OLD ORCHARD BEACH — A bartender from Old Orchard Beach defended his “Jeopardy!” title Monday night, surging to victory at the very end of the popular television quiz show.

Trailing a media executive from California by about $7,000 as the show neared its conclusion, 54-year-old Dennis Coffey correctly answered the final “Jeopardy!” question and wagered enough money to overtake Traci Mack, who answered the question incorrectly.

A watch party crowd off over 100 people who gathered at Duffy’s Tavern & Grill in Old Orchard Beach erupted into cheers and stood to applaud as Coffey, who was working the bar, continued serving drinks and giving customers high-fives.

Afterward, Coffey praised Mack for displaying what he described as “nerves of steel.” Throughout the half-hour show it appeared she was going to win, but to Coffey’s credit he remained stone-faced. Terms of a non-disclosure agreement prohibit him from discussing the outcomes of shows, which were taped in October, until they air on television.

Monday’s victory means that Coffey will be back on the show Tuesday night to compete against two new challengers. Matthew Neff, a chief financial officer from Chicago, finished third in the show Monday night.

Coffey, who won $17,601 on the show that aired Monday and $21,601 on the show Friday, admitted that his newfound celebrity status caught him off guard.

“I knew there would be some publicity, but I didn’t expect there would be this much,” Coffey said in an interview before the show. “This show has really brought me down to earth. It’s clear that I am not an elite player.”

Friends and supporters say Coffey is smart and has a knack for trivia.

The bartender won his first appearance by being the only contestant to correctly answer a question about how a  member of the British royal family helped solve a mystery surrounding a murdered Russian czar and his family.

Denise Morin, center, and dozens of other patrons at Duffy’s Tavern & Grill on Monday night cheer as they watch bartender Dennis Coffey win his second game on “Jeopardy!” Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Coffey knew it was Prince Philip – husband of Queen Elizabeth – whose DNA helped investigators positively identify the remains of several members of the Romanov royal family found roughly a century after their murders. Prince Philip is related to the Romanovs.

How did Coffey know the answer to such an obscure question? A few years ago when he was working at an area convenience store he discussed that very topic with a friend, Charlie Andreades of Old Orchard Beach. Andreades, a retired physical education teacher and coach, attended Monday’s watch party.

“He used to work at 7-Eleven. I’d go and we’d chat about history and sports. He really knows his sports,” Andreades said. “(Prince Philip) came up in one of our conversations and he remembered.”

With Mack on a roll, the bar crowd was starting to think that their hometown hero was going to lose. The final Jeopardy question did not offer much clarity about the outcome.

“Of the four jobs in George Washington’s cabinet, name the two that have been filled by women in the 230 years since,” was the question.

Dennis Coffey, who knew it all along, reacts as his win on “Jeopardy!” is shown on TV Monday night at Duffy’s Tavern & Grill, where he works as a bartender. The bar was packed with regulars and friends who came to watch Coffey compete. The show was taped last fall, but he kept his lips sealed and a straight face until the end of Monday night’s broadcast. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Mack and Neff answered incorrectly, but Coffey nailed it – secretary of state and attorney general. Coffey will compete against a data analyst and high school English teacher on Tuesday night. The show airs at 7:30 p.m. on WMTW-TV.

Coffey, who has lived in Old Orchard Beach for most of his life, graduated from Old Orchard Beach High School in 1983.

Coffey is a longtime fan of “Jeopardy!” and had applied to be a contestant three previous times.

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