After weeks of extensive research and historic games, I've finally garnered the all-time leaderboard list for the show's top contestants of all-time. Included are all contestants who fall under this criteria:
- Winners of $50,000 or more ($25,000 minimum for pre-doubled amounts).
- Players who have won at least 4 regular games.
- TOC winners, participants, and alternates.
- Seniors tournament winners.
- Teen tournament/reunion winners.
- College tournament winners.
- Teachers tournament winners.
- Special tournament winners.
- Humans, with apologies to IBM's Watson.
Not included are contestants or winnings that fall under this criteria:
- Quarterfinalists, semifinalists, and runner-ups for regular tournaments like the teen tournament (that includes reunion players), seniors tournament, teachers tournament, and college tournament.
- Celebrity players, including the Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational, or any charity winnings.
- Consolation prizes.
- Non-USA representatives of the international championships, unless noted.
- Fleming era contestants who didn't compete in the Trebek era.
a.) Ken Jennings was given a bye into the finals of the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions for winning 74 games in a row during the 2003-2004 and 2004-2006 TOC seasons. Because of this, he was never formally invited into a regular Tournament of Champions. He did, however, handily defeat both 2004 and 2006 TOC winners Russ Schumacher and Michael Falk (respectively) in the Battle of the Decades.
b.) Jerry Slowik was not invited to the 2014 Tournament of Champions due to a felony he had allegedly committed. He's one of only two 5x+ champions to not be invited back to compete in a TOC, due to impending legal issues. 4x winner Mark Japinga, who had defeated that year's TOC winner (Ben Ingram) in his first regular match, wound up taking his place as a result.
c.) Cindy Stowell (2017), Larry Martin (2019), and Brayden Smith (2021) all tragically passed away before they could compete in their respective TOC years. A cross has been put next to their TOC class years to honor their placements in J! history. Austin Rogers (or Jon Eisenman), Emma Boettcher, and Steve Moulds (allegedly) took the final spots in their TOCs, respectively.
d.) Tom Morris is listed as a 4-time champion on the regular archives, but he actually lost his third game by $2. However, his leading opponent got extra time for the final J! clue because of an alleged pen malfunction, so the producers brought Tom back for the next game due to feeling like he may have been disadvantaged. He won his 4th game, but lost his 5th game, thus earning him 3 wins overall.
e.) Catherine Ramen came out as a transgender woman following her appearances on the show. She had never competed under her new name on the show, but the name she competed under has been omitted from this list out of respect for her gender identity. Her games are available on the archive for viewing.
f.) Skyler Hornback is the only Kids Week contestant to win over $50,000 in one game, hence his placement on the list. Kids Week contestants traditionally only play once, so him and Myron Meyer (Regular) are the only 1x winners on the list as a result.
g.) Gay Mollette was never formally invited to the 1998 Tournament of Champions, for her 3x total of $24,001 wasn't sufficient enough, but she was invited to the 1997 International Championship as the U.S. representative, presumably as an alternate because Mike Dupee couldn't make it, and Michael Daunt was representing Canada. If she had won this tournament, one could assume she would have been invited to the 1998 TOC or other future tournaments, but alas it wasn't meant to be.
h.) Ulf Jensen was a representative of Sweden in the 1996 Olympic Games, so he had never appeared on the American version prior to the tournament. He ended up defeating American representative Fritz Holznagel (Ryan at the time) in the first round, and going on to win the tournament, thus granting him a spot on the list.
i.) Burns Cameron was the all-time money winner on the original version of Jeopardy! with Art Fleming, thus giving him an invitation to compete in the first major Trebek-era tournament, which in this case was Super Jeopardy! He was ousted in the quarterfinals, thus making his total winnings in the Trebek era $5,000, for he had never competed in this era otherwise. His winnings from the Fleming era (regular and TOC) only account here because it provides historical context to his inclusion on this list.
j.) This letter represents all of the assumed or hypothetical tournament of champions alternates, pre-1995, based on the information that is currently available. Most of them have a high probability of being the tournament's assumed alternate, namely Jim Ryan, David Epstein, and Bob Majeska (85 to 95% chance). Richard Landon being the 1985 alternate is around a 50/50 chance, but Steve Willis being the 1986 alternate stands at about a 1 in 4 chance. There's also a chance that the early tournaments just didn't have alternates.
*- indicates that a player's run is still going, or is subject to change based on future tournaments.
I also want to give credit to Keith Williams of The Final Wager, as well as admins of the J! Archive credit for supplying all the needed data for this list. I couldn't have made the table without your templates and easily accessible information, so thank you very much.
If I'm missing anyone on this list, or if any information is otherwise incorrect, please notify me via PM or post quotation so I can adjust accordingly. Also, please, if you can find any relevant information on Barbara Lowe's run and how much she won, that would really help me complete this list in making it more accurate. Barbara Lowe won 5 games back in 1986, but she was not invited to the 1986 Tournament of Champions when it turned out that she had lied about her identity. She was rendered ineligible as a contestant because of this, as well as having a history of being on other game shows, and her games were never reran as a result. Her total winnings remains unknown, but is said to be somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000. Her first two days are confirmed to be $14,802, and her 4-day total seems to be around $24k, according to a newspaper article by Clint Swett. The last game of hers was apparently a dominant runaway so I'm guessing around $10k for that one, but that's very approximate.