LOS ANGELES (AP) — There's a new "Jeopardy!" champion to add to the quiz show history books.
Alex Jacob, a currency trader from Chicago, won the $250,000 top prize on the syndicated TV show's "Tournament of Champions" finale that aired Friday.
He defeated paralegal Matt Jackson of Washington, D.C., and Kerry Greene of Manchester, New Hampshire, a volunteer advocate for children.
Jacob's total winnings were $399,802, including from six regular-season games. The top five "Jeopardy!" prize winners of all time range from Brad Rutter with $4.4 million to Dave Madden with $430,000, the show said. Ken Jennings, who has the most consecutive games won, 74, is No. 2 on the money list with $3.3 million.
Jacob, 31, said his experience as a professional poker player helped guide his approach, including the heart-stopping big bets that he placed on the show's "daily double" categories that allow contestants to risk all their potential earnings.
"The natural tendency ... is you don't want your score to go down to zero or end up in the negative. People think of negative outcomes and it causes them to play a bit more conservatively," Jacob said.
But poker games taught him that "when you have a big edge, when the probability is in your favor, you want to bet as much as you possibly can," he said.
Another tip from Jacob's card-playing days: Don't eat a big meal beforehand to avoid getting sluggish.
Jacob, who earned a bachelor's degree in economics and mathematics from Yale, says a solid memory helped him win. But he also was serious about studying for the quiz show well before he was invited to compete.
Many leisure-time hours in the past five years were spent online, Jacob said, crediting a fan-created website with thousands of previous "Jeopardy!" questions and answers, j-archive.com, as especially valuable.
He wasn't entirely wrapped up in becoming a game show champ: He got married last August and at least some of his prize will help defray honeymoon costs, Jacob said, with his wife choosing the destination.
He's just happy reveling in his victory on "Jeopardy!" which is hosted by Alex Trebek. The show debuted in 1964.
"It's surreal," Jacob said. "One of those things you plan for, and you dream of, and you always think you can do it and it could happen — but it doesn't necessarily mean it will happen."
Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/lynn-elber and she can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber