Trivia playing ban = civil rights violation?

Over the weekend, I received this message from a trivia player in the Hudson Valley.  And although I wasn’t sure how to respond… I do have some ideas, based on my personal experience in playing bar and tavern trivia.

Here’s the tweet in question.


At the time, I initially responded back to him about several possible scenarios why a trivia host could restrict someone from playing if they won on multiple weeks.

This morning, I received another message regarding the situation.

Yes, the timestamp on those cell phone screen captures is accurate.  I do write blog posts at 3:00 in the morning.  But let’s get back to the topic at hand.

First off, my suspicion is that there is more to this story than meets the eye.  Yes, I’ve dealt with bar owners who felt that my winning trivia games at their establishment was bad for business, so much so that at least one bar owner said that I won too many times and he didn’t want me playing there any more.  Eventually I felt that if they were willing to ban me from playing, then I was going to boycott that restaurant.  And I kept that boycott for a few years – yes, I do hold grudges – until eventually relations normalized and the bar owner and I made peace.

I’ve also dealt with trivia hosts that have gotten their nose out of joint – most recently last year, when my trivia team participated in a tournament final.  The host of the trivia company didn’t appreciate that one of my teammates wrote some criticism of that host’s game in my blog, and actually banned my teammate from participating in the finals.  Let’s put it this way.  We won’t know if we could have won WITH my teammate that night, but I do know that we lost WITHOUT my teammate that night.

And a trivia host DOES have the right to ban someone from the game should he suspect that they’re using a cell phone to get answers.  True story.  Way back in 2011, I participated in a trivia game in which one team missed the first question, then they went 18-for-18 with correct answers.  But here’s the thing.  They were using a cell phone the entire night, and the trivia host – who caught on rather quickly to the chicanery – simply let them keep playing, then at the final question, he disqualified them from the final prize for their use of a cell phone in the game.

A trivia host can also ban a team from playing if they discover that a team might try to “game the system” to win a match.  For example – although my regular trivia game is Monday night at Brown’s Brewing in Troy, I sometimes will play a game at Jessica Stones on Friday nights, or maybe Recovery Room in Troy on Wednesday nights – you know, if I feel like getting an extra game of competitive team trivia under my belt.  But if I do play at these other locations, I will let the host know that I’ve played there in the past, so that he won’t re-use the questions on another night, thus giving me an “I know these questions already” advantage.

A few years ago, one of the trivia hosts caught a team doing a “double-dip” trivia game – they would play at the host’s Friday night “happy hour” trivia game at one location, and then the team would drive to another bar that same evening – where the game would start later and the questions would be re-used, albeit with a different host – and run the table and win.  That lasted about two weeks before the trivia hosts caught on and kept an emergency set of questions handy should that team try such a stunt in the future.

See, here’s the thing.  Competitive bar trivia is supposed to be a fun time.  You’re playing for beer and wings and a gift certificate and maybe two tickets to the local open mike show at Yuk Yuk’s.  If you don’t like playing trivia at that location, certainly there are other places where you can get your brain-training done.

And if a trivia host feels that you’re violating the spirit of the game – cheating with a cell phone, double-dipping to get the same questions at multiple locations, that kind of thing – they do have a right to say that you or your team can’t play in their game.

The solutions?  There are many.

Sometimes a trivia host can restrict the number of times a person can win over a period of a month.  Say, if you won three weeks in a row, you couldn’t win the grand prize for another couple of weeks.  Or if the prize had a substantial cash value to it – say, box seats at a Yankees game – the trivia host could install a lottery or raffle system, in which your winnings over time would translate into raffle tickets, which would be drawn at the end of the trivia game or tournament.

But something tells me that I’m not getting the complete story regarding this current player’s ban from the trivia game.  The old adage about there being three sides to every story – his, hers, and the truth in the middle – makes me suspect that there might be more to this tale than I’ve been told.

That being said, here’s how I feel about the situation.

Competitive team trivia is more “team” than “competitive.”  Nobody’s going to start a Jets vs. Sharks rumble after a trivia game.  Well, there was that one time where one team went totally Grape Ape over another squad winning, and chewed out the trivia host because of it

And trivia hosts do appreciate having a team that wins legitimately week after week, if for no other reason than other teams want to try to defeat the “big bad trivia team” and win the prize.  Heck, if the Skidmarks can win Trivia Bowl, then anything is possible. 🙂

So here’s what I say about all this.

It’s a game.  It’s not life or death.  Playing competitive team trivia is a way to spend time with friends and eat and drink and share your knowledge of useless information.  It’s an opportunity to have a good time.

