Swept Up in the Trivia Wave

Test your knowledge and keep your brain sharp this winter

Lindsey Lohan’s clothing line, called 6126, is named in honor of what actress?
    In the early 1930s, this psychologist invented a laboratory apparatus used in the experimental analysis of behavior?
    What was the first NBA team to relocate?
    If you answered these three out-of-nowhere questions as Marilyn Monroe, B.F. Skinner and the Philadelphia Warriors, you have great potential for the biggest thing in entertainment since karaoke: Trivia.
    A national trend, playing trivia at your favorite bar or restaurant is rolling into Chesapeake Country. Dozens of venues offer games on a weekly basis.
    What’s the attraction?
    “People are competitive and want to see how much they know,” says Branden Carmody, owner of Charm City Trivia, one of three local companies that produce most of the trivia games for local establishments.
    Competition stays friendly; you’re playing to beat the system rather than other teams. It’s great for team building and bonding.
    Playing together “is a chance for people to get together with friends and family on a regular basis,” Carmody says.
    Jo Stanfill of Severna Park and her family and neighbors like the experience so well that they’ve formed a boisterous team, the Riverbillies, to play Tuesdays at Mothers Peninsula Grill in Arnold.
    “We like to get together and enjoy each other’s company, and we like the competition,” Stanfill says.
    Mothers hosts one of 90 to 100 games played each week from Baltimore through the D.C. suburbs into Calvert County. Most are produced by Charm City, Trivia Maryland and Final Score Trivia. Other games are run by smaller companies and tavern owners.
    “Trivia is a great way to reach across groups young and old,” reports Nate Gagnon, the owner of Yo Mamma’s in Prince Frederick. Gagnon is one of the few owners who creates and runs his own game, an approach that allows him to tailor the game to the interests of his regulars.

The Rules of the Game
    No matter who runs them, all the games have similar rules and format. Bar trivia is always free for the players. You can play solo, but teams like the Riverbillies have more fun and do better. On a given night, a venue might have 10 to 15 teams playing.
    For about two hours, a host asks a series of 20 to 25 questions. Players get three to five minutes to answer. Within teams, the question bounces from brain to brain before an answer — sometimes more of a guess — is agreed on. Answer slips are passed to the host, who reads the correct answer and tallies the scores. Each revelation is met with cheers and groans from the players.

The Riverbillies get together each Tuesday for trivia night at Mothers Peninsula Grill in Arnold.

    The two most common complaints: I should have known that! and How could anybody be expected to know that?
    The range of questions is broad. Some answers are obvious, some impossible, some very tricky. Question format and point value is varied to add interest to the game. For example, most games have at least one visual question. The host hands out a sheet with six to 10 pictures — cartoon characters, movie scenes, famous buildings — that must be identified by name.
    At the end of the game, points are totaled and winners announced. Top finishing teams win prizes and move up the ladder to the playoffs. Everyone seems to have fun, win or lose.
    Many teams never miss a weekly game at their favorite bar, but there is no commitment, so people can play wherever and whenever they want. The pace is slow enough to let you drink, eat and socialize during the game, but fast enough to keep your attention.
    Cell phones and other electronic devices are strictly forbidden. I’ve seen one player thrown out for illegal Googling.

Playing the Game
    To give trivia a try, you get to decide where to play and who to play with. You’ll have the most fun if you go with your friends, but you will have the most success if your team is populated with different interests and background. Teams can be as small as one and up to 12; solo, my team is Lone Wolf. Since one of the most important elements of diversity is age, multi-generational family teams are both popular and successful.
    Jo Stanfill’s three-generational night clan ranges in age from 21 to 78.
    “We have a wide range of ages on the team, and different people familiar with different subjects,” Jo says to explain the Riverbillys’ consistent success finishing in the top half of the field.
    If you like to get out with people and get your brain teased every now and them, trivia might be your winter sport. Perhaps your favorite neighborhood tavern sponsors a game just waiting for you to join.

• Charm City Trivia: www.charmcitytrivia.com
• Trivia Maryland: www.triviamaryland.com
• Final Score Trivia: www.finalscoremaryland.com