Monday, August 24, 2009

Official postmortem

On the advice of a couple friends, I decided to post an official straight-from-the-horse's-mouth postportem on the WWTBAM message board after my historic million-dollar miss. I thought it might be interesting/helpful to share it here (slightly edited to translate message board slang to plain English):

---------------------

Hi! My name is Ken. You might know me as the guy who lost $475,000 in just over three minutes. I thought you might want to hear about that experience from me.

I could come up with a narrative about everything that happened for my show's taping, but it's all been discussed in great detail by the numerous people who were at the taping, as well as those who watched it tonight. So it might be more interesting to address a few things that have cropped up on the board tonight.

First, my answer on the million dollar question ("MDQ") was not a blind guess or a 25% chance stab at a million. I had eliminated A&W and V8 off the bat. I had a strong inclination toward Yoo Hoo before asking the audience, and only later did I realize why: there's a photo of LBJ meeting the Beatles in which he's drinking a Yoo Hoo (I have not been able to find it online since, but someone else has confirmed remembering this). Ask-the-Audience ("ATA") is notoriously unreliable in the third tier, yes, but I had a rather unusual audience...tons of former contestants and future contestants in the stands. That the unusually distinguished audience had the same inclination that I had gave me a lot of extra confidence. As I saw it at the time, I had about a 75% shot at getting it right. To me, that was good enough to go for it. Do I regret it? I sure as hell regret getting it wrong. But I don't regret the way I played the game. It wasn't a guess, it wasn't arrogance, it was a calculated risk, and it didn't pan out. In real life, most people have to risk bankruptcy to take their shot at a million dollars, and all I had to do was make a calculated wager with found money. If I was put in the same position again, I can't say I would play it differently.

I do admit to one strategic error: I should have used ATA on the Gremlins question instead of Double Dip ("DD"). I was iffy about using ATA (precisely because I was in the third tier, but it was pop culture, and I clearly had a strong feeling about what was right, so ATA would have been appropriate). Had I used ATA there instead of DD, I may have had DD available to me on the MDQ, and Fresca definitely would have been my second guess. Then again, I might have used DD for insurance on the $500k question and still wouldn't have it on the MDQ. I recognize my strategic error but I can't be 100% sure that it changed the outcome of the game. Being willing to take risks is what got me to the MDQ at all, so I can't say it was lunacy just because it didn't work for me every single time.

I've seen some speculation about my Phone-a-Friend ("PAF") choices. I play trivia with Jerome and Alan regularly; Dan is married to a law school friend of mine. Let's be clear, not all Jeopardy champions are created equal; Jerome is a film editor and writer, Alan is a playwright, and Dan is a political aide (who happens to be 20 years younger than the other two). They have very different areas of expertise. And talking to them afterward vindicated my decision to go with Jerome on the "Grace Kelly" question...it was tangentially film-related, he was old enough to remember it, and it wasn't readily Googleable. I have nothing but great things to say about all 3 of my PAFs, and I so appreciate their clearing out their days to help me.

Re: the "now give me the million dollars" comment. I honestly didn't realize I said it, even after watching the show tonight, until someone noted it on the board here. I actually had to go back to my DVR to rewatch to see if it was true, and was very surprised to learn that it was. Whoever characterized it as saying "Big Money" on Wheel of Fortune/Press Your Luck/etc. was dead on...it's just one of those things you say when you need to pump yourself up, I guess. I had no sense then or now that I was entitled to the million dollars (though boy would I have liked to get it).

