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How to Win at Trivia Nights

Updated on February 6, 2013

Tips and Tricks to Take Home the Prize at Your Next Trivia Night Challenge.

It all started out, innocently enough, as a way for organizations to raise funds to send kids to camp, raise money to buy athletic or playground equipment or make a contribution to a charitable fund of some kind. Trivia Challenges, however, while still for a good cause, have evolved into a massive hobby and social exercise that tens of thousands of teams of fanatic people participate in every Saturday night.

I wait by the phone for the call to determine if my wife and I have made the cut for the competition that week. We have a local group of friends that consists of about eight couples and a captain that determines the team for each event. The decision is based on a complex formula that takes into consideration the subject matter of the questions, each participant's educational background and field of expertise, and whether or not they have a baby-sitter available.

If we are accepted, the evening is usually a lot of fun as long as we follow the list of trivia etiquette, correctly answer our quota of questions, and respectfully honor the house rules set forth by the team Secretary. The team, more often than not, finishes in the top two or three and takes home the top prize several times a year.

This lens is a primer for how you too can assemble your team and become trivia night pros.

How to Win at Trivia - Tips and Tricks to take home top prize

  • Decide before you go if you are even trying to win- There is nothing wrong with just going to the event and having fun but if you really want to win you must pay attention and keep socializing to a minimum.
  • What are your demographics- Most teams consist of 8-12 people. It is important to get as much variety out of these people as possible. Teams with a wide range of ages, backgrounds and interests with their members are going to have a better chance of knowing the answers.
  • Cheat Sheet- I would not at all suggest that you should cheat by bringing any materials that could help in answering the questions, but there is nothing wrong with memorizing common helpful list so they may be rattled off and written down in case they are needed. Lists like presidential terms and State capitals often come in handy.
  • Know when to give up- there are some challenges that were just not meant to be won because, either you caught a rough break with a bad category or really tough questions, or one or more teams are just too good or take it too seriously. If this happens, abandon trying so hard to win and try, instead, to have a good time.
  • Practice makes perfect- 90% of the questions in a trivia challenge either most everyone gets wrong or most everyone gets right. The other 10% you think, "I know that! It's on the tip of my tongue!" Those are the ones that make the difference between winning and losing. Fill your head with as much useless knowledge about everything and anything whenever you can.
  • Use Mulligans early and often- Mulligans are usually available for a nominal fee. Buy as many as you can and use as many as you can, as early as you can. It is much better to gain as much of a lead as possible rather than trying to catch up down the stretch. In addition, many times the questions get easier as the night goes on.
  • Snacks- Oh snacks are a sore spot with me. Honestly, I don't care what you bring! I will probably eat anything that is laid out in front of me unless I don't like it and then I'm not going to complain, but this is the most important subject to some participants. If I had to give an opinion I guess I would say: go quantity before quality-- a couple of bags of chips and some dip will go much farther than a fancy pate or something. And once everyone is into the game and food is spread out all over the table, nobody really remembers what they ate.
  • Just Do It- Even if you study every obscure fact that you can find and follow every tip on this lens, you are still going to learn a lot more (and have a lot more fun) by just getting out and participating in as many local trivia night events that you can... and remember to have fun!

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