Life List: Win on Jeopardy
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Life List: Win on Jeopardy

Write it down. Make it happen. Elza Reeves' life list.

Elza Reeves
Louisville, Kentucky
Age 47
Married, two children, part-time bank teller and church pianist

My Goals
Win on Jeopardy!
Attend a Green Bay Packers home game
Read Don Quixote in Spanish

The Essentials
Ballpoint pen to practice clicking
Good-luck blouse
World Book Encyclopedia

My Plan
I've always had a good memory. When I was little my dad would quiz us at the dinner table on Bible stories and American history -- and I loved to watch the old version of Jeopardy! hosted by Art Fleming. When the show came back in 1984 I thought, "I could do that!" But as a fresh-from-college newlywed I had too much else to do.

In 2003 the Jeopardy Brain Bus came to Louisville. I tried to take the qualifying test but the lines were just too long. Four years later I took the test online and got an invitation to audition in Chicago. Ten months went by without a call. Then in June 2008 the phone rang and a voice asked, "So do you still want to be on Jeopardy!?" I was so excited I couldn't stop jumping up and down.

In the studio I met Alex Trebek and practiced working the buzzer. My favorite question was in the category "COUNTRIES WITH A Z." I had learned a lot when my son was studying for a geography bee and was so proud of coming up with Uzbekistan. Frankly, the rest was a blur. Suddenly it was time for Final Jeopardy. My score was exactly twice that of the previous champion's. I realized that even if he doubled his score, the worst I could do was tie for first place. I bet zero.

A good thing, too: The category was tennis and I had no idea. I knew my answer wasn't right but it didn't matter since no one got it. I won $16,400!

What I Learned
Winning was an incredible rush. To be able to get on the show and play well gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. It didn't matter too much that during the second taping things didn't go my way. In Double Jeopardy I hit the Daily Double. The category was "LET'S GET BIBLICAL." I'm a minister's daughter and the question was about one of Jesus' disciples, but I went completely blank!

Still, winning was amazing -- totally outside of anything I'd ever done. My children are in college and moving on with their lives. Now that I've done this it makes me think about what else might lie in store. I have this exciting sense that more great things could come along. But first I hope to use some of my winnings to let my husband tick off something on his life list -- to see a live space-shuttle launch.


Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, July 2009.