How to study for a trivia tournament!

Another trivia tournament is on the horizon! Saturday, Dec. 2, I will bring a trivia team to what will be our 15th trivia “championship” at a bar called The Riv in East Lansing, MI. I am convinced that this place must be a shrine of some sort to late (hot) actor River Phoenix, lol…maybe the Viper Room in Los Angeles should set up a shrine to this late actor, since this is where he died in what year (hastily checks Google), 1993. I remember talking to my mom about his death when it happened – and the drug-related causes, and she said, without missing a beat – “That’s one polluted River.” Too soon? 🙂


River Phoenix, looking as though he is living in his own Private Idaho (though this still is from the film I Love You To Death. While we’re on the subject of Idaho, can you name all six states that border Idaho? How about River Phoenix’s highest-grossing film? Box Office Mojo does not have a listing for him, but I’m going to “guess” that it’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ($197.1M U.S. box office).

By “championship,” I mean a regional trivia contest requiring some sort of qualification, either via “barhop” (playing in enough different places to auto-qualify) or qualifying by winning a semifinal game, not a “pay to play” deal. Don’t get me started on pay-to-play! Unless it’s a specialty trivia area in which I have a team that has a good chance of winning the money back, I don’t bother with pay to play games! And no, I’m not sticking with Learned League after their free season (though I do appreciate having been invited to play so I could at least try it out).  So far, we’ve only managed to win prize money in four “championships,” which means about 24 percent (rounded up). I know my team isn’t the scariest or best one out there, but we always manage to put up a good fight – and have come a LONG way over the past few years! In July of 2017, we won our first “big prize” at a My Trivia Live tournament! We won a $2,500 first place prize, which to this day I still wonder if it really happened, or I just dreamed it (that’s how unreal it was).  In some ways, I actually regret that we won that prize, because of some negative things that happened in my life around that time. Yes, it was nice winning that money, but I’m superstitious enough to know that when a really good thing happens, something really bad is likely to happen, too – and in this case, I wasn’t wrong. If I could go back to how things were before this happened I would do it in a heartbeat!


Speaking of heartbeat, this actor in the white suit had a hit song by the same name in the 1980s, when several high-profile actors tried their hands at recording careers. Can you name any other actors from the ’80s who did this?

So how does one prepare for a trivia tournament, let alone study? First off,  assemble your “knowledge army!” Try to bring at least the maximum number of players allowed so as to hedge your bets on the questions. Make sure your team is as well-rounded as possible, knowledge wise – age wise, too! Having someone 10-15 years younger AND older than you can’t hurt! A 30-year-old player may have been paying closer attention to mid-90s Nickelodeon TV series than you were (when oh when will they ask about “Ren and Stimpy?”). Likewise, maybe you were paying close attention to the Billboard music scene in the mid 1980s, when the 30 year-old person wasn’t even born yet! Older is good, too. An older player might remember eating Doritos when they were first released, and might also be strong on the 70s-’80s sports/movie scene, too. Speaking of sports, sports nerds are essential for a trivia team! But you also need players strong in geography, science, politics, music (modern and older), movies, TV, technology/computers/gadgets, video games, etc. Remember, opposites attract! It’s wonderful when other players go “A-ha” when questions are asked about things you’re clueless about, and vice versa. But it’s even better when a couple of players can put their heads together on a tough question and hit it out the ballpark!


Actor/horror film director Eli Roth in Inglourious Basterds readying to hit some Nazi head out of the ballpark. Which former MLB player is mentioned by name by the “Bear Jew” in the film? Hint: Fenway Park.

So you’ve got your trivia knowledge army assembled. Now what? Study, study, study! What to study? Any and all of the topics above! Who the hell knows exactly what they’ll ask about in a trivia tournament? You COULD consult a Magic 8 Ball if you want, but you want to have a chance at winning a prize, don’t you?  If you have a way of looking at past tournament questions, that’s a good start! Look no further than this blog!  Questions sometimes get repeated. Pay special attention to current events – hot gadgets, business/industry shakeups, viral videos, popular commercials, new fast food items, best-selling books, number one songs, top grossing movies, the current political scene (Trump’s ever-changing cabinet), recent awards ceremonies – any and all of these things could be question fodder. Even postage stamp prices. Yes, people still mail things and put stamps on them, though I can’t honestly remember the last time I did.

The absolute best thing, imho, is to make sure you’re extra strong in the topics in which you’re already strong. Up the ante. Think you know the names of all of the countries of the world? Make sure by taking an online quiz – do it several times until you get a perfect score (this is something I’ve done to try conquering certain knowledge areas). Make sure you know the capitals of at least the most populous nations of the world. Speaking of populations….that’s always a ripe category, too – whether it be cities, countries, etc.  Ditto for sportsball teams, etc. Got the sportsball teams nailed down pretty well? Take a look at the stadiums in which the teams play. Peruse a list of recent championship winners. Try to find a new knowledge area to tackle before the tournament, especially if it’s a category your team has gotten burned by in the past (you’re best off if it’s something you have a good chance of learning quickly, don’t try to re-invent the wheel, so to speak). Hit up a “subcategory” of a topic you’re already kind of strong in. If you’re a movie buff, you could hit up the topics of animated films, box office grosses, actor/movie nominations, etc. If you’re a science nerd, you could look farther down the periodic table past the first 25 elements, paying special attention to symbols, atomic numbers, etc. Some new elements were recently added, what are their names and numbers?  Look at a list of national parks in the U.S., some of the questions trivia companies glean from this topic can be killer! Rivers, mountains, lakes, oceans – those tend to be hot trivia topics, too! And don’t forget space exploration and planets!


Just when you thought this blog would have nothing but pictures of dudes – actress Rachel McAdams in The Notebook! Don’t forget about Nicholas Sparks movies/books! But you probably already read them all cover to cover and watched every single one of the films, haven’t you? 🙂

As I said before, there are teams out there far better at winning prize money and making other teams fear them than mine. Do with this information what you will. I would keep going with this blog, but I have some studying to do on this precious day off!

Most importantly? Have fun!

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