And if the host or the bar feels that a team is winning too often, they can either restrict the number of times a team can win, or they can try to round up other teams to play at that location.  If they do restrict the number of times a team can win over a certain period – say, you can’t win the grand prize three weeks in a row – they have to announce that ahead of time, not after the team has won its third week in a row.

Also… if you don’t like playing at that location, there are dozens of trivia nights in bars and restaurants.  Can’t stand the host on Tuesday night? Go play a game at a different location on Wednesday night.  Heck, I’ve seen some players actually try to host their own game.  You know… walk a mile in the trivia host’s shoes.  Of course, then you’ve walked a mile away and you have the host’s shoes…

I still think, however, that there’s more to this story than I’ve been told.  And maybe, just maybe, there’s more to this little spat than meets the eye.

So tell me what you think regarding all this.  Do you think the host has a right to ban teams or players?  Do you think that the player is being discriminated against for winning too many times?  Or do you think this is eventually all just a tempest in a teacup?


52 thoughts on “Trivia playing ban = civil rights violation?”

  1. Disclaimer: I have never played any competitive team trivia, and am not familiar with the rules and regulations governing same.

    It would seem to me that the organizer can make any rule they deem fit, including not allowing a team or person to participate if they perceive they have an unfair advantage. It’s their game. If the same people continue to win all the marbles, eventually no one else will want to play anymore. And then the beer and wing sales will suffer, which is probably the whole point to the game anyway, in the tavern owner’s eyes.


    1. Have we really come to a point where being smart is considered an “unfair advantage”? Is this the real world or idiocracy?


        1. D357, put yourself in the same shoes for a minute. What if you were you were a winning trivia player and some host said you couldn’t play?


      1. @John
        Been there. Obviously you don’t know who you’re talking to but I’ve been banned, denied admittance and requested to leave. I’m not Chuck Miller and the Pips…I just go play somewhere else.


  2. This is a contest. The organizers of the contest can set whatever rules they want regarding the conditions of winning, including limiting contestants to a certain number of wins before “retired” from game play.

    It a double-sided sword though – having the same guy win week after week will only kill the point of the contest – to draw in new customers, and for bars that attract the same customers week after week having the same guy win each week isn’t good for business as well.

    However, the rules should be posted and not changed every contest. It’s not like bar trivia contests are a new invention.


    1. You’re completely right. If they don’t want to allow black people to win, they can just set being white as a condition of winning.


      1. Jeremy – Go look at the window. See reality? Now go grab a good hold of it before your meds wear off.

        To compare segregation to the plight of smart-ass know-it-alls who don’t know when to sit back and enjoy a beer while others get to play is to minimize the suffering of those who experienced it.

        TV Game shows have these kind of rules, so your thesis seems to not hold water.


      2. Jeremy, go look up the whole thing on Twitter. Neither of them appear, from their photos, to be black. Neither of them answered Chuck when he asked if the discrimination was based on race or religion. So far, I’ve read nothing to indicate that they are complaining about discrimination based on race.

        I just see two guys whining about being discriminated against and having their “civil rights” violated for being too smart. They can’t be all that smart if they don’t know jack about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, The Freedom Riders, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks (although these idiots seem to think they are going to make a contribution bigger than hers), Emmett Till, Medgar Evers… Hey, can you little fellas store all of those names in your smart little trivia brains?

        I am thoroughly disgusted. Trivia? Trivial is more like it.


        1. Roz, just because this issue isn’t as important as the one’s you’ve mentioned doesn’t mean it’s not relevant. Trivia players are people too and the guy came to Chuck with a serious issue.


    2. The thing is, me winning a lot never hurt his business. The attendence at his events is high all the time and when the weather is bad, I was one of a few teams that came out and played. There were times when it was just my team against another team in inclement weather. I routinely would drive 80 miles round trip to play his games. I spent a lot of money eating and drinking and brought friends who normally didn’t play trivia and got them interested.


  3. If Liam is such a hotshot trivia player it’s surprising he doesn’t know what civil rights are.
    If you listen to on-air radio giveaways they routinely ask if you’ve won anything in the last six months…it’s not a civil rights violation.
    Congratulations, Chuck…this guy sounds like a perfect fit for the Street Academy team.


    1. A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, and assembly; the right to vote; freedom from involuntary servitude; and the right to equality in public places.


      1. This is not a civil rights matter or a question of free speech.

        If the bar stops holding trivia contests, there is no injury, because the service is not the contest, but the drinks and food being served. No one is denying you service. Further, your participation is being limited on the basis of winning too often – not because of an innate quality such as race, creed, color, of sexual preference.

        So, you complaining that bars can’t set limits on winning in trivia contests is like a rich guy complaining his civil rights are being violated because the Stock Market prohibits insider trading.


