Man vs. Machine on 'Jeopardy!': Bettors Are Gambling on the Chips

Jeopardy! Man vs. Machine: Watson Ties on Day One as Online Gamblers Cheer
Jeopardy! Man vs. Machine: Watson Ties on Day One as Online Gamblers Cheer

IBM's supercomputer Watson racked up $5,000 in winnings on the first day of the three-day man vs. machine Jeopardy! challenge Monday -- but so did one of its two competitors, trivia master Brad Rutter. Even so, Rutter and fellow Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, who managed to rack up just $2,000, face long odds against in the contest, at least according those willing to bet their own money on the action.

According to online gaming site Bodog, Rutter and Jennings are both carrying 5-2 odds, while Watson is running at 5-6. This means a $100 bet on Rutter or Jennings would yield a net profit of $250, while the same bet on IBM's (IBM) Watson would be worth only $83.33.

"The shrewd bettors are backing Watson, while Jennings bettors are more loyalty-based," says Ed Pownall, Bodog spokesman. "The odds strongly suggest Watson will be the winner. If it were more of a level playing field and you had three guys off the street playing, you might see odds more like 5-2, 3-1, or 7-2."

With only 962 bets placed in the short mid- to late-January window, a modest $4,700 is on the table. Big Blue's Watson has $3,630 riding on it, while Jennings has $650 and Rutter $420. The average bet is a bit more than $20 -- not likely to break the bank for anyone.

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Pownall says betting was closed early because Jeopardy! is prerecorded and they had to halt wagering once filming of the challenge began. Other sites, like, offer forums where a handful of members decided to get a little side action of their own going prior to the first round's airing on Monday.

In round two tonight, Rutter is likely to stick with his strategy of picking categories where the cues are short and concepts abstract, while Watson has the benefit of machine learning and artificial intelligence, which means the more information he's exposed to, the better his response is likely to be.

Whether Jennings' plan of playing more aggressively will pay off in the Double Jeopardy round is unclear, but he may need to devise a new strategy to keep up with both his human and silicon competition.

How would you bet?

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