Recently I started going to trivia night at a bar, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it is the best decision I have ever made. A few weeks ago my team won, and again, I am absolutely not exaggerating when I say it was the greatest accomplishment ever made by anyone in human history. I’m hesitant to give these tips out and threaten my team’s collective throne, but victory doesn’t pay for all the Tecates, so like Van Gogh or whoever, heroically using his own paintings for kindling, I offer you these tips:
1. Find a Place That's Right for You
And what I mean by that is, go somewhere your friends all don’t mind going as well. I know people in San Francisco have trouble making the arduous twenty-minute BART trip out to Oakland with us commoners, and I acknowledge a lot of us Oakland people don’t tend to regard as adequately “real” establishments where you might not get a brick thrown at your face. Find someplace that everyone can agree on. (Just don’t go to Treasure Island. I heard it's weird there.)
Distance should be no object, as trivia rarely lasts late into the night, and a journey towards victory can never be too long. If you search “trivia” on Yelp, there are a ton of places in both the city and the East Bay where you can go and get drunk and feel smart.
I go to the Sycamore in the Mission, which has great sliders and awards winners PBR and cash, but that place gets pretty crowded already, so here’s what I’m gonna say:
I'm just kidding. It's a fine establishment and you should patronize it.
2. Assemble Your Team
You and your tight-knit circle of liberal arts majors can’t do this alone. You may have gotten through Infinite Jest or glanced a de Kooning, but the things that get you through college and the things that help you win trivia are not always the same. You need at least one sports person and one science person. One of you should know esoteric historical facts. You should all keep up with the news, because YOU SHOULD KEEP UP WITH THE NEWS ANYWAY. A few weeks ago my team and I did terribly because there was a section on national capitals in Africa, which proves that trivia is yet another compelling argument in favor of ethnic diversity. Basically, you should think of it like a heist in a film, in which every person plays his or her quirky, extraordinarily specific, but essential role.
3. Play Nice
This seems like it should go without saying, but don’t cheat. It’s extremely easy to cheat at trivia because you have Wikipedia on your phone. Don’t do it. It takes away the satisfaction of actually knowing the answer by like 100%. And don’t be afraid to yell at people who you see cheating. They knew the risk, and they’re ruining the fun for everyone else.
Don’t let any one person take excessive control of the team to its detriment. This situation is discussed at length in this episode of the Judge John Hodgman podcast:
And finally, have fun with it. Be nice to each other. Get cool jackets made with your team name on them. It’s hard to go out and make friends with people sometimes, and trivia is a cool way to strengthen bonds with people you already like. Good luck!