        1. Tim – I think at this point, you’ve got nothing to prove here. Maybe you might want to play at another trivia locale for a while? Let things calm down between you and the host – and eventually you should be welcomed back. Trust me. Forever isn’t that long a time to wait.


        2. That’s why I said in the post, “But something tells me that I’m not getting the complete story regarding this current player’s ban from the trivia game. The old adage about there being three sides to every story – his, hers, and the truth in the middle – makes me suspect that there might be more to this tale than I’ve been told.”


      2. And a civil rights violation is when you are denied any of those rights because of your race, religion or sexual preference…not because of your personality or because you won too many times. Are you claiming “trivia contest winners” as the injured class? Good luck with that. You sound like a member of a separate class known as “a–holes” and they have a long and distinguished history of being tossed out of bars.


        1. I still would like to hear from the trivia host regarding all this. This isn’t a 1959 Woolworth’s lunch counter where people are denied the right to sit based on their color.


        2. I still would like to hear from the trivia host regarding all this. =

          I would like to get even MORE comments! This is much more exciting than when I write about one of my pictures for the tenth time!


  4. I read your blog about trivia all the time, that’s why I sought you out to ask. The bottom line is I don’t cheat at trivia, I never did. There was one night where I went to a different location on a different week and the same questions were asked. I didn’t know they were going to ask the same exact questions I had heard before, but another trivia team had also been exposed to the same questions and they played, so I played on principle. Note: this game is a Jeopardy format with buzzers, so the person who rings in first gets to answer first and sometimes the game is all about hand/eye coordination rather than sheer knowledge.

    Now this was an isolated incident and I played with the same Trivia host and company at different locations numerous times after that incident. He never complained about it to me until last week, it happened back in 2013.

    I am probably the player with the most wins in the history of that company and they have had over ten locations. After a major win streak, the owner asked me to take a break from his trivia and I refused. The prizes are $5 and $10 gift cards!

    I kept going and he told me I couldn’t play with them again. I still kept going and his employees/hosts still let me play. Eventually, he did order his hosts to refuse to let me play. I walked into a new restaurant and the host who I never met before, “profiled” me and asked me if I was the infamous Tim Rich.

    Note: I was friendly with the owner and never disrupted any of his games. I played the game the right way and lost as much as I’ve won. I claim the most wins in the Hudson Valley at different trivia events over the past couple years. I don’t just play the buzzer format, but the Stump Trivia, Joe Trivia, paper and pencil, Geekswhodrink, all kinds. Never once have I cheated at any of these games.

    I’m sure if you talk to any of the major Trivia hosts in the Hudson Valley regionn, and a lot of them are Dj’s and radio personalities, they will confirm I am a legit player.

    I don’t see how a trivia host can tell any player they’re not welcome especially when the players are patrons of the restaurant. I can’t see how repeat winners should be ostracized. And even if the trivia host doesn’t like me as a person, he should not be allowed to discriminate.


    1. I don’t see how a trivia host can tell any player they’re not welcome
      Apparently you have.

      After a major win streak, the owner asked me to take a break from his trivia and I refused.
      I refused to heed good advice and now nobody wants to play with me. boohoohoo.

      even if the trivia host doesn’t like me as a person, he should not be allowed to discriminate.
      He’s not discriminating. He’s running a trivia game and he gets to make the rules. You don’t.


    2. There was one night where I went to a different location on a different week and the same questions were asked.



  5. When I think of “civil rights,” I think of Rosa Parks. I think of what Black Americans have endured, from hundreds of years of slavery to Jim Crow laws that affected where they could live and how they made a living. I think of lynching, of fire hoses aimed at people and dogs attacking them. I think of Freedom Riders and slain civil rights workers. I think of #HandsUpDontShoot and #BlackLivesMatter

    I think of women getting the right to vote less than 100 years ago and our struggle for equal rights over the past centuries. I think of Japanese-Americans (and even some Italian-Americans) who were interned during WWII, even though they were never a threat to the US. I can go on and on.

    The last thing I think about is two whiny kids complaining about not being allowed to play a game in a bar.

    1. Liam and Tim: Slap yourselves. What you’re doing is an insult to everyone who fought for civil rights.
    2. Chuck, seriously? This is the one time your 1000 words gave ME a headache. I can’t believe that you didn’t write what I just did.
    3. A+++ for D357, for being the ONLY other one to see what I did. Show ’em what you REALLY can do.
    4. Where’s Ken Screven? I’d like to see what he has to say about these little kids.


    1. Excuse me Roz, but the assertion that this issue is not a civil rights violation comparable to segregation -era struggles was first made by moi on March 2, 12:01pm, and again at 12:15pm. Your first post doesn’t come in until 12:28 pm and D357 doesn’t mention it until 1:44 pm.

