DePaul alumn dethrones ‘Jeopardy’ champion


Rhone Talsma on Instagram

Rhone Talsma, Chicago librarian and DePaul graduate, competes on Jeopardy.

Rhone Talsma’s love for Jeopardy began when he used to watch Ken Jennings rack up win after win with his uncle — Rick.

From an early age, Talsma knew he could get a lot of questions right when watching Jeopardy on television. His interest in the show started to peak a couple of years ago.

“Once I was done with college, I would be watching the show and realized that I could actually get a lot of questions right,” he told The DePaulia.

Talsma graduated from DePaul in 2015 with a degree in women’s and genders studies. Three years later, he received his masters in library science from the University of Illinois.

The Plainfield, Illinois native had aspirations on being on Jeopardy as he always liked competing in trivia competitions. After a three-month process of auditioning to possibly appear on the show, his dream became true late last year.

“I’m like a big nerd about it,” he said. “I’m definitely like a super fan.”

In October, Talsma finally got a phone call letting him know that he had been chosen to fly down to Los Angeles to appear in an episode of the show that would air in January.

After a month of studying and perfecting the art of being the first one to buzz his answer in, Talsma did something that dozens of people tried and failed to do — beat Amy Schneider in Jeopardy.

Schneider had a 40-game winning streak going when Talsma broke her record in November, which is when they recorded the episode.

“I really did not think I was going to win Jeopardy at  all,” he said. “I definitely didn’t think that I was going to beat someone like Amy Schneider. So, I mean, it was just surreal.”

Even though there is some luck involved in winning a game, Talsma still came in with a plan that he viewed as his best chance to break Schneider’s streak. He decided to do focus on two things: be as quick to the buzzer as possible and get as many Daily Doubles as he could.

“If I hadn’t found those Daily Doubles and if Amy had found them, whether she gets those right or wrong, there’s literally no way that I win that game,” Talsma said.

The process to actually get a chance to appear on the show started months earlier, however, with Talsma having to go through a multiple auditions before he got selected.

The first step that Talsma took was taking the show’s online test last March, with potential contestants required to get 35 out of 50 questions correct; each person is given 10 seconds to respond to the questions.

After that, however, a lot of it is down to luck and chance if someone gets picked to audition. Three months later, Talsma heard back from the show he grew up watching.

He had been selected to audition for Jeopardy.

The audition was done in two parts: the first part consisted of taking another 50-question test on Zoom to ensure that nobody was cheating during their first test, and the second part was where Talsma felt the most comfortable.

“At this point, they are trying to see how you come off on TV, how you would be playing the game, getting a feel for your personality and stuff,” Talsma said. “I do have a background in theater from high school. I’m not going to lie, I killed this audition.”

Talsma was pretty confident afterwards that he would receive a call that he had been selected to record an episode. He finally received that call in October that he had been chosen to fly out to Los Angeles to appear on Jeopardy.

“I just started preparing as much as I could in that month,” he said. “My partner and I already booked a trip to Phoenix to visit his family that week I was supposed to go play Jeopardy, and so what we decided to do was fly to Phoenix and then we drove to Los Angeles. I get to Los Angeles Nov. 8, [2021], because I had to take a Covid test, and then my tape day was Nov. 9”

Talsma currently resides in Chicago on the South Side where he works as a multimedia librarian for the Chicago Ridge Public Library. The response that he has received has been “amazing,” Talsma said.

After winning $29,000, he hopes to travel in the summer and then set aside the rest of the money.

“I’m going to be taking a trip to Europe this summer, for sure,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to be doing with the rest of the winnings yet; I definitely am setting enough aside to do that. I’ve never left the United States actually.”