To all those who complain that I had an easy stack: WWTBAM Executive Producer Michael Davies did advise us that some of the last stacks had been lightened for the last episodes of the show. As he described it, the questions were essentially shifted one over: something that would be $8k was $16k, something that would be $50k was $100k, etc. Didn't stop them from laying quite a trap on the MDQ with the Yoo Hoo option. I recognize that my road to the MDQ was easier than some, but in Millionaire, as in all other trivia contexts, the questions are always easy when you know the answer. There are plenty of people who wouldn't have gotten nearly as far as I did on the same stack. There are some who would have gone all the way. I most certainly did not have the easiest MDQ ever, nor, perhaps, did I have the hardest (I think the plane codes question was crazy obscure, and the audience got that right). I don't apologize for the questions I was dealt, and I still had to get into the hot seat to have a shot at all. If anyone's claiming that "the last 11 or 12 questions" in my stack were equivalent to $4k questions in the syndicated version of Millionaire, I can only laugh at the sour grapes. Have fun when you get onto the show, kids.

I do want to note that, by and large, the people I dealt with were great. The other contestants for my episode were fun, lively individuals, and I hope they kicked maximum ass on their Millionaire runs. We wanted someone from our group to make it rain (confetti), and I hope one of them did. Michael Davies called me to the control room after the episode and thanked me for the show and gave me a great postmortem pep-talk (for the record, there was no conspiracy about getting a million dollar run in the finale...sometimes the powers that be just get that lucky). One former million-dollar winner in the audience and her daughter were immensely positive both immediately after the show and when I ran into them the next day. Another former million-dollar winner (and several others) sent very nice personal messages. The only exception is the wife of one of the other contestants, who I heard (secondhand) claimed that she knew the answer to the MDQ and intentionally voted incorrectly to sabotage me. That, I think, is the most pointlessly spiteful thing I've ever heard of (certainly the most pointlessly spiteful thing I've ever been personally exposed to).

Oh, and if anyone's curious; Pam knew the right answer on the MDQ and voted for it. But that's why she's the real trivia whiz in our relationship.

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,

Just curious, how did you eliminate V8 and A&W right off the bat?

Anonymous said...

Hello! Did you College Bowl when you were an undergrad?

Anonymous said...

Major props to you for risking it all! You seem like the man who will earn millions. Hope you make it to Antarctica.

Cathy said...

Ken, you are awesome! Thanks so much for writing this post-mortem blog. I posted on your previous blog too....anyone with any class knows you were a great player.
Did any of your phone a friends know it was Fresca ?

Anonymous said...

Even though you will now live in game show infamy, i have a lot of respect for you for your Millionaire run. Don't let this loss haunt you, you have a lot going for you.

Anonymous said...

you're an arrogant asshole. i can absolutely understand why that woman supposedly sabotaged the vote. i'm sure i would've voted wrong too, if i had been there and had known the right answer.

Carl said...

I was one of the former contestants at your taping, and they certainly cut a lot out of your appearance, specifically during the Bill Nye sequence.

I have to tell you, you may be a nice, good guy, but man, did you come off as rather smug and arrogant. I gotta admit, seeing you lose $475K was a moment for the Schadenfreude Hall of Fame.

By the way, when I was on 10 years ago, I had no idea on my final question (it was merely for $64K), and I'm not too proud to admit that I took a total guess and whiffed. Kudos if you can produce this alleged picture of LBJ with a bottle of Yoo-Hoo and the Fab Four, but that feels like a pretty weak attempt to justify making a colossal blunder. Best I can tell, the Beatles and LBJ never did meet. Come on, Ken, you were totally caught up in the moment, the adrenaline was pumping and you made a mistake. It's okay to admit it.

Bobby said...

CHOKE

DA_BLACK_GOKU said...

I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU THROW AWAY 500 , 000 DOLLARS. YOU ARE GREEDY AND STUPID !!!

Peter (nextgenfan@hotmail.com) said...

Hey Ken,

It was a real rush to watch you advance toward a million dollars. You seemed to know so much and each time you answered a question correctly without a lifeline, I became more and more confident that you were going to become the one and only million-dollar winner during the run on the anniversary show. I was really rooting for you and I wanted you to win because you seemed like a real nice guy and you wanted to give something back to your parents. I did not think you were getting cocky or arrogant like some other people because you graduated high school at a young age and moved on to college and law school and you already have a profession. A person would have to be smart and intelligent to accomplish so much at a young age.

