Congressman Beats Supercomputer At Jeopardy

New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt was able to do something that Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings couldn’t:

There are a lot of smart people on Capitol Hill. But none of them can claim quite the same brainy bragging rights as Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.).

On Monday, Holt beat IBM’s super-computer, known as Watson, at a round of “Jeopardy!” at the Liaison Capitol Hill, part of an event organized by IBM.

For those unfamiliar with Watson, the interactive computer contains some of the the most cutting edge information processors in the world, and it recently beat all-time “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings on TV.

To be fair, Holt is not your average congressman, especially not when it comes to trivia. He’s a five-time “Jeopardy!” champion and a nuclear physicist, to boot. Nevertheless, Holt said the prospect of facing a computerized opponent was daunting.

“I watched a few episodes [of Watson] against Jennings a few weeks ago, and I thought I was in for trouble.” Not so. At the end of his round, Holt (right) had 8,600 points to Watson’s 6,200. Holt’s fellow Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) (left) also competed in the round and scored 1,000 points.

Cassidy and Holt were among the five members of Congress taking part in Monday’s bipartisan “Watson vs. Members” tournament. They were joined by Reps. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.).

Holt may be the only member to have beaten Watson, but Himes, a former Rhodes Scholar, became the crowd favorite when he bet all his points on a double jeopardy question about a chicken recipe, and won (the answer was “coq au vin”). Himes was the only lawmaker to play in two rounds, besting Polis and Hayworth, but not Watson.

Am  I the only one surprised to find intelligence on Capitol Hill?

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. MM says:

    Am I the only one surprised to find intelligence on Capitol Hill?

    Apparently. The facts (for people who actually pay attention to things and choose not to skip through life glibly) are that there are many smart people in politics. Are many of them greedy? Opportunistic? Craven? Deceitful? Yup. Hell, some are outright stupid. But many of them ( not all, quite possibly not even most) including the cowardly opportunistic are pretty damn smart.

    Sorry if this largely unobjectionable fact creates such a comprehension issue, but take solace in the fact that I’m sure Glenn Reynolds thinks that’s one hell of a crack you made.

  2. Franklin says:

    He sounds elite. Therefore, he must be bad.