Game shows have been a staple on American television for about as long as broadcast television has existed. Contestants play for the chance to win potentially life-changing money, and audiences watch for the excitement and heartbreak as players risk it all and lose. As viewership increased, so did the jackpots, and in 1999 Who Wants to be a Millionaire? broke game show records by offering a one million dollar jackpot. While a million dollars is a lot of money, its 2023, and one million dollars in game show earnings doesn't even crack the top ten in highest-earning game show players of all time. Read on to find out who quizzed and strategized up to huge game show winnings!
Jennings holds the all-time record for consecutive games won on Jeopardy!, a staggering 74 game streak that earned him $2.52 million. Since then, Jennings has appeared on multiple other Jeopardy! tournaments, and several additional game shows, earning a career total of $5,296,214. The BYU graduate went on to host Jeopardy! in 2022.
Rutter has a decorated resume of Jeopardy! wins, starting in 2000 when he won $100,000. Over the next decade Rutter went on various Jeopardy! franchise shows, taking home $5,038,436 along the way. He must have hit those daily doubles!
Holzhauer's 33 episode run on Jeopardy! earned him $2,464,216, just $58,484 shy of Ken Jennings' regular winnings. Holzhauer's career earnings are a staggering $3,522,549.
Kravis was on the winning side of a rounding error when the producers of The Million Second Quiz rounded up his $2,326,346 winnings to an even $2.6 for the sole purpose of crowning him the highest earning game show winner of all time, besting Ken Jennings' record at the time.
Olmstead held the record for the highest-earning game show player for three years following his win on Who Wants to be a Millionaire in 2001 and taking home $2,180,000.
Toutant's road to riches was derailed early when he missed the $16,000 question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? in 2001, walking away with only $1,000. He later was able to more zeros onto that total, when he was brought back after the question he missed was ruled to be flawed. Toutant picked up where he left off and won the jackpot. His total winnings were $1,871,401.
While some contestants on this list won their prize money on several appearances on a game show or from multiple game shows, Ashlee Register holds the record for most amount won on a single appearance of a game show. Ashlee rung the register when she took home $1,795,000 in 2007 on the game show, Duel.
Legler holds the title of highest winning contestant on the revival of the game show, Twenty-one, which originally aired from 1956-1958. Legler took home $1,765,000 over the course of six games spanning three episodes in February 2000.
Schneider had a staggering 40 consecutive game winning streak on Jeopardy! between 2021-2022, making her the first female contestant in the game's history to win over $1,000,000. Schneider's career winnings on the game show add up to $1,709,800.
Amodio exploded onto the Jeopardy! scene in 2021 when he won 38 consecutive games, a record only bested by two other people in the show's history. Amodio's racked up $1,679,601 in total winnings from all of his appearances on Jeopardy!
Curtis Warren's game show career started off with a bang in 1986 when he won $136,288 on Sale of the Century. He appa on Win Ben Stein's Money, where he won just a little bit of Ben's money ($700), but it was on the game show Greed where he really struck gold. Warren became the highest-ever winner of Greed, taking home $1,410,000 from two appearances between 1999 and 2000.
Carpenter famously made it to the million dollar question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? without using any lifelines and did the ultimate mic drop by using his phone-a-friend during the million dollar question, not to ask for help, but to tell his dad he was about to win a million dollars. Carpenter later won an additional $250,000 on the Champions edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, bringing his total winnings to $1,250,000.
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