I think it's terrible how there are people on the Internet slamming you. You explained that you weren't guessing. You had an idea and you felt reassured somewhat by the audience - an audience that you knew was quite knowledgeable. You took a shot and you would not be the only person to take a shot. I honestly can't say that I would have because I'm just not a person that takes too many risks, but that isn't meant as any sort of an insult or slam at you. If nobody took risks in life society would not have achieved so much in such a relatively short period of time. Sometimes, the risks pay off. Other times, they unfortunately do not. I know words mean little when you think back and go over what could have been, but you're bright and handsome and you were already on your road to becoming a success before Millionaire. You walked away with money you did not have before. Now you can look forward to new opportunities and challenges, and although the Millionaire experience will be with you for the rest of your life, it can be a good thing if you take the lessons you learned from it and make use of them down the road.

Best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Ken,
I'm torn. You came across as insanely arrogant on the show and it was hard to root for you. I don't know if people sabotaged your results because of the cockiness. On the other hand, editing is evil.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Peter. Remember people that say bad things about you are unhappy people. You are not arrogant and thanks for a great moment on the show. I admire people with knowledge, sense of stratgy, and risk. You were a complete joy to watch. You are those kinds of people that will get what you want because you believe, work hard, and do not give up...so keep on going. Good luck

Anonymous said...

Ken -- Put it behind you. Great experience, great show, great story. No looking back.

You only live once.

--e

Anonymous said...

Ken,

I don't care for Carl's tone, but I have to agree with him, you did come off as a little arrogant and plenty smug. On the other hand, even though you were born here, I can still see the Russian machismo and recklessness get the best of you (...it takes one to know one - I'm from the former USSR myself, like your parents), so I both admire it and am annoyed by it.

I'm sorry you lost, I'm sure you have great things ahead of you.

You don't owe anyone any explanations, but once you decided to do a postmortem, it becomes fair game, and I for one, wish you just manned up and said that you played a great game and then made a stupid mistake, got carried away, instead of all this "chepukha" about 75% chance, LBJ with the Beatles etc...

(What was cut out of the Bill Nye sequence?)

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken, sorry for your loss - I tried out for this current season and didn't get on so at least you got $25,000.

To prepare I read Ken Jenning's trivia book - about 9,000 facts and the fresca thing was one of them.

Just a helpful tip for the next show you apply to.

Anonymous said...

Hey bro, sorry about that tremendous loss on Millionaire! I believe you'll probably make a million eventually with your law career, but shit will you ever have to work like a dog to get it! I was happy to see a smug dickface like you lose, and it will probably cheer me up for a long time to remember that arrogant bitch on Millionaire who gambled like a chimp and lost his one shot at happiness.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Some of you anomymouses are so butthurt on something that doesn't involve you. As for Ken, major props to you.

Timothy said...

Hello Ken,

When I first saw you get the final question wrong. I thought you were playing the game in the Japanese style. I mean the contestants in Japan over-risk themselves, and didn't realize that until they lost. Which makes the Japanese produces the most top-prize losers. They force themselves to answer the final question, even they have have absolutely no idea at all.

Anyway, I'm so sorry about my mistake. It's a good thing Regis didn't tear off the 500k or 1m check in front of you, otherwise it would been really painful to you. Don't let yourself down when you make a mistake, just look forward.

Anonymous said...

As a small note, it's another rare moment Ken, we in the United States have never had a contestant on the show go for the million and then flunk out.

Sorry you had to be the first...

Anonymous said...

(I'm still the person who wrote the previous comment)

The one thing I can do is commend you for your courage to make it to the $1 Million question with the new Clock Format, 2 contestants on the Daytime show with Meredith Vieria would have been the first, but they walked away with $250,000.
I wish you the best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Ken, first let me say you were an AWESOME contestant. I was able to meet you after the taping and you were cool enough to take a picture (I am a potential contestant for million dollar movie week and hope I have half the courage) . Seeing you tape live my friend and I both thought you were pleasant and far from arrogant. Either way you made WWBAM history and had the balls to go all the way.

