Saturday, 3 January 2009

On Cheats and Cheating

Looking over my quiz resolutions earlier today, I noticed that I have resolved to stop giving two teams a hard time for cheating with their wap phones in the quiz in the rugby club. It set me to thinking about my experience of (other) people cheating in a quiz.

You do sometimes wonder why people feel the need to cheat in a pub quiz. There have been times when there's been a freak result on a Sunday Night, and you can't help thinking that its been done to take you down a peg or two. As I've said before, one of the worst things you can do to any man ( I say man advisedly ) is to make him feel stupid in his own local. Possibly its lust for the prizes on offer. More likely it has to do with being top dog on your own patch. Whatever the reasons, it does go on. For what its worth, these are the methods I've either seen being used, or been told of by an eyewitness.

1) Phone A Friend

Who Wants to be a Millionaire has a lot to answer for. Everyone except me has a mobile phone these days. If your phone gives you internet connection , then you've got ready access to The Fount Of All Human Wisdom - or as its otherwise known - wikipedia. Even if it doesn't you can still ring Whatsisname who knows everything there is to know about whatever it is you're stuck with. I would love to be able to say just how widespread phone cheating is in quizzes. But the fact is I don't know, and nobody does. After all, halfway through a round when you see a person in another team chatting away animatedly to their phone, for