'Jeopardy!' my natural instincts to try to be nice and make a good impression probably would’ve taken over, I'd've been shy and reticent and afraid to speak up, and as a result I would’ve lost horribly in my first game."
Chu has been live tweeting his matches, and, at his wife's urging, often retweets and replies to his haters.
"There were two choices -- retreat behind a rock and wait for the trolling to blow over, or consciously engage the trolls, take control of the conversation and own my image as a nerdy rumpled 'Jeopardy! jerk' and embrace it," he told Jennings. "And the latter has turned out to be a lot of fun –- and in the end generated a lot more positivity and negativity, though it would’ve been hard to believe that’s how it would’ve ended up that first night of angry people calling me out."
After Chu confronted the haters and learned to embrace the role of anti-hero, he became a hero to many others.
"I think there isn’t much I would change if I could go back," he said. "I mean, the very fact that the 'haters' are the reason for me to, bizarrely, become a national celebrity means that if anything I owe the haters a favor for broadcasting their negative impression of me."
On episodes that have aired so far, Chu has won nine straight times and his total earnings entering tonight's contest were the third-most in non-tournament matches ever, according to the show's host, Alex Trebek.
On tonight's episode, however, things did not look good for Chu early on, as he missed the game's first question to fall to negative-$800 and Lemma initially took leads and kept pace with him.
Both went into the first commercial break with $3,000.
True to form, however, Chu zoomed ahead in the "Double Jeopardy!" round largely by winning a bold $8,000 wager on a "Daily Double" shortly after Lemma missed a $1,800 "Daily Double" bet.