A pub quiz is a quiz held in a pub or bar. These events are also called quiz nights or trivia nights and may be held in other settings. Pub quizzes may attract customers to a pub who are not found there on other days. The pub quiz is a modern example of a pub game. Although different pub quizzes can cover a range of formats and topics, they have many features in common. The pub quiz was established in the UK in the 1970s and became part of British culture. The Great British Pub Quiz challenge is an annual event.
The pub quiz was established in the UK in the 1970s to get people to come drinking on quieter nights. Redtooth runs an annual Great British Pub Quiz challenge, with more than 600 pubs taking part in 2012.
A 2009 study put the number of regular weekly pub quizzes in the UK at 22,445, and one website has counted approximately 2,000 regular weekly quizzes in the US.
Pub quizzes (also known as live trivia, or table quizzes) are often weekly events and will have an advertised start time, most often in the evening.
While specific formats vary, most pub quizzes depend on answers being written in response to questions which may themselves be written or announced by a quizmaster.
Generally someone (either one of the bar staff or the person running the quiz) will come around with pens and quiz papers, which may contain questions or may just be blank sheets for writing the answers on. A mixture of both is common, in which case often only the blank sheet is to be handed in. Traditionally a member of the team hands the answers in for adjudication to the quiz master or to the next team along for marking when the answers are called.
It is up to the quizzers to form teams, which are generally based on tables, though if one table has a large group around it they may decide to split up. Some pubs insist on a maximum team size (usually between six and ten). The team members decide on a team name, often a supposedly humorous phrase or pun, which must be written on all papers handed in.
People often have to pay to participate – ranging from around 50p to £5 per person. This is often pooled to provide prize money. Many pub quizzes require no payment at all, as the event is simply a way to get paying customers into the venue, typically on less busy nights of the week.
The person asking the questions is known as the quizmaster. Quizmasters also mark and score answers submitted by teams, although formats exist where teams will mark each other's answer sheets.
The questions may be set by the bar staff or landlord, taken from a quiz book, bought from a specialist trivia company, or be set by volunteers from amongst the contestants. In the latter case, the quiz setter may be remunerated with drinks or a small amount of money.
Often questions may be drawn from the realm of 'everybody knows' trivia, therefore leading to controversies when the answers are false or unverifiable. In addition, as the quizzes are not formal affairs, slight errors in wording may lead to confusion and have led to a 2005 court case in the UK.
There may be between one and more than half a dozen rounds of questions, totalling anything from 10 to upwards of 80 questions. Rounds may include the following kinds (most common first):
In some quizzes teams are able to select one or two rounds as "jokers", in which their points will be doubled (or otherwise multiplied). Teams usually select their joker rounds before the start of the quiz, although some rounds may be excluded. Teams who consider themselves to be particularly strong on certain subjects can improve their chances with a good joker round, but risk wasting the joker if the questions are unexpectedly difficult. The idea of using a joker in a game may come from the BBC television programme It's a Knockout.
Some quizzes include a bonus question, in which a single answer is required with one or more clues given each round making the answer progressively easier to solve. In some variants, the first team to hand in the correct answer wins either a spot prize or additional points to their total score. In others, the questions continue until all teams have the correct answer with each team been given progressively fewer additional points the longer it takes them to submit the correct answer.
Some quizzes add a small, separate round of questions to the end of a regular quiz, with the chance to win a jackpot. Each week an amount of money is added to the jackpot, and if no team answers the questions correctly, the money rolls over to the next quiz. The maximum amount of the jackpot may be limited by local gaming regulations.
Cash jackpots may be won by a variety of methods including one-off questions and dance-offs.
In some cases, the papers are marked by the bar staff. Alternatively, teams may have to mark their own answers and the handed-in papers are consulted only to check that prize claimants have not cheated by altering their answers. Another method is to have teams swap papers before marking, though this can be divisive.
One or two points are scored for each correct answer; some quizzes allow half marks for "nearly right" answers (such as a celebrity's surname when their full name was required). In some quizzes, certain questions score higher marks, particularly if they are unusually difficult.
With the mass use of mobile phones and mobile internet access, cheating has become a problem for some pub quizzes, with covert calls and texts made in the toilets, recent newspapers and magazines brought along especially for the event, ringers and so on. Though a maximum number of members set for teams may help to prevent large numbers of people collaborating, groups posing as several distinct teams are quite common. Some quizzes now ban the use of mobiles and nullify the score of any team found to be cheating. Though more prevalent where large sums of money are at stake, cheating can be observed even for relatively low stakes.
Some quizzes also now ban re-entry to the pub after the quiz has started, in order to prevent team members from using public internet stations, public telephones and mobile devices out of sight of the quizmaster. Generally, though, a pub runs its quiz alongside its normal operation, making such a measure impractical.
Prizes are awarded to the highest scoring team, and often to runners-up. Prizes are usually one of the following:
Another format for quizzing is called "infinite bounce". This format is generally used when the number of teams in the quiz is large – usually around 8–10. Every question is addressed to the team succeeding the team that answered the previous question. If no team answers the question, the next question is addressed to the team succeeding the team to whom the previous question was addressed.
In Australia, many quiz nights are used to raise funds for sporting, school and charity groups.
In a digital pub quiz wireless handsets replace the more usual pen and paper. A computer receives and records the answers from each team's handset and the results are exported to a spreadsheet at the end of the quiz. A time limit can be set for each question (e.g. 60 seconds) and it is possible to determine which team answers in the fastest time for spot prizes and tiebreaks.
As the pub quiz concept spread to the US in the 1990s, several companies formed to provide services to bars and restaurants organizing quizzes. Different from the quiz league in the UK, US commercial pub quizzes typically involve more than just two teams and can have as many as 25–35 teams playing in a single location, with up to 6 people per team. Quiz companies charge bars a fee for hosting the quiz, which may range from $80 per week to $175 or more depending on attendance. At least 20 different pub quiz companies currently exist in the US, with most operating events concentrated in major metropolitan areas.
Leagues and competitions
A quiz league is an organisation that runs quizzes, normally in pubs, though such competitions are distinct from the standard pub quiz as they will normally involve two teams and often include a number of individual questions. No prizes are normally awarded at such a league match, but prizes and kudos may go to the quiz team winning a league or a knockout competition. The National Trivia Association runs a nationwide contest involving various pub trivia games played around the US.
Teams from throughout a region, county, state or country meet annually for more prestigious competitions, with greater prizes. Representative teams may either be the best team from each pub, or a team selected from the best individuals.
Livewire Entertainment in New Zealand have held an annual Champion of Champions quiz in Auckland since 1999. Initially open to teams from pubs within the greater Auckland region, it is now open to teams from throughout New Zealand. In practice, travel costs prevent most teams from the lower North Island and the South Island participating, although Christchurch, Nelson and Wellington have all provided teams.
In the United States National Trivia Association presents "The Riddle", a finals event open to eligible teams who play the official NTA "Quizzo!" live trivia game. Approximately a thousand players attended the 2008 event in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The largest pub quiz, according to the Guinness Book of Records, was the "Quiz for Life", held at the Flanders Expo Halls in Ghent, Belgium, on 11 December 2010 with 2,280 participants.