Danny Jacobs on Jeopardy

Danny Jacobs gives a thumbs up while watching himself on Jeopardy Wednesday night, Jan. 15. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Jacobs / January 16, 2014)

After months of waiting, Danny Jacobs could finally share a big secret with his friends on Wednesday night after his appearance on "Jeopardy" was broadcast: He didn't win, but he did place second.

Jacobs said Thursday that he has no regrets about his performance on the trivia game show.

"I played the way I wanted to play," Jacobs said. "I did everything I could."

Jacobs was significantly behind the previous night's winner, contestant Sarah McNitt, but in the second round it looked like he might make a comeback.

And then came Final Jeopardy.

The contestants were given the clue:

This non-Brit said in 1532, "I advised (Henry VIII) that it would be better for him to take a concubine than to ruin his people."

Jacobs said he didn't really have a good guess on it, and even game host Alex Trebek told them later that it was a very difficult question. Jacobs put down the biggest bet of the three contestants, wagering $11,000 on his guess: the Pope.

"If I was going to lose," he said, "I was going to go down swinging."

All three contestants, in fact, guessed it was a pope or the Pope, and all three got it wrong. The correct answer was Martin Luther.

Jacobs' second-place finish sent him home with $2,000. McNitt finished in first, and took home more than $6,000, in addition to her previous night's winnings, and Baltimore native Emily Goodlander came in third, taking home $1,000.

Jacobs said he was at least glad it wasn't a question having to do with the Ravens (his favorite football team), or something he might have figured out later.

Taking the challenge

Jacobs, an Owings Mills native currently living in North Laurel, has spent much of his life learning and retaining assorted trivia.

When his then-girlfriend's parents' challenged him to a game of DVR Jeopardy after dinner one night about three years ago, Jacobs said he didn't know whether he should play to win or play nice.

"I started off quietly, and then we played and I just destroyed them," Jacobs said.

Fortunately, Jacobs' shellacking of his future in-laws didn't harm the relationship, but instead led them to suggest he try out for the show.

So, Jacobs, who is a legal affairs reporter at The Daily Record newspaper in Baltimore, began the long process of applying to be on "Jeopardy," which starts with an online 50-question quiz, followed by an in-person interview in Baltimore and another quiz. They thanked him and said he was in the pool of contestants for the next year and a half.

That was the last Jacobs heard from "Jeopardy" — until this past fall.

"I got a call at the end of September saying 'Congratulations, you're going to be on,' " he said. "Then I started cramming."