Geeks Who Drink Leads the Pub Trivia Nerd Pack

By Neal Pollack | June 15, 2012 | 6:30 am


It was 10:45 pm, and the sixth annual Geek Bowl went to overtime. A hundred and fifty teams from around the US had trekked to Texas and paid to battle it out in the Austin Music Hall early this year. By the end, two master trivia squads—the locals of Team Dong, and Independence Hall and Oates from Philadelphia—were tied, vying for the $5,000 grand prize. The grueling contest featured questions that merged the brainy and the profane in a way that you’d never see on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. (For instance, you need a deep familiarity with both Italian architecture and gross Web memes to arrive at the answer to one question: “two girls, one cupola.”) And as the teams headed into the final bonus round, the 1,000-plus people in attendance were almost sober enough to care.

Geek Bowl comes from a Denver-based outfit called Geeks Who Drink. John Dicker decided to found the company after playing a particularly lame round of pub trivia one night in 2005. “I knew I’d have to start my own if I wanted it to improve,” he says. Dicker hired a marketing team and a trivia master to design the weekly quizzes. Now Geeks Who Drink runs contests at more than 200 locations in 21 states, with participating bars paying $125 to $200 a week. (Dicker’s quiz guru has since racked up six wins on Jeopardy!)

More bars are joining Geeks Who Drink every week, but they aren’t the only ones trying to commodify pub trivia. “Nashville is dominated by Trivia Time,” Dicker says. “Team Trivia has a stranglehold on Atlanta.” Then there’s Buzztime, which has a deal with the Buffalo Wild Wings chain and runs thousands of quizzes across North America. What began as a way to lure patrons into bars on slow weekday nights has become a cutthroat business.

ndependence Hall and Oates got the overtime win easily this year after answering four of the five bonus questions correctly. They recognized Mount Mansfield as the highest point in Vermont and knew that the dollar is the official currency of Hong Kong. The major regret was that they didn’t get to answer the impossibly difficult tiebreaker question: “Multiply the number of years Bernard Madoff was sentenced to serve in prison by the number of UN member states whose names begin with Z, and then subtract the number of years Michael Jordan won the NBA’s regular-season MVP award.”

The answer is 295. If you got that, then there’s a spot in Geek Bowl VII for you.