Cheating and trivia night are thought to go hand in hand, especially in today’s smartphone world. Go to any pub quiz, and you’re bound to find it: people Googling the answers, using music recognition apps like Shazam on ipod rounds, texting friends not in the bar, and likely a host of other ways to beat the system.
Not only is cheating at trivia night unfair to everyone else trying to partake in good, clean fun, but it’s also stealing when the culprits actually take home the prize. No matter where you are or how much is at stake, cheaters will always find a way to worm their way into the pub quiz night, and ruin things for everyone else. Everyone despises cheaters, including quizmasters – especially when it’s a free trivia night. I mean, really- cheating at a free event? Come on!
Having hosted over 300 bar trivia nights in New York City, I’ve seen my fair share of cheaters, and caught many in the act. Although there is no surefire way to stop cheaters at trivia night, here are some tips I’ve discovered to help identify those who simply can’t overcome the urge to whip out their mobile devices, and look up the answers:
Employ Audience Eyes & Ears – When starting the event, the first rule to announce is obviously “no cheating.” Rather than just leave it at that, though, ask people to keep an eye out for cheaters, and to call them out if spotted; some well-timed peer pressure (and possibly humiliation) from the next table may be all that’s needed for a would-be cheater to cut it out.
Manage by Walking Around – While it’s tempting for the trivia host to remain at his/her post for the duration of the event, it’s important to walk around every now and then and just check out the teams up-close. Doing so allows you to catch possible cheaters stealthily looking up the answers under the table, as well as sends the message that the “no cheating” rule is indeed being enforced.
Look for Score Leaps – After the first or second round of trivia, it’s usually pretty clear which handful of teams are going to be breaking away from the pack and competing for the prize. However, when a team which was doing poorly suddenly picks up steam out of nowhere – especially on rounds where “good” teams struggled – alarms should go off. Flag this team, and make a special point to visit their table- chances are, they’re cheating.
Nobody Gets Everything Right – While it’s theoretically possible to get every trivia question right, this never happens in the real world. At my corporate entertainment and trivia team building activities in NYC, where the rounds are ten questions each, I am instantly suspicious of teams who get ten of ten – and doubly so if it happens more than once.
Post Disinformation – This is an extreme move – actually, more like entrapment – designed to flush out cheaters. Before the trivia night, post some “sample questions & answers” on your trivia Website or blog (if you have one), or tweet out a question/answer via your trivia Twitter feed. Here’s the thing, though- include incorrect answers. During your event, casually mention that you’ve posted some questions from the event for people to share tomorrow with friends, coworkers etc., and be sure to read out the planted questions. While scoring sheets, any teams which puts down the planted incorrect answers is obviously a bunch of lame, cheating scoundrels, and should be called out. This move clearly takes some extra effort, and should only be used when your trivia night is suffering from a particularly bad cheating epidemic – but believe me, it works (FYI, Joaquin Phoenix’s birth name was NOT Leif Ericson – and yes, someone once fell for that).
Cheating has been, and always will be, a challenge for those who want to enjoy a clean, good-natured live trivia party, as well as those who host them. However, constant vigilance here by the quizmaster and the participants themselves will help identify the perpetrators, and keep the event as fair as possible.
Do you have any suggestions for identifying cheaters at pub quiz night? If so, please share below! We’d love to hear your ideas!