But studying for a trivia game show like "Jeopardy" isn't as easy as reading the volumes of an encyclopedia cover to cover. There are strategies for different rounds and hints hidden in the clues to help you figure them out, even if you don't know the trivia, Jacobs said.

"I started paying more attention to the betting patterns," he said. "Trying to not so much learn new facts, but play the game and see what facts they would ask and try to, you know, make connections in my mind."

And, of course, he watched a lot of "Jeopardy" on TV, recording episodes nightly and using the remote control to simulate the buzzer. Then it was time to go to California for the taping.

Jacobs made the trip in November with his mother and sister-in-law and while "Jeopardy" doesn't pay for contestants' flights or hotel stays, they did get a hotel discount.

They showed up for the taping at 8 a.m. and Jacobs spent the morning getting comfortable on set, practicing answering questions and hitting the buzzer.

"Then it was show time," he said.

"Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek comes out right before the taping, Jacobs said, and five shows are taped in one day. In between, Trebek leaves the set and changes suits before returning for the next taping. Each taping lasts about 30 minutes, and during the "commercial breaks," Trebek will talk to and take questions from audience members.

Seeing is 'surreal'

Jacobs, who watched the show Wednesday night with some friends and family members, described seeing himself on TV as "surreal."

Several of his co-workers gathered to watch at Mick O'Shea's pub on North Charles Street in Baltimore, where they yelled at the TV, laughed at a few of Jacobs' mannerisms they noticed on screen and applauded when the game was over.

Jacobs said he received around 100 text messages and Facebook posts from friends before the night was done. Several of them were impressed with his answer of a moon phase question — a waxing gibbous.

Jacobs said he would encourage anyone who is interested to try out, even if they don't make it all the way to California and Trebek.

"I was a little disappointed, but then I just thought about the experience," he said. "Whatever I win is gravy. I just wanted to have fun."