Pub Quiz games

April 12, 2017


A pub quiz team in Amsterdam

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 developed in the late 1970s by Burns & Porter Associates who took the concept of having a few individual quizzes in pubs and developed this into a national institution comprising upwards of 10, 000 teams competing weekly in their pub leagues and knock-outs.

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 United States.

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):

  • Factual rounds – these are usually spoken, either over a public address system or just called out. Common topics include:
  • General knowledge – covering the topics listed below (if they are not in a separate round) and also topics such as history, geography and science and nature. There may well be more than one of these rounds.
  • Entertainment – movies, TV shows and music (see also below).
  • True or False – questions to which the answer is True or False.
  • Picture round – these use photocopied or computer-printed hand-outs and consist of pictures to be identified, such as photos of famous people (possibly snapped out of context, or else partially obscured) or logos of companies (without tell-tale lettering), famous places or objects pictured from a strange angle.
  • Who Am I? – A series of clues to the identity of a famous person (or thing). Clues are given in order of descending difficulty. The earlier a team can identify the correct answer, the more points they are awarded.
  • Music round – these consist of excerpts (often only the intro or other non-vocal segment) of songs played over the PA system. Usually the teams must identify the song and also the singer or band (sometimes the year the song was released is also required). Variations include the inclusion of film soundtracks and TV theme tunes (requiring the title), and/or classical music (also requiring the composer).
  • Puzzle rounds – generally on a hand-out sheet. These may consist of crossword puzzles, anagrams, Ditloids, Dingbats and basic mathematics problems.
  • Novelty rounds – themed round a specific word or name (e.g. all the questions relate to a famous Norman); 'connections', where the last answer in the round provides a link to all the previous answers; true or false; and various others to break up the general stream of questions.
  • Bonus rounds[edit]

    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 .

    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.

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