For a cover story last year, I took a deep dive on the local pub quiz scene, noting mostly with horror the increasing number of local bars that now buy their questions from national quiz companies. Low-stakes shit, I admit! But there are some things I’d prefer stayed homegrown.
Enter Bill Gélinas, one of the subjects of my story, who’s the co-owner of a local pub-quiz company called Trivia Kings, and who, like most dudes behind such ventures, brings a little high-octane Master of the Universe to this quirky, generally low-key activity. Last April, the company was running 18 quiz nights in the area (in the District, they’re at Meridian Pint, Rock and Roll Hotel, Star and Shamrock, and the Mad Hatter, among others). Now, they’ve got about 30 quizzes going around the mid-Atlantic, while another 20 or so around the country buy their questions but don’t use their brand. The revolution will not be multiple-choice.
Gélinas reached out to me recently because Trivia Kings is amping up for its Super Bowl: a massive invitational pub quiz featuring more than 60 teams and $1,000 worth of prizes. The Jan. 29 event in Ballston isn’t for the casual quiz-goer, though: “Most of the guys that are here, they’re the serious ones,” Gélinas says. For the less serious ones: If you weren’t already invited, you can’t play.
One characteristic of sophisticated pub quiz operators like Trivia Kings is their keeping of season-long stats. The invitational will feature champions from Trivia Kings’ local locations, selected other teams, plus some competitive out-of-town groups that Gélinas reached out to.
Gélinas says the invitational will be the largest pub quiz ever in the mid-Atlantic, but it’s not clear how extensive the records for that sort of thing are. Regardless, it’ll be a little easier than last year’s slightly smaller event, which had 50 teams. “It was too hard and not that fun,” says Gélinas. “We learned the hard way.” This time, about half of the questions come from the teams, “so they’re actually playing against each other,” Gélinas says.
When I interviewed Gélinas last year, he claimed that Trivia Kings had the most challenging questions in the area. It certainly has the most complicated format. As for their business ambitions, last year I wrote:
Trivia Kings has big expansion plans: In a year, after they’ve rolled out a new content management system containing 20,000 questions, Gélinas hopes to have reached 100 bars across the country. Just in this region, he says, “our goal is to have the best bar in every single neighborhood from Baltimore to Richmond.”
Right, so they’re not quite there yet. Gélinas wants more quizzes in downtown; in the suburbs, he says Triva Kings are branching out in Fairfax and Richmond, having “maxed out” in Montgomery County. “We’re still growing,” says Gélinas. “We’ve had some failures; there’s a lot more competition since last time [we spoke]. It’s growing, but it’s kind of like dog eat dog. We’ve kind of focused our energy on growing outward instead of the D.C. area, because of how saturated it is.” The era of the pub quiz wars continues.
The Trivia Kings 2012 Championship Invitational takes place Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at Union Jack’s of Ballston. More details here.