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Bar Trivia - How to Start Your Own Pub Quiz

Matthew Nesbitt
By Matthew Nesbitt. Updated: January 20, 2017
Bar Trivia - How to Start Your Own Pub Quiz

A pub quiz is simply an event held in a bar where teams of contestants answer trivia to win prizes. The incarnations and variants of these quizzes, however, are almost limitless. A relatively recent phenomenon, originating in the UK around 40 years ago, the pub quiz has grown in popularity and is a chance for people to test their mental mettle whilst enjoying some drinks and socializing with pals. If you're thinking of starting your own, here at we'll show you How to Start Your Own Pub Quiz, providing what you'll need to think about in creating a successful night. A little word of warning; the more successful your quiz is, the more competitive teams get, so we'll also make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.

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  1. Venue
  2. Format and Tone
  3. Rules
  4. Rounds
  5. Equipment
  6. Games
  7. Prizes


It seems obvious to say it, but the first thing you'll need for your pub quiz is a pub. If you have a local bar where you are a regular, you might have enough social clout to introduce the idea to the owner and ask if they will let you host the event there. A fancy cocktail bar where people come to dress up and schmooze is not a great location to host your event as most people will have other things on their mind than trying to remember facts and figures. A cozy bar where people come to have a quiet drink and chat with friends is much better suited to it.

Many bars will have started their own quiz as it is a good way to get punters (customers) into their venue and sell drinks. This is why they are most commonly held during the week when attendance is often lower. Encouraging sales is a good selling point, so once you get your idea and formulate a plan of action, you can look for bars in a certain area which don't have a quiz, but do have quiet numbers during the week. You will need to advertise in the pub as well, so if it is somewhere you know you can try to drum up attendance by word of mouth.

The layout of the bar is also important. Pub quizzes have teams and the answers need to be written down, so you'll need somewhere with tables large enough to hold groups of people. You will also need to present the questions when you host, so a good space up front where everyone can see you is good. They will also need to hear you. Larger bars often have a room off to one side which is ideal as it separates you from other customers who just want to have a drink.

Bar Trivia - How to Start Your Own Pub Quiz - Venue

Format and Tone

Bars serve alcohol and, therefore, you need to be an adult to enter. Particularly in the UK, some pub quizzes have a reputation for being a a little bawdy and this can be reflected in the questions, demeanor of the host and even the team names. Often when a team chooses a name it is for comical effect, which might include some blue humor. It is up to you what the tone of your night is and if you think some people have stepped over the line, you will need to do a little crowd control. This crowd, however, will usually try itself to dictate the tone and will show their support or contempt quite audibly.

Hosting a quiz is not for the faint-hearted, so you'll need to make sure you are up to the challenge. You'll need to speak clearly and be sociable. Although many people can take the competitive element seriously (there have been instances of brawls and even a dispute resulting in a court case), the main reason people come to pub quizzes is to have some fun. Making jokes, bantering with the contestants and ensuring people are having a good time are all key considerations. If you are timid you can lose the respect of the crowd and no one will even want to continue with the quiz.

You'll also need to think about what type of quiz you want it to be and many people like to choose a theme. This could be a general theme like music or sports, or could be intended for a specific demographic like a Star Wars quiz. You can also have special nights centred around an event like a political election or a Christmas quiz.

Bar Trivia - How to Start Your Own Pub Quiz - Format and Tone


Once you have customized your quiz to both your personality and a theme, you'll need to lay out the ground rules. You should have a maximum capacity for each team so that you don't have one with a smaller group of people playing against a much larger group who have a greater pool of resources to answer questions.

You will also need to decide whether or not you will want to charge an entrance fee. As a bar might just be happy enough to have more customers on a quiet night, they might wave any need for a hire charge. However, some may require you to pay an amount just to hold the event, so a fee might be needed. You will also need to provide prizes for people to play for, so charging everyone a small fee to enter, but offering them the chance to win big at the end, is a great incentive. You can also use this money to pay for bonus and runner-up prizes. As pub quizzes can often be quite common, it is not likely you'll earn much money in starting one unless you manage to create a very popular event in a large venue. However, no one expects you to be out of pocket and you should be able to make your expenses back.

Cell phones are the scourge of any pub quiz and lubrication with alcohol might embolden people to cheat. A strict no cellphone policy should be decreed so that the quiz is fair. Not many people are likely to let you keep their phones until the end (and you wouldn't want the responsibility of keeping them safe), so you might want to ask bar staff to keep an eye out for anyone sneaking a peek. Competitive teams are usually self-governing and will let you know if there is a cheater in the midst. You might also want to stop people from going outside so that they can sneakily have a look. You could say that if you someone does leave at any stage, they won't be allowed back in until the round is over and the answers have been collected.

Another word for a host is the quiz master. Being a master means that your word is final, so if there is a quibble over an answer it is best to stick with whatever you have written down on the sheet, even if there is a good argument for an alternative correct answer. You will need to decide how many points are allotted for each answer and whether spelling is important. Offering 2 points per answer means that you can have the ability to award 1 point if a team is almost there, but not quite. Being a good master also means you have the responsibility to research your questions well and ask them appropriately.

