Tue. Nov 12th, 2019

The Informer

Place where all voices matter

Bartender won $411K and the hearts of millions on ‘Jeopardy’

3 min read

A. This New Yorker left a dozen Jeopardy opponents crying in their beer.

Q. Who is Manhattan bartender Austin Rogers?

The 39-year-old quiz king, who won $411,000 and the admiration of millions during a 12-game winning streak on Jeopardy last fall, is still slinging suds Fridays and Sundays at Gaf West in Hells Kitchen.

His goofy gesticulations, unkempt hair and wild wagers resonated with Jeopardy diehards like 30-year-old Maryland mortgage analyst Amanda Sparks, who traveled to the 48th Street gin mill recently to get a glimpse of her game-show gladiator.

Oh my god, it really is him! Sparks gushed. My hands are sweaty, my hearts racing!

Rogers fifth all-time on the shows leader board stopped to pose for a photo with a beaming Sparks, who explained his appeal.

He had a bit of personality to go along with the way he was kicking everybodys ass, she recalled.

In between Bud Lights, Ryan Doyle, 23, tried to stump Rogers with an HQ trivia question about the earliest form of contraception.

The Egyptians used crocodile dung! Rogers correctly crackled.

Host Alex Trebek once described Rogers to viewers: Hes got hair, hes got chutzpah and broad-based knowledge.

Rogers mixes minutiae and cocktails simultaneously at his 12-stool stage, as patrons pepper him with queries about his favorite book (Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898); whether he has a photographic memory (I do not, but I just remember everything.); and whats Trebek like offstage (There is no offstage. He only interacts onstage.).

Rogers, grew up in Westchester the son of a park ranger and veterinary worker. He attended Macalester College in Minnesota where he studied music and history. He was an events planner with the Asia Society on Park Avenue for a decade and worked in digital advertising for two years before a company merger left him unemployed.

The Spanish Harlem resident began bartending out of necessity he was out of work for about two years.

This was my local bar for 16 years. I used to live right around the corner, he said. So instead of crying in his beer, he decided to serve it.

He asked owners Pete Smith and Pat Heenan about his training. They said, Just bartend, Austin, he recalled.

Hes hilarious! said Gaf West regular Rohan Kamerkar, 32, who knew Rogers before his Jeopardy star turn. Hes the same guy. He always knew the most useless information. Or what I thought was useless.

Rogers believes he won big on Jeopardy $463,000 total, counting $2,000 the day he lost, and $50,000 during Novembers Tournament of Champions because he didnt get flustered when the cameras rolled.

Ive been under the lights before. Ive been a musician, Ive done standup, he said. He has even hosted trivia nights at the pub.

Rogers confessed some guilt in that he played up the bartender narrative for the quiz show.

A corporate events planner from New York? Or a digital advertising douchebag from New York? But a bartender from New York, everyone is like, Hes one of us! And Im like, actually not, Im super educated. But you can believe it if you really want! he laughed.

You know what sucks? Desks.

Rogers said the other question people ask the most is why he continues to bartend. The answer is easy.

I am so happy, the second I get behind the bar. You hang out with your friends all night and they pay you for it.