Trivia at the pub

Quick—who wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “Tales of the South Pacific?” What was the 1980s movie with the tagline, “If you can’t get a date, make one?” Who holds the baseball record for the highest lifetime batting average?

If you love trivia but are tired of yelling at a TV screen, saddle up to the New Deck Tavern on Monday and Wednesday nights from 10 p.m. to midnight for Quizo (sometimes called Quizzo, with two z’s), the popular general trivia game played in the comfort of your neighborhood bar.

Quizo had its beginnings here in Philly, at the New Deck, and can now be found at numerous spots around the city and country. Some games have themes, and others bill themselves as easier than the original. But for authenticity’s sake, do check it out at New Deck on Sansom. Fair warning: the competition is tough (especially on Wednesday nights) as teams compete for first prize—$65 off that night’s bar tab.

Oh, and by the way—James Michener wrote “Tales of the South Pacific,” the ’80s movie in question is “Weird Science” and the ball player with that stellar record is the one and only Ty Cobb.

Creative names

On a Monday night, my team and I arrive early—which is easy to pull off since my team consists of just myself and my partner. As we’re sizing up the other players, we realize that we probably should have called six more of our closest friends, because quizo teams are allowed up to eight people. We vow to bring someone next time who can help us with sports questions—our weak link.
Most of the teams seem to know the drill; they help themselves to three official answer sheets and tell the host their team name. Get creative, because there’s a prize for the best one. That night, the honors go to “There’s No ‘I’ in Terrell Owens, But There are Three ‘I’s’ in Narcissistic.”

Cell phones and Blackberries are strictly prohibited during the game and after all, who’d want to use them? The game is meant to be spirited and fun—even though things can get pretty hotly contested when 65 bucks off a bar bill is at stake.

The host quickly runs through the other rules of play—he’ll read through four rounds of 10 questions each, ranging from sports to geography to the random (e.g, what is the diameter of the wheel on the TV show, “Wheel of Fortune?”), and contestants write down their answers. For the speed round, teams must answer questions already printed on a piece of paper. There’s no calling out answers and each correct answer is worth one point. Luckily, there’s no deduction for wrong answers. If teams think they’ve done especially well in a round, they can “joker” it, which doubles the points for that round only. We lucked out and managed to “joker” the fourth and final round—our best one.

Let the games begin

The host warms up the crowd and our brains with a couple of questions that don’t count towards our score, and then the game begins. It’s not quite as fast-paced as I’d imagined, because our host keeps getting distracted by people stopping by his table to say “hello.” During the few minutes between rounds, while the host tallies up the scores, people refill their pint glasses with some of New Deck’s excellent selection of brews or opt for a pitcher of domestic (including Bud, Miller or Yuengling Lager—but not Sam Adams) for a mere $6. Bass Ale runs $3 a pint.

As we had expected, we miss the sports questions, fared alright in geography and do our best with movies, books and pop culture. As the host reads out the answers—after collecting answer sheets from the teams—some teams let out groans as they realize what they’ve missed or cheer when they get an especially difficult question right. The host waits until the end of the fourth round to read out the cumulative scores and we realize we’ve landed in the middle of the pack. No prizes for us, but not too shabby for first-time players.

For more information on quizo—or quizzo—at the New Deck call them at 215-386-4600. Check out the website to find a bar near you that hosts the pub trivia night or visit “quizzo master” Johnny Goodtimes on the web at

Originally published on November 17, 2005