There are a lot of reasons why bar trivia nights have become so popular in recent years. People love a good mental challenge, which combined with some competition, the chance to socialize & blow off steam after work, and the opportunity to have a fun time making trivia an ideal weeknight activity. Bars of course love seeing business which they wouldn’t otherwise have on an “off” night, and have welcomed trivia nights in New York City and beyond as a crowd-friendly gimmick for generating both patrons and buzz.

But if you’ve been to pub quiz nights, you know that not everyone is there for the lighthearted fun and happy hour drink specials. Lurking just beneath the surface of the otherwise relaxed competitive environment, you will also find a very different cadre of trivia night attendees- and having fun is not on their agenda.

These people who are only here to win.


You may recognize them. They’re the team who comes an hour early to claim a table, and brings their own water. They repeatedly approach the host to argue their score, request frequent “points of clarification” and generously offer their obscure knowledge of arcane facts which would also technically serve as correct answers, and are thus worthy of points. In a nutshell, these are the people who take trivia nights way too seriously.

I am always baffled by this phenomenon. To my mind – and I suspect the majority of trivia night attendees as well – pub quiz is an escape from the stress of the workday, a way to kick back and socialize over beer and friendly competition. Sure, every team at pub quiz wants to win- however, most teams know the odds of them winning are slim, and that the point of the event is to have fun. For some people, though, simply having fun isn’t part of the game plan; they are here because they are great at trivia, love showing how smart they are, and want to beat the pants off everybody else.


I feel like shaking these people and saying, “Relax! It’s only a GAME!” But alas, I guess some people are just programmed that way. One event which stands out particularly in my mind, from my early days as a trivia host: during a jam-packed pub quiz, a clearly agitated young man interrupted me mid-question to demand that I re-count his last answer sheet, insisting that he had 7 points, but that I had only given him 6. I explained that I was in the middle of hosting, but would gladly double-check his score afterwards. No good- he wanted his score updated NOW, or he and his team were leaving. Calling his bluff, I offered to refund his entrance fee – it was a free event, after all (this is a good line to use, by the way- I’ll talk more about this in an upcoming post about dealing with hecklers and other people who disrupt trivia night).

Undeterred and enraged at my snarky retort, he then began whining about how I wasn’t being fair. Having reached the end of my patience and letting my frustration get the better of me, I told him he could take the matter up with our complaint department. As if on cue, 3 very large, scary-looking men observing this exchange jauntily hoisted their beers into the air and proclaimed, “That’s us!” The complainer did an about-face and left; I bought the Complaint Department a round of shots.

My point is this: if you’re attending a trivia night, go in to have fun, not to win. You’ll be happier in the end.

Are you one of the people I’ve described above, and think I couldn’t be more wrong about this? Tell us your side of the story in the comments section below!