Cheating at Trivial Pursuit

How to cheat at Trivial Pursuit.

Trivial Pursuit Cheats

The word "cheat" gets a bad rap. What is "cheating" to one person could be someone else's strategy. For instance, cheating at Trivial Pursuit could mean memorizing as many of the questions and answers as possible. Is that cheating or studying? Your personal moral compass will determine if you think reading the actual Trivial Pursuit cards and memorizing them is cheating or not.

I married into a Trivial Pursuit family, a group of people for whom Trivial Pursuit is the Bible, the Farmer's Almanac, and the Complete Works of William Shakespeare all rolled into one. Impressing my in-laws meant getting really good at Trivial Pursuit in a short amount of time. Here's how I did--here are my "Trivial Pursuit cheats" that convinced my in-laws that I was good enough for their daughter.

1. Memorize the Cards

Studying trivia to get better at Trivial Pursuit isn't cheating. How do you expect to increase your knowledge of trivia if you don't study? Some people, like my father-in-law, have been alive so long that most of the Trivial Pursuit trivia questions are events from his actual life. As a child of the 80s, I don't have that luxury. So what did I do?

I bought my own Genus V edition of Trivial Pursuit (said to be the toughest of all Trivial Pursuit Genus editions) and studied the cards. By "studied," I mean that I read, read again, and eventually memorized a lot of the answers.

If you're going to go this route, set out to memorize questions and answers in categories that you aren't very familiar with. For me, and most Trivial Pursuit fans, the most important category to memorize is either Sports & Leisure or Science & Nature.

There are 4,800 questions in Genus V (6,000 in the first two Genus editions) so there's no way you're going to memorize every question and answer without the benefit of being autistic or a really smart guy with a penchant for staying up for three weeks in a row on amphetamines. I'm neither, so I stuck to memorizing questions and answers in Sports and Science.

My in-laws are strict Genus I players, though they've thrown in a few questions from Genus II and Genus V to keep things interesting. That's why I don't think memorizing Genus V cards was exactly "cheating," but it did help me expand the scope of my trivia knowledge.

2. Peek at the Cards

No matter how you slice it, peeking at Trivial Pursuit cards either right before or during a game is cheating in the strictest sense of the word. There's two methods of cheating my peeking at the question and answer cards. One involves sleight of hand, the other involves being really sneaky.

Let's say you have a regular Trivial Pursuit game scheduled for a certain night of the week or a certain night every month. To cheat by peeking, you simply go in before the game begins and read the first few dozen cards. There's no way you can quickly memorize the questions and answers, so stick to looking at and quickly "brain-photographing" the answers side of the cards. If you can narrow down your peeking to one or two categories, you can peek through the first three or four dozen cards and flash-memorize the answers to a couple of categories in just a quarter of an hour or so.

What this does is familiarize you with a pool of possible answers. When a question is asked, you have a much higher chance of remembering the answers you looked at. For example, if you remember reading the name "Honus Wagner," it would be pretty easy to fill in the answer to the question "What player has the highest valued baseball card in history?" The other answers you memorized, things like "Nicaragua" or "3.14159" won't really fit as an answer to this question, so you can narrow down the possible answer really quickly.

To pull off this cheat, you have to have some time alone near the physical board game itself before the game starts. This cheat is easiest if the game is at your house with your board and questions. Just remember to put the questions back in the right order.

The other method of cheating by peeking is to sit in such a position that you can see the answers on the back of the card as they're pulled out. This hardly ever works, and you're more likely to get caught, but in a pinch, you might be able to pull this one off.

3. Make a Deal with Another Player

If all else fails, you can bribe another contestant in the game to side with you and help you answer the questions. The easiest way to do this is to slip your father-in-law a $50 bill and tell him to make sure and pretend that all your answers are right when he reads the question. He may even volunteer to read all your questions for you, ensuring you a victory.

This tactic is easy to screw up--if other players in the game know the answer to a question that you get incorrect, they'll probably figure out what's going on before too long and make you sleep on the couch that night. At least, that's what happened to me.

Never underestimate the impact of cash or a fine cigar before a game to help you or your team move swiftly along the Trivial Pursuit board.

Technology has led to a few new ways to cheat at Trivial Pursuit, but these are so low-down and dirty that I'd rather not even give them the honor of being discussed here. Suffice to say that faking a stomachache and running to the bathroom, where you use your smart phone to look up a Trivial Pursuit answer, is a tactic that not many people want to test. It may be hard to get away with this more than once, but in a pinch it can get you out of a tough situation.

Cheating at Trivial Pursuit takes many forms. Rather than trying to win with cheats, why not take some time to properly study and prepare for your next game? Who knows ... you might learn something.