December 04, 2022
South Jersey "Jeopardy!" juggernaut Cris Pannullo has reached a milestone during his time competing on the show that sets him among some of the best contestants of all time.
Continued domination of the quiz show has seen Pannullo moving up through the ranks of the greatest "Jeopardy!" players of all time. He now sits in fifth place on the Leaderboard of Legends for the highest winnings during regular-season play, and is also tied in sixth place with fellow 20-game winner Julia Collins for consecutive games won.
The only five contestants to have won more games than Pannullo are: "Jeopardy!" host Ken Jennings (74 games), Amy Schneider (40 games), Matt Amodio (38 games), James Holzhauer (32 games) and Mattea Roach (23 games).
“[It’s] like a real murderers’ row,” Cris said in reference to the players ahead of him. “It’s super cool to be on that list.”
Look who's officially on the Leaderboard of Legends 👀— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) December 2, 2022
We're breaking down Cris Pannullo's journey thus far in this week's episode of Inside #Jeopardy!: https://t.co/KSTrY6kN1C pic.twitter.com/nPmboSY1Qh
Since Pannullo's "Jeopardy!" reign first began back in September, 80 percent, or 16 of his 20 wins, have ended in runaways.
“If you’re trailing you need to bet big to get that lead, and you need to bet big to keep the lead,” Pannullo said. “I’ve been a little shaky on Final Jeopardy!, so any chance I can get to solidify a runaway is crucial.”
Games aren't always runaways for Pannullo, though. During Thursday's game, against Rob Lamanna and Jeri Zulli, he finished in first by a mere $2,021.
“I had some really, really good opponents this week who were beating me on the buzzer,” Pannullo said. “Some were beating me on the board, [and] they were just smarter than me and quicker than me.”
His most recent match on Friday saw Pannullo up against Josh Gregor, a teacher from Michigan, and Ilana Freedman, an occupational therapy assistant from Louisiana. In what became another demolishing victory for Pannullo, he added $44,121 to his overall total.
The customer success operations manager currently holds the longest winning streak of Season 39 and has won the most money on the show since Philadelphia-native Ryan Long's 16-game winning streak ended in the spring.
Pannullo returned to TV screens to continue his streak on Nov. 22, after a month-long pause in "Jeopardy!" regular season coverage to air the show's Second Chance Tournament and subsequent Tournament of Champions.
Having far exceeded the necessary 5 games, Pannullo is one of three contestants so far this season to have already qualified for the next Tournament of Champions.
As a former professional poker player, Pannullo has garnered comparisons to James Holzhauer, one of the top "Jeopardy!" contestants of all time. In 2019, Holzhauer won 32 straight games and more than $2.46 million in regular season earnings. He was known for going all-in on the Daily Double clues.
Pannullo has shown a similar strategy in his own game play, with a talent for finding Daily Doubles and placing large wagers that distance him from the other contestants early in in the game.
He also has adopted a buzzer technique reminiscent of Holzhauer's. Pannullo studied the buzzer stance Holzhauer used, which involves crossing his arms to buzz in faster. The technique was created by Fritz Holznagel, author of "Secrets of the Buzzer," a book that Holzhauer studied.
This isn't Pannullo's first time in the game show circuit – he won $5,000 on ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" in 2018.
Often presenting a strictly business, poker-face aura, Pannullo has shared a few facts about his life away from the "Jeopardy!" podium, including information about his pet bunny and his relationship with his girlfriend. During a recent post-commercial Q&A session, he said that while he doesn't necessarily have a pre-show ritual before competing, he does eat a similar lunch each day: a salad with mixed greens, chickpeas and chicken, with a banana or apple on the side.
Despite his runaway victories and record-breaking achievements so far, Pannullo said his most memorable moment so far has been, "just going in and winning that first game.”
Pannullo will seek to continue his winning streak this week on"Jeopardy!" which airs weekdays at 7 p.m. on ABC.