Bar Trivia - How to Start Your Own Pub Quiz - Rules


You will need to decide your rounds based on your theme. The most common theme is general knowledge, but you can still group certain questions together. For example, you might have a history round where contestants answer general knowledge questions on history, followed by an entertainment round where they answer questions on TV and movies. Alternatively, you can have a round on a specific topic which incorporates all categories within it. For example, if you had a round on France, you can answer questions on geography, food and famous citizens of this country. If you make it too specific you might alienate some people, but a good quiz team will have people who are better at certain criteria, so they might have different times to shine.

Many quizzes start with a news round where questions are based on topical or current events. These are also quite good for the host to construct as you can just make up questions based on things you have been reading during the week.

How you ask the questions is just as important as what you ask. You could have a question and answer style round, true or false, multiple choice, picture quiz or even guess the song/artist by playing a snippet of a song. You can also include bonus rounds which allow people to score some extra points, but you will have to consider how this will go down with the other teams. Having a "joker" is a good way to encourage a team. You do this by letting them select the answer from each round they are most positive is correct and, if they are right, they can double their points for either that question or even the whole round.

Getting the level of difficulty right is a tricky business. You don't want it to be so hard that no one gets the answers right, nor do you want it to be so easy that people don't feel competitive. You can buy special quiz books which have questions pre-selected for you, but these can often be outdated or specific to a certain region. The internet is your best resource for questions, but be vigilant about using reputable resources.


Keeping people's attention is not always easy, so some technological aids might be useful. To start off, people will need to hear you, so you might need to use a PA (Public Address system). If the bar doesn't have one of their own, you'll need to hire or borrow one, especially in larger venues. You can also play sounds (in "guess this sound" rounds) or music. This is a big consideration when thinking about charging an entrance fee and covering your expenses.

Visual stimulation can also be important, so a projector can work wonders and also open up possibilities. You could show a clip from something which leads you on to a question or have a picture of someone or something which helps people to find the correct answer. You can also set up a leader board so that everyone knows where they stand.

Most importantly you'll need a way for people to submit their answers. A blank piece of paper is mundane and not very encouraging, so creating a good template with places to put the team names, the answers and your scores when marking is advisable. You can also print off sheets which have pictures on them for picture rounds or have a bonus puzzle for extra points. Whether or not you mark them all by yourself usually depends on how many people attend. You can either ask the bar staff to help out or bring a friend along and buy them drinks in return for giving you assistance.

Bar Trivia - How to Start Your Own Pub Quiz - Equipment
Image: the queen of subtle via


If you want to shake things up a bit, you can incorporate game rounds into the quiz. An example of this might be a darts round. A member from each team can come up and throw a dart and, if they answer a question correctly, they will get points corresponding to the number they hit. There have been instances of quizzes using computer consoles, playing a sport or (as long as it is responsible) drinking games like beer pong. You could even have a wheel of fortune or lotto type game where questions are chosen at random.

Games rounds are often used as the final round. The two teams with the most points can battle it out so that the winner takes all. This is good for adding a little drama to the experience and is particularly good for trivia nights where fun is the main part of the agenda. You will need to be careful though as those who take the general knowledge element seriously might feel short changed. If a team answers the most questions right, but then falls at the last hurdle by losing a game to chance, then they might get angry.

A good resource for games to incorporate are TV shows where they have to compete for viewers by having more engaging games. Even chat shows like Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel use games with their guests which prove very popular as videos on social media, so keep an eye out for new ideas.

Bar Trivia - How to Start Your Own Pub Quiz - Games


For serious quizzers, this can be very important. If you have charged a fee, then you can use this as either the end cash prize or as a means to buy prizes. As with most competitions, most people would probably prefer to win cash. You can also make it that winning the rounds allows you to go for the jackpot prize whereby you answer a very difficult question or play a game which you need to answer correctly or win to get the money. As it is so difficult, it is not won regularly. If a team one week doesn't win it, then the money rolls over to the next quiz, increasing incrementally with every failed team. This means that if no one wins the jackpot for a while, then the stakes get higher and higher and people can get more and more interested in your quiz.

If you have arranged the quiz with a bar owner, you can see if they will let you use some bar stock or even have drinks tokens for prizes. This often doesn't cost the owner much money, while helping them to encourage custom. Many pub quizzes also have joke prizes which go to runners up or are just there to encourage people to have fun. These might include items you have lying around your house or really cheap and/or wacky objects you can find at thrift stores.

Bar Trivia - How to Start Your Own Pub Quiz - Prizes

We hope you enjoyed reading these guidelines on how to start your own pub quiz, but there are many places you can go with them. Just make sure they are fun and engaging and also that you keep the momentum going. Having too much time between rounds means that you will lose interest from the contestants and they might wander off. Even if you have difficult questions, keeping it light and entertaining will mean that people enjoy themselves even if they don't win anything.

If you have any funny or interesting pub quiz experiences you'd like to share, please leave us a comment below.

If you want some other ideas on planning social events, take a look at these articles on How to Entertain for a Company Party or How to Organize a Themed Party for Adults.

If you want to read similar articles to Bar Trivia - How to Start Your Own Pub Quiz, we recommend you visit our Recreational activities category.

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Bar Trivia - How to Start Your Own Pub Quiz