By Steve Mosco
Rebecca Rider did not consider herself a huge fan of game shows — that is, until she won more than $100,000 on one of the genre’s most popular programs.
The 28-year-old office supplies sales assistant from Fresh Meadows reeled in the big bucks last week after winning five consecutive episodes of “Jeopardy!,” bringing her a grand total take-home cash prize of $101,600 and guaranteeing her a trip to the show’s Tournament of Champions.
“I didn’t necessarily think I would win five games, but I set goals for myself,” Rider said. “The first step, obviously, was to win one game. Then win again so I could return to L.A. and bring my husband, then win again so I could become eligible for the Tournament of Champions.”
She was able to accomplish those goals thanks to her husband, a “Jeopardy!” enthusiast himself, who Rider said inspired her to take the game show’s online test.
“My husband is a huge game show buff and a big fan of the show, so we took the online test together,” said Rider. “He came with me on my second trip to L.A. It didn’t seem fair to leave him behind when he’s a bigger game show geek than I am.”
Rider attended Hunter College in Manhattan, where she worked toward a degree in English. It was during her pursuit of an English degree that Rider spent a sizable amount of time reading — an activity she believes helped her collect a wealth of knowledge.
“My formal education didn’t necessarily prepare me for the competition, but reading anything I can get my hands on helped,” she said. “I collect random knowledge, and it came in handy.”
In addition to putting away half of her prize money for retirement, Rider plans to pay off student loans she amassed at Hunter. But she is most excited about supporting the booster club at St. John’s University in Flushing, as a way to infuse some cash into the school’s sports teams.
Rider said she also plans to donate a portion of her winnings to the Rolling Jubilee, an organization that liberates debtors through mutual aid. Her successful five-show run on “Jeopardy!” has empowered her to deal with debt and Rider said she “wants others to have that feeling.”
And the realization of being debt free is a feeling Rider said she would always remember. It was an emotion that Rider believes viewers could see on her face.
“I was absolutely gobsmacked when I hit six figures,” she said. “I’m sure people will get a good laugh out of my facial expression, because it hadn’t quite sunk into my exhausted brain that I’d gone over $100,000.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.