Adam said...

Hi Ken
OK, from what I know, 95% of adults don't even know what the L in LBJ stands for, so being able to eliminate two possibilities of that MDQ is pretty sweet.
If you want another shot at a million, see if you can get on are you smarter than a fifth grader. Based on your performance on Millionaire, you could probably get the aystafg top prize pretty darn easily. And it's a million cool ones all the same.
Anyways, hats off to you for risking it all. That's major courage there. And you can do a lot with 25 grand. Hope you get to Antarctica.
PS I think I heard Regis say that they might bring you back, and heck it would be awesome if they did.

DrJabberwocky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DrJabberwocky said...

LIBERTARIANS!!!!!

Nice postmortem. You're $25k richer than you were before and have a great story to tell. Plus, your appearance will certainly help kick start your career. All in all, I think you should be damn happy, as I'm sure you are - because you pretty much always are.

Anyway, I think you've been handling the attention well. What I love most is all the people flaming you!!! Hahaha - that's great. I could never understand what drives people to leave negative comments on the internet, especially when it's done anonymously about inconsequential pop culture schlok.

I do get strange enjoyment from reading them though...but only while touching myself, which I'm pretty much always doing.

Hope to see you soon bud and if you ever make it out to the Chi drop me a line.

PEACE

Anonymous said...

You're an arrogant douche. People like you give lawyers a bad name. You never should have risked the $475k on a guess ITE.

BTW, CGWBTs rule.

Sean said...

Ken,
Your post-mortem explanation does make a lot of sense. I personally wouldn't have had the guts to play the $1mil question anyway, so I applaud you for doing what I couldn't.
And hey, every gameshow's got to have someone lose big- sucks that it was you. Even if you live in Millionaire infamy forever, you've helped push a time-tested classic into a new age. I have a feeling we'll see more players going for the $1mil question. (Nobody saw an MDQ last syndicated season!)
Bravo, sir.
----A Fan,
Sean

Anonymous said...

Even if you didn't guess and you calculated everything and blah blah blah that doesnt matter. The end result matters, and you're end result was you lost $500,000. Sure you can make yourself feel better by telling yourself all the bs, but in the real world its all about the end result.

Roger Owen Green said...

I finally got around to watching the show.
First, I don't think you were an idiot for going for it and some of your commenters were quite rude.
Second, I agree that you did seem arrogant, but that may be TV editing. And the questions did seem easy - I did love the 2 ltr state codes one - exc for Gremlins and the last 2 questions. I see why you might have gone w ATA on Gremlins; I would have, but then again, I had NO idea.
Finally, FWIW, I had my brief fame on JEOPARDY! as well, in 1998.

Anonymous said...

It's a game show - you did well, your well calculated risks will most likely see you far through life.

Jess said...

Here's a message to all the Anonymous losers out there slamming my roomie Kenny. I actually get to physically noogie him for the loss.

In all seriousness, Ken ain't arrogant, he was just really into the game and had a ton of fun. I doubt slamming him for taking the risk of a lifetime is 1/10th of the amount of fun he and Pam had that night. You just don't get to heights in life Kenny has achieved by being an "idiot" or an "arrogant douchebag." You get there by being very likable, smart and hardworking. I'm the idiot for attempting to argue with jealous infants on the internet.

Anonymous said...

You didn't "eliminate V8 and A&W off the bat" (how could you have?), you had an inkling that they were not correct. You also had an inkling that Yoo-Hoo was the answer. When random trivia questions like this pop up, one option often sticks out to people even if they have no basis for it. Usually they wouldn't gamble $475,000 on a random hunch, though.

You were wrong. You guessed on the million dollar question like an arrogant chump (the first ever!) and lost. America loved watching it, because you came across as so incredibly unlikeable in the episode.

Best of luck to you...

Peter said...