      Since we’re playing holier-than-thou I thought I’d play along. I enjoy an easy win.


      1. @Jango- I first posted that he didn’t know what a civil right was at 10:16. Roz posted at 11:53.


        1. Both you girls need to relax and take your halos off now and then and let the sun shine in.

          D357 – I do have a life outside the blogs – I invite you to join me here. The only requirement is a sense of humor. You’ll get there some day.


      2. Thank you so much for having my back, D357. I will not forget it.

        Jango, your attempt to make yourself look better by making me look bad has blown up in your face. Really love the “by moi.” Nice touch. The fact that we were all fighting on the same side doesn’t matter as much as your own pride. Jango Davis being right is more important than what IS right. I didn’t write your comment at 8:23 am, you did. Own it.

        Now you just look petty. Hope you enjoyed your easy loss–but here, you still can have the “Holier-Than-Thou” Award. You earned it with this stupid comment.

        And here I was rooting for you to have your own blog. Chuck will tell you that I was sincere about that because I believed you had a lot to contribute.


        1. If you’re looking to be a comedian, Jango, I suggest that you don’t quit your day job. That was no joke–it was a bona fide hissy fit.

          I came down on Chuck like a ton of bricks and he handled it better than you did. If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.


        2. “You SERIOUSLY need a life outside blogs Roz and a sense of humor. Take a pill and calm down.”

          …says the man who is desperately trying to get the last word… and who religiously writes the Weekly Whine, the Thursday Temper Tantrum, the Sour Grape Soliloquy also known as “Jango’s Zombie Blogs.” If Huber ever allows you to have a blog here, I suggest you call it, “The Jango Harangue-O.”

          I’ll let you have the last word, since your ego will shatter without it. 😉


        3. “I actually already host my own blog,”…and it must really suck because the TU hasn’t asked to host it and you haven’t posted a link to it. Is it full of idiotic commentary on subjects you know nothing about?

          Post the link or it didn’t happen.


  6. I host 4 large trivia nights in Saratoga County. I used to have teams that would sweep week after week and realize that they were using phone. I then put the fear of God into them and caught on and now they don’t win as much, or, in a few cases, they just don’t come back. I don’t think I would ever put a ban on how many times somebody wins unless I saw it happen 4 weeks or so, then I would have to think about it. But in 5 years of doing this professionally, fortunately that really hasn’t happened much. If they are cheating, then absolutely. I ban them. I have many times. But, in the end, you are right- its all about the fun of it and a weekly social gathering. Those that want to cheat for a pitcher of beer shouldn’t even be allowed out of their house.


    1. I won at trivia at my local bar last night by a big margin. It’s the on;y game in the entire county! The host said I must be cheating because I win so much. She shouted it across the bar! I was humiliated. She said the owner was going to ban me because they know I must be cheating but they can’t catch me. I’M NOT !!! It’s a samll bar, no phones, everybody can see eveybody etc. I don’t know what to do?!?! The drunks at the bar were shouting that I should let other people win and who did I think I was – some showoff?!? What are your opinions and ideas? Please help! THank You. PS – I’m a 62 year old Business Woman (not that that really matters)


        1. Are you trying to be funny or are you just a moron who likes to see his name on the screen? What part of “Can you help me – I’m not cheating, so what should I do next NEXT” ?” translates to ” I cheat” ? If that was my problem, why would I write and ask for help? What I’m looking for is whether I should try to litigate or sue for slander, or sue for some other reason? I own a business in this county and my reputation has been UNJUSTLY damaged!

          If you can’t write an answer to HELP me, then please keep quiet!


        2. Let me answer this. If you feel that you’re being unjustly singled out, tell the host that next time if he still questions you, have him pick someone to sit at your table. And if you still win, then not only should you receive the prize, you should also receive an apology and your meal comped. In other words, put the money where the mouth is.

          The other thing is, he could simply be using your wins as a “knock off the big bad trivia expert” scheme, in the hopes that others will come forward and try to beat you. As for the drunks… drunks aren’t worth the effort to ignore them.


      1. You should definitely sue. People don’t sue each other enough. Also, since your reputation was so egregiously besmirched at this establishment you should at least mention the name of the place and of the host.

        And if I was told I had to sit with a proctor to play a trivia game I would tell them to stick their comped meal. Unless they brought something to the table…like a link to Jango’s blog.


  7. On “Jeopardy!” players can only win five times, correct? Then they return for a tournament of champions–and then they are done. On “Millionaire,” after winning the million, that’s it for the contestant.

    The people who host the game get to make up the rules.


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