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News / Life / Clark County Life

Vancouver’s Yogesh Raut wins ‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament of Champions

Victory continues lifelong dream, Raut said

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 20, 2024, 3:21pm

Vancouverites might have recognized Tuesday night’s “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions winner.

Yogesh Raut, a Vancouver resident since 2017, returned to the famed quiz show this month and took home the $250,000 grand prize after getting the necessary third win in the tournament.

Raut — a blogger, freelance writer and podcaster originally from Springfield, Ill. — was born the same year the current version of the game show premiered. Watching Alex Trebek and playing along with legendary “Jeopardy!” players at a young age formed a lifelong passion, he said.

“It’s been a constant presence in my life,” Raut said. “When you’re a child, you think ‘One day, I’ll be among those ranks.’ But it’s a very difficult process.”

After two decades of repeatedly auditioning to be on the show, Raut got his first opportunity in January 2023.

He took home $98,000 after a four-day run.

The streak opened the door for Raut’s return to the “Jeopardy!” stage for its 2024 Tournament of Champions. The tournament’s final episode aired Tuesday night.

While he didn’t nail the Final Jeopardy question — What is the thymus? A glandular organ responsible for development of key  immune cells — Raut’s clever wager pushed him past his two competitors, earning him the grand prize.

“Even though I’ve worked my whole life for this, sometimes ultimately I’m at the mercy of luck,” he said.

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Penchant for knowledge

Raut is eager to make something clear: He isn’t fond of the word ‘trivia’ to describe his passion.

“I’m part of a community,” he said. “I dislike the word trivia; it’s more than knowing things. It’s finding out things about the world and sharing them, connecting with people about things they love.”

With his appearances on television, Raut said he hopes to combat stereotypes around “quizzers” and trivia fans as robotic or nerdy.

“People think of Sheldon from ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ or someone with eidetic memory,” he said. “In many ways those (stereotypes) are harmful.”

There’s no shortage of ways Raut said he stays sharp. He participates in several online quiz leagues and said he helps write questions for LearnedLeague — a Seattle-based, invitation-only online trivia league that launched in 1999. Raut also maintains “The Wronger Box,” a blog where he shares the facts he learns each day.

“It’s an outlet to be creative with your question-writing and share your passions with the world,” he said.

‘Jeopardy!’ experience

For years, Raut said he traveled across the country to audition for “Jeopardy!” and regularly ended up disappointed. He wondered what he had to do to get the producers’ attention.

“I consulted people asking specifically what they were looking for. I did my best to give them my television personality. They want you to smile, be upbeat, have that high energy,” Raut said. “Then they say you could get a call in the next 18 months. It’s very easy after going through that cycle and having it not pay off to get disheartened and think ‘This is never going to happen for me.’”

Even when he finally did get ‘the call,’ he wasn’t certain his years of preparation in bar quiz games and “Jeopardy!” simulators would guarantee success on the show.

“I was extremely uncertain,” he said. “I had been part of the quizzing community for a very long time… but I also knew there was no guarantee it would translate to ‘Jeopardy!’ success.”

While the prize money and national recognition is great, Raut said, he’s especially appreciative of the community of “kindred spirits” he’s met since first appearing on the show.

“The best part of any tournament like this is getting to meet these people. These are people who share your passion for knowledge,” Raut said, adding that he and other Tournament of Champions participants already have a group chat they message in.

“Regardless of how the final had gone, it would have been a rewarding experience to spend time with those people.”