“Everybody Cheats at Quizzo” is Nonsense


Been coming across a lot of stuff online about how cheating is ruining quizzo, and I want to address it. Lately, I’ve seen a ton of comments that say something to the effect of, “I used to play quizzo, but now with smart phones, it’s all cheaters so you can’t win anymore. So I don’t play any more.”

This is nonsense. I can’t speak for all quizzes of course. There may be some with a lazy quizmaster who doesn’t pay any attention, but speaking for my own quizzes and for any quizmaster who takes the quiz seriously (at least as seriously as one should take a pub quiz), cheating is simply a non-issue for a number of reasons.

First of all, there is the basic fact that very few teams cheat. Because the whole point of quizzo is to hang out with your friends and see how much you guys know, bringing Google into it kind of defeats the whole purpose. Most teams want to test their knowledge, not Google’s knowledge, and therefore don’t even consider cheating.

That said, I keep a close eye out for cheaters. The problem with smart phones is that they give off a very distinct glow that easily shows up on a person’s face when they turn it on, particularly in a dark bar. So if someone picks up a phone during a round, I start walking over to them. 85% of the time, they are texting or checking facebook. Even so, I ask them to put the phone away and they typically do without much fuss.

If they are cheating, they normally shuffle to put their phones away when I start walking over, so I know by the first round that they’re trying to cheat. I’ll tell them to put their phones away and then I watch them closely (and angrily) for the rest of the quiz. If they persist in cheating I simply stop grading their paper. There have been several quizzes where I’ve just stopped grading a team’s paper and given them a crappy random score that was out of the money. I’m not going to keep asking you to put your phone away. But cheating will be pointless.

Furthermore, there is enough of a community aspect in my quizzes that if a team appears to be cheating, one of the regular teams will let me know. It kind of polices itself. After that, I will watch that team like a hawk for the rest of the game, and will go over to their table the moment they even think about pulling out an iphone.

If there is a team I’ve never seen before doing extremely well after 3 rounds, I will look at their table during every single question of the final round. This isn’t to indict those teams of cheating…trust me, I want new good teams to play quizzo. And typically, those are just good new teams. But it is a flag raiser when a team that I’ve never heard of before leads after three rounds. I will watch them throughout Round 4 to make sure there is nothing untoward going on.

There is also the “Shame” aspect of cheating. It is so f***ing pathetic that any team caught doing it will be ostracized by the rest of the quizzo community. If a team wants to win a single quiz and then never play my quizzo again, it may be a tempting option. But for teams that want to be regulars, they would never be welcome back if they ever tried to cheat at quizzo, and there are some bars where they might end up having to fight their way out the door. It is not an option to be taken lightly, and if any of the top teams were caught, the shame would hardly be worth the $40 gift certificate.

Finally, there are occasionally times when teams are cheating and I kind of ignore it. I probably shouldn’t, but I do. Why? Because teams that cheat are normally about 60 points out of the lead by the final round and couldn’t win if they had Ken Jennings texting them answers. Perhaps I should be tougher on this, but the fact is I don’t want to keep interrupting the quiz to deal with someone who has no chance of affecting the final outcome. It’s just a waste of time and energy.

The bottom line is that there are few people on earth worse than quizzo cheaters (Congressmen and Illinois Nazis come to mind), and I can understand other players getting frustrated when they see them pull out their cellphones. But the odds are that they are either facebooking, are so far behind that it doesn’t matter, or about to get reprimanded or simply not scored for cheating.

That’s not to say that occasionally some team will figure out a master plan to cheat (a few years ago there was a team who would send a member to the bathroom after about 5 questions into the final round to look up the answers to those questions, then return to the table), but people who say that “Smart phones have ruined quizzo” are quite simply wrong, and it’s important that that perception gets nipped in the bud.

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