There is something very wrong with people that take pleasure in watching other people fail at something, in my opinion. I don't like every contestant that sits in the hot seat on Millionaire, but I never hope to see someone fail. It is painful to watch when someone does miss a question and his or her cash drops. It is a person's right to label someone as arrogant, but to take delight in seeing someone take a shot at something and come up short? That is not the America that I want to live in.

patddfan said...

hi ken, I'm a huge fan. I felt just as bad as you did when I too was wrong. I can't believe some people are treating you this badly, and am disgusted by it. congratulations on meeting regis philbin, and being the last evening contestant ever. I am waiting for the day when Ken Jennings is on millionaire. that'll be awesome!

rainford said...

As someone who has been in your shoes on the UK version of the show, I have full admiration for your efforts.
The time limit (which we do not have in the UK) is another major consideration on the show.
Adrenaline is something that isn't apparently clear to a TV viewer and getting to a position of around250,000/500,000, the blood is pumping and the heart is racing thinking of what you can achieve.
You will be a successful person and have now become an instant celebrity. Good luck for the future but I don't think you will need it.

John Fitzpatrick said...

Arrogant? Smug? unlikeable? I think Ken is a veritable Huell Howser of the intelligencia clique.

Jerry Jansen said...

Hey Ken, We just watched the WWTBAM show last night, after TIVOing it when it ran. We had not heard about it so were pulling for you. I got most right as well, but deductively picked Fresca (also a Coke product) as an alternative to a "dark" like Coke.

You look like the kind of guy we'd like to know (wife and I) as we sometimes spend time with another Entertainment Lawyer when we come to town. You are a little young but certainly going places. Check out my blog if you want my perspective. Best wishes in your new practice.

Anonymous said...

kill yourself

Johnny Gonzalez said...

What up Ken,

I just want to say that you were one of my favorite contestants ever on Millionaire. You are right up there with John Carpenter! The guts, courage, and bravery that you showed made me realize that sometimes you got to take risks. I will never forget the entertainment and suspense that you gave us. You will always be remembered on Millionaire. Good luck with your life ,and I hope that you make it to Antarctica. I will never forget you.

Anonymous said...

The Grace Kelly question WAS easy to find with Google.

123 123 said...

Cool article you got here. It would be great to read a bit more concerning this theme.
By the way look at the design I've made myself Young escort

Anonymous said...

It was pretty obvious Regis was happy to see you lose - I think he was actually getting hard when he was able to tell you that "you lost a lot of money..."

I'm sure you are doing well as a lawyer so money is no prob - therefore I am sure it is all a big funny experience now. However it was pretty sweet watching this major fail - couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy.

興奮 said...

成人光碟cao熊貓貼圖區m9色情博客漫畫貼圖交友104相親網女郎俱樂部高雄援交友留言0204 成人片貼圖百分百慧慈性愛光碟交友戀愛進行室後宮電影院av人之初圖貼正妹牆d760 520204 tv皮卡丘貼圖侯佩岑寫真裸體照性愛圖貼人獸性愛影片偷拍a片裸體藝術伊林模特兒陳若儀照片打炮遊戲寫真圖片0401視訊美女正妹交友ggo美女寫真館電話交友日本男同志85cccsex520無碼貼片最愛正妹色妹妹圖貼正妹無名相簿性愛遊戲aaaaaa片安以軒寫真集隋棠寫真集18禁手機遊戲人妻外遇美腿駭客色情寫真正妹百人斬 blog777女人電影區f 罩杯美女圖片日本avdvd光碟正妹牆強力版0401影音視訊

Anonymous said...

Oh come on, you just don't want to admit what everyone knows is obvious. You were cocky, greedy, and overconfident, and you have so much to blame yourself for. No one wanted you to win. I certainly wouldn't have voted for the right answer if I were in the audience and knew it.

Honestly, after you saw that the answer was Fresca, did you think to yourself, "this is totally going to be on Youtube tomorrow and I'll be the laughingstock of the nation"?

Lillian said...

^^Anonymous,

Shut UP! and get a LIFE!

Aron said...

