Nova Scotia

Jeopardy! champion from Halifax to pay off student loans with big winnings

Mattea Roach, who lives in Toronto and is originally from Halifax, had to keep her big Jeopardy! win a secret after taping the episode in January. 

23-year-old Mattea Roach will continue her run on the show tonight

Mattea Roach lives in Toronto and is originally from Halifax, where her family still lives. (Jeopardy Productions Inc.)

A final Jeopardy! category about classic games clinched the victory for contestant Mattea Roach from Halifax Tuesday night. 

Even though one of her opponents also guessed the board game Life as the correct answer, Roach knew her wager had put her over the top.

Still, she had orders to keep composed until host Mayim Bialik got to her — revealing her grand total of $32,001 US, or about $40,000 Cdn.

"I don't know that I would win any award for best poker face, but I think I tried my best," the 23-year-old told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Wednesday, the morning after her episode aired. 

Roach, who now lives in Toronto and is originally from Halifax, had to keep her big win a secret after the episode was taped in January. 

Even months later, she said it hasn't really sunk in.

"I still get chills hearing myself say that I will be able to, when I receive the money, pay off my student loan with the money from last night's game, like I still can't believe it," she said. 

She thought she'd have to win multiple times to pay it all off, but was able to cover the loan bill with the winnings from Tuesday's show.

Roach won $32,001 US during her first appearance. (Jeopardy Productions Inc.)

Roach applied for the beloved game show by doing an online test in November 2020. She never expected to end up on the show, since many thousands of people take the test and only a small fraction get to go on TV.

But to her surprise, a couple of months later, she was invited to the next stage of auditioning, and eventually flew to L.A. in January to tape the episode. 

Roach said she prepared for the show by studying a website called J Archive, where fans compile clues from the show going back decades. 

"I was reading through a bunch of recent games in the past, say three or four years, just to get a feel for how the writers design a clue, what sorts of subjects come up more often than not," she said. 

A 23-year-old Halifax woman swept the board on Jeopardy last night. We ask Mattea Roach what she’ll do with her 32-thousand-and-one dollar winnings.

A bit of luck was also on her side.

"I did not get anything that I'd really been dreading," Roach said. "The two things that I did not want to see were the U.S. Civil War and football, and I didn't get either of those."

While she watched Tuesday's episode from a friend's place in Toronto, her parents had a watch party in Halifax and about 20 people cheered her on from a pub in Sydney, N.S.

"Some extended family, like my mom's aunt, uncle and cousin, live in Marion Bridge and decided to get a group together to go watch," she said. "There were some folks there who I've never even met that are just friends and community members up there."

As a Jeopardy! champion, Roach gets to keep playing until she loses. After she won her first episode, she had to immediately go backstage, change her wardrobe and do it all over again. 

Roach's second episode airs Wednesday night. She can't say how it went, only that she gained some confidence after that first win.

"You're a little bit more familiar with the buzzer timing. You're a little bit more comfortable up on that stage, and yeah, you do sort of get into a groove," she said. 

With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia

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