Picking your pub quiz team.

I thought I’d start by addressing a pivotal question of the pub quiz process – who do you want on your team?

Recently I went to a great quiz at the North London Tavern (Mondays at 8pm, £2 per person, highest-scoring team wins cash prize) with some friends with whom I had not previously quizzed. We were a team of five, and I only knew two of the other four people. We had a fantastic time; I killed it in the “Riddles” round and did pretty well on the “TV from 2010” round, and in the end we won by about six points.

The next week I saw one of the people I’d gone with, who told me that their other friends had been delighted with my performance and I could come back any time. Great! Apparently, they were often suspicious of newcomers to quiz teams, because if the team wins, any hangers-on add to the number of people the prize fund is divided by. I could have shown up, done nothing apart from eat crisps and look pensive every so often, and then walked off with £13 I didn’t deserve.

When you’re a serious quizzer, the quality of your team mates is crucial. If you’re just going along to have a few pints and entertain yourselves, then it’s irrelevant. But you’re reading this blog about pub quizzes. You want to win. You’re like me. You get a little rush when the quizmaster arrives at your table with his pint glass full of pound coins and pens. And you’re going to read my list of tips for putting together your team.

1. Make sure there is someone who can do the sports round. 

It’s certainly not unknown for a team of dedicated quizzers to lack a sports expert. Let’s face it, we’re indoor kids. We skived off games to hang out in the library. We’re people who really love quizzes. When you think of your cleverest friends for your team, the first people who pop into your head are going to be brainy types – puzzlers, people who know Latin. They’re great, They will get you far. But winning is what matters, and you’re not going to win if you can name every actor who has played The Doctor but you only get one point on the sports round. Find your sports buff – it might be someone’s husband, it might be your friend at work who doesn’t shut up about the football match last night (there was always a football match last night somewhere) – and get them on your side.

2. Make sure you have a good spread of knowledge

The best quiz team I have ever seen (and not been on) were regular visitors to a pub in the town I grew up in, The Bax Castle. Nearby was Christ’s Hospital, an amazing school so serious that the children wear uniform that has barely changed since the 16th century. Every week, a group of teachers from Christ’s Hospital who all taught different subjects showed up at the quiz, and they won. I went to this quiz at least ten times, and these bastards always won, because not only were they all clever, they were all clever in different ways.

Actually our team (of me and my parents) usually did pretty well. My mother is a history expert, my father is an accountant with a degree in engineering and I’m a dilettante who watches too much television. Like the teachers who always beat us, we covered a broad range of knowledge bases.

It is a simple point, but it’s crucial. If you and your friends are all very cultured, make sure you’ve got someone who watches Britain’s Got Talent (in fact, a general rule is to make sure you have someone who watches all the main talent shows. They will always be useful). If you’re going to quiz with your workmates and you’re all scientists, make sure you take a friend with a literature degree. And, as above, if you and your friends are all nerds, make sure you have someone who watches rugby every now and again.

NB: This doesn’t apply if you’re going to a specific topic quiz (these tend to be film or music-based), in which case you want all your weirdest and most obsessive friends on your team. The ones who write fan fiction.

3. Make sure you’re comfortable overruling them

If you’re serious about quizzes, sometimes there will be arguments. People will mis-remember things, or guess the wrong answer. Sometimes you’re going to have to get into it a bit with your team mates and tell them in no uncertain terms, while banging on the table that Matt Cardle did win X Factor in December 2010, and you know because you remember watching it when you were in Somerset with your friend who fancied someone out of One Direction and made you watch the final with them.

You probably won’t be able to argue like this with your boss, or your in-laws, or someone you’re on a first date with. They might not like it. You might feel awkward, and worst of all you might let them put down the wrong answer because you don’t want a scrap. This should never happen.


Generally, the people you have a good feeling about are going to work. If you have a friend who can usually bring up some interesting fact about a conversation topic, or always knows what’s going on in the news, they’ll probably do well on a quiz team. If you really want to finesse your selection process, however, the above guidelines should take you pretty far. Especially the first one. You’ll feel like such tools when you’ve got full marks on the Literary Devices round but you can’t name three Premiership sides Peter Crouch has played for.

Do you agree? Have I missed something? Who was on your best ever quiz team? Please let me know!


3 thoughts on “Picking your pub quiz team.

  1. I always find a friend who doesn’t have a job and reads Wikipedia all day is a key member, despite university lecturers’ assertions that Wikipedia is the most terrifying collection of lies that has ever existed.

  2. There is something to be said for a “Team Manager” role. Okay, I’ll admit that I’m biased as this is what I consider myself to be, but I have saved many a quiz sheet from being submitted with multiple answers, or (oh the horror!) no answer at all.

    It’s also useful if you have a fairly regularly changing team to have someone who knows which people should be trusted to come up with the goods. Assertion has its place when you know you’re right, but what if you have a quieter brainiac of a team member? Without a Team Manager-type they could get overruled by the guy with the loud mouth (I hate that guy).

    Plus I do really nice drawings on the quiz sheets which I think must brighten up the Quizmaster’s evening.

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