Observations on “Barhopping” To Trivia Tournaments

I play in two different trivia leagues. One of which (My Trivia Live) allows players to “barhop” their way to a “free” trivia tournament spot at the end of the season – which means they can bypass “semifinal” games. The top ten teams each season get a tournament spot this way. Some of these tournament teams are basically “ringer” teams with players representing different league teams. In my parlance, they are called “dream teams.”

In the other trivia league, Sporcle Live, they changed their rules on barhop a couple of seasons ago. Teams no longer get a “free ride” just by playing 5-6 times a week (or more). Now, the top 10 “barhop” teams at the end can opt to play in a “play in game,” and the winning team from that game gets to go to the championship – and win $100. They only have this option if they don’t win a semifinal game by the end of the season. So far, most of the previous “barhop” leaders have managed to win semifinal spots without incident, leaving the play-in game open to the more “bush league” teams.

When this first went down, I talked to one of the top barhop players about it. And he wasn’t too happy!

“I don’t want to have to play semifinal games,” he said to me.

On one hand, I understand, semifinal games can be ball-busting! On the other hand, I think teams should have to “earn” their tournament spots at least a little bit. But that’s just my “rubber meets the road” personality! Yes, I do love a challenge, I’ll admit that! My team used the “barhop” route to Sporcle Live finals for a few seasons, right up until about April of 2017. Then I said…enough! For one, my husband cried uncle and asked that we cut back on the trivia games. Secondly, I felt the barhop route was too lazy for my team. Sometimes we need that little “kick in the pants” to motivate us. Well me, anyway! My team is pretty much along for the ride… I felt the tournament spots would seem more worthwhile if we really had to work to earn them. We must be doing something right – we have only missed two Sporcle championship games since the beginning of 2012. We’re not quite as successful in the MTL league, with us usually only qualifying for every other finals. The semifinal game questions in MTL can be downright BRUTAL! It’s far more difficult to qualify for finals in the MTL league than it is the Sporcle Live league. We’ve managed to finish in the top 10 of two different MTL finals and finished first in July, 2017. So it’s really a tough call as to which trivia league works out better for us! I’ll stick with both of them for the time being!

And this is not to say that I look down on other trivia teams using “barhop.” I honestly don’t care! Do whatever works for YOUR team! Barhop just wasn’t working for MY team.

All of that said, that player who complained about having to play in semifinal games probably did so because he plays most of his games as a “soloist.” I tried telling him if he picked the right bar with the least amount of competition, he could probably win a semifinal by himself. I have seen players win semifinal games by themselves. I saw one do it twice in 2016 – in May at a MTL semifinal game at the Wurst Bar – and later in November at Original Gravity (Sporcle Live). I was at that November game playing by myself and finished second (it was an Academy Awards final question, thank the trivia gods)! So winning a semifinal as a soloist IS possible.


Now THIS is a Disney film I’d watch (LOL)!

It’s interesting to see how this player has adapted to the barhop rules change. He seems to realize that he can’t do this all on his own. He recruited a “helper” a couple of months ago who has joined him in some of his games. Now, he recruits other players to help in semifinal games. He has done this the past two seasons. Now isn’t this what it’s really about? No “i” in team?  Teamwork! Yes, it’s awesome when you can win a tournament spot or at least some prize money by playing by yourself. But isn’t it better to hedge your bets, especially in a high-stakes game?

It will be interesting to see what this player does this MTL season, if by chance, he DOESN’T play enough games to qualify for barhop this time! What will be his next move – especially if another team has already beaten him at his “home” bar? This is all theoretical, mind you! Scores have not been finalized for the season yet. But seriously…what WILL he do if he has to find another way to the “big dance?” I have no doubt he will figure something out!

If I were him, I’d start talking to some of his “cronies” to see if any of them have semifinal spots at their bars that he could help them win! I’m not so sure I want my team to compete against whatever team he winds up joining at semifinals! But hey…a team’s gotta do… what a team’s gotta do. We will either win our spot fair and square – or we will totally forget that there was ever a spin-off to the TV show Alice. Or forget something else that is equally obscure and way, way before our time (grumble…English female serial killer from the 1960s indeed)! Yes, I’m a little obsessed with missed MTL semifinal questions!

It’s kind of fun pretending I’m a chess grandmaster and trying to predict other players’ next moves in this crazy game. I don’t like surprises!


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