Tips for pub trivia

Every Sunday, I attend pub trivia at a bar in Helsinki. We are a team of 4–5 people, and although we aren’t the best by any stretch, we have managed to win a couple of times amongst what I’d describe as a pretty bright group of teams.

I thought I’d write down a few tips for those interested. These stem from personal experience.

  • The key to success is having the right kind of team. If the rules allow for five team members, try to find five people. No matter how good you are, there are always answers you a) may not know or b) are not entirely sure of. Being able to confer with teammates will get you out of many tricky situations.
  • Team composition is critically important. What often separates great teams for average teams is that they have members with diverse interests and expertise. Our team consists of a biologist, a computer scientist, a mathematician and a physicist, but we could to with another member that is knowledgable in pop culture and areas other than natural sciences.
  • If the rules allow you to swap out members, don’t do it often. Having team members that are committed to showing up every week/month is ideal, because the more time you work together, the better you start to understand how others think.
  • Visual aids really do help. If you are allowed to, take notes during questions. Especially when the question is a word puzzle. Seeing characters, words and drawings in front of you makes things easier, and helps you teammates pitch in with ideas and possible solutions.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, make an educated guess (unless you get a penalty for wrong answers). If there are many proposed answers, choose the one that gets the most votes amongst the team. Failing that, choose the one that got suggested first. Second-guessing yourself and changing answers is usually the wrong thing to do.
  • Don’t get hung up on one question unless the rest of the team is knowledgable enough in subsequent questions to let you think for a longer time. I must admit that I sometimes get so frustrated when I don’t know the answer to a question that I keep thinking about it for too long. I’m distracting myself, which is detrimental when you think about the goal — winning the entire quiz, not just answering one difficult question correctly.
  • This probably goes without saying, but if you don’t know the answer to a question, remember to write the answer down once it’s shown. Writing it down will make it easier to remember later on.
  • If you are serious about being successful, remember to practice. Host impromptu trivia nights where each attendant designs their own trivia game and brings it with them. If you don’t practice and made it your business to know a bit of everything, winning or placing in the top 3 can be difficult.
  • Last, but not least—and this goes without saying—remember to have fun. Enjoying your hobby should be reason enough to keep at it.

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