That was a really ballsy move you pulled there on that WWTBAM episode and I commend you for taking such a costly risk. I'm a man of chance myself and if I had an idea of the final answer myself, I probably would have pitched for the grand slam myself.

Considering your profession, I'm certain the millions are headed your way regardless.

Anonymous said...

does anybody actually feel bad for this guy?

Anonymous said...

Well, personally I thought Regis was really rude. He didn't even show any sympathy. At least Meredith would know what it feels like to go for the million and just lose $475,000 instead.

Anonymous said...

if you can,get your rematch!

Anonymous said...

Haha. For the REAL scoop on how America feels about this guy, watch the Youtube video.

Anonymous said...

and read the comments.

Anonymous said...

Haha. It couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy.

TiffanyVanIn50States said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Just out of interest, you said you had a lot riding on your million dollar run, like your trip to Antarctica and your parents' trip to Rome. Did you take that into consideration at all before you guessed at the million-dollar question?

Anonymous said...

Nothing against you, but I have two things to say about you. During the Million Dollar Tournament of Ten that followed soon after, seven contestants had the right answer, but walked away. It seems like your big loss might have had something to do with it. The other thing is, you said Pam seemed like more of a trivia whiz, and that she knew the answer to the million dollar question, and she said that she did better than you on Jeopardy. So maybe she should have been in the hot seat.

At least you've also got your $5,000 from Jeopardy. That ought to help, at least a little.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing this won't be any consolation, but I'd say if it wasn't you, it probably would have been someone else.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had the guts to be able to take such a big risk like you did... mad respect.

Artemis said...

Ken,

I'm going to start with one thing I don't think many people on here have said:

Congratulations!

To be on that show is really the only thing I want to do. A shame that I'm Canadian, and we don't have much game show activity going on up here. So congratulations for not only being able to sit in that chair, but for giving 14 correct answers in a row. Myself, I would go onto the show expecting to win a milestone amount. I wouldn't be there for the money itself, but for the experience. The journey is the destination. Given where you're going in the entertainment biz, I'm sure that a million dollars will be peanuts.

Anonymous said...

You know Ken, I don't think most people really hate you. The main thing is that you set yourself up just perfectly for the most utterly spectacular and hilarious crash-and-burn failure ever presented on national TV. So if you feel like you're getting too much flak...nothing personal. We just love laughing at your misfortune.

Oh, by the way...what did you do with the $25k you actually won?

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken, if you're listening, here's a no-brainer: Gordon Gekko isn't a good role model.

Anonymous said...

If Millionaire goes off the air IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT! NO ONE HAS WON EVEN $25,000 IN MONTHS BECAUSE OF YOU.

Maanit said...

Yo Ken, on Youtube, all these asses say you suck and everything but i don't listen to them at all, you seriously did well. I mean a million of people out there would do anything to get on that show. You got the chance, and even though that was a huge loss, you still played well. Kudos to you and hope you accomplish a lot more! :)

abc21 said...

That was very close!But you are history for the US Millionaire first million dollar wrong

WindowShade987 said...

You played great. You had good evidence that it was Yoo-Hoo. All the people that are saying how arrogant you were,-you weren't. Hey! you turned out to be correct by eliminating V8 and A&W. You weren't one of those people who burned all their lifelines before getting to 25k. You had 75% of them left on the 500k Question! That's Crazy Awesome! You left with 25k, also. Some people get nothing because they make stupid mistakes on the $100 question. You made an educated guess on the MDQ that didn't work out! Great job.

Anonymous said...

Stop denying!
You were just too greedy to walk away.Stop bitching that you had measured the risks,you are,after all,a pathetic moron.
You are such an embarrassment to human race!

Brandon Dilbeck said...

A coworker and I were discussing great game show moments in history, and I said that your appearance on Millionaire was by far the most suspenseful, exciting thing I'd ever seen. I'm very sorry you didn't walk away with the million, but please take pride in knowing that even years after your appearance on the show, people are discussing your riveting performance on the show. I wish you the best!