VANCOUVER — When you ask 39-year-old Vancouver resident Anne Marggraf what strategy she used to help her do well during her recent appearances on the TV game show “Jeopardy,” she’ll tell you that it’s really all about that buzzer.
“It really is all about buzzer craft, and every winner seems to have his/her own strategy,” Marggraf said. “Mine — just start hammering the (stuff) out of the buzzer the moment Alex stopped talking. Seemed to serve me well.”
Three episodes of “Jeopardy” that Marggraf participated in aired during the second week of March and the last of the three showed her walking away with a total of $51,000 in winnings. Marggraf said she plans to use the money to pay a few people back who helped her with the funds needed to make the trip to Hollywood in order to appear on the show and also a very lean Christmas; to pay off her student loan debt; and to buy a newer car for her family of four.
“Right now we have a sub-compact Mazda3 and an older Mazda pickup, which means we can’t go anywhere with friends or family in the car, only me, Steve and our two little guys,” Marggraf said.
Marggraf actually tried out for “Jeopardy” once before when she was 23 years old. Since her family is actually from Los Angeles, Marggraf decided to give trying out for “Jeopardy” a try during a trip to the area during the holidays all those years ago. She ended up making it into a contestant pool, but she was told that she was part of a pool that might never get cycled through.
“I was kind of a party maniac back then,” Marggraf recalled. “When I went in for that first tryout, I was all sorts of disheveled, I was wearing a hockey jersey and jeans with holes in them and I had purple streaks in my hair. They probably didn’t think I would be a very stable choice for the show.”
When Marggraf made the decision to try out for the show again this past year, she said she wasn’t really sure what prompted her to do so.
“Fan for life,” she said in regards to the “Jeopardy” show. “I was inspired by memories of trying out many years ago and making the cut into the contestant pool, and had kind of a ‘why not’ vibe that I listened to.”
Marggraf tried out for the show again and didn’t hear anything from them for several months, and then one day, right around Halloween last year, she got the call. She told the person who called her that it would be best if she could be scheduled to take part in the show after Dec. 17 as she was just finishing her last semester at Washington State University in Vancouver and was about to take her LSAT exam on Dec. 3.
“They then asked me if I could come down on Nov. 30,” Marggraf said. “I was afraid if I said no that they might just pick someone else. The day of the taping was crazy, everyone had to be there around 7:30 in the morning and we were all put into this little greenroom. It was actually a really cozy space and we were all just standing there, and there were people all around just shouting all this information at us.”
All three of the shows that Marggraf participated in were filmed in a single day. She emerged the champion in her first two shows, but wasn’t able to pull off a third win. She still walked away with $51,000.
“Each game is very fast-paced, all are filmed in real time,” Marggraf said. “Commercial breaks are for the occasional retake on a word or two, and the rest of the time is spent with Alex (Trebek) taking questions from the audience.”
Speaking of Alex Trebek, what is the 33-year host of Jeopardy like in person?
“Alex is very professional and very courteous,” Marggraf said. “He’s a really avuncular type, which is great because all the contestants are a bunch of jumpy nerds and we needed a firm hand on the tiller.”
As far as prepping for her appearance on the show, Marggraf said she really didn’t have much time. At the time that she was preparing to be on the show, she was also taking care of a terminally ill relative who was staying at her family’s house, finishing up her last semester at WSU and was prepping for her LSATs.
“Not only that, but just when I got the news (that I would be on the show), it was the ‘Jeopardy’ Kids Tournament (that was currently being aired), which only has age-appropriate questions, so it was not ideal,” Marggraf said. “I still watched though. I figured it would get the rhythm going if nothing else. For actual prep, just a lot if Wiki-grazing, drifting from page to page and clicking on the blue links when my interest was piqued.”
Marggraf and her husband, Steve, have two sons — Isaac, 7, and Jerry, 2. She said the boys were “pretty thrilled” to see her on the show.
“We only watched the two (episodes) that I won, and spent the third night visiting my brother who is in prison in Monroe,” she said. “Yes, I was so bummed about losing that I chose to hang out in a prison rather than watch my episode.”
Marggraf and her family live in Vancouver, and she just earned her bachelor’s degree in history with a double minor in anthropology and Spanish this past December. She has applied to several different law schools, and said she has received letters of acceptance from two so far — Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland and Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane. She also applied to Seattle University School of Law and Yale Law School.
“I mean, why not, right?” Margraff said of applying to Yale. “I dreamed big for Jeopardy!”
Marggraf said she isn’t sure yet where she’ll go for law school. She said Gonzaga offered her a “massive” scholarship, and she is also also expecting to be accepted to Seattle University, but isn’t yet sure how much money they will offer for a scholarship.
“That’s all still up in the air and my final decision will have to hinge on who offers the most help,” she said.
Marggraf said she is interested in pursuing immigration defense, tribal law or “taking on the big guys” such as insurance corporations, “big pharma” or the DEA.
As far as her day of “Jeopardy” goes, Marggraf said it was definitely one of the best days of her life.
“I do encourage everyone I’ve met to go for it (trying out for ‘Jeopardy’) if they think they have the chops,” she said. “One of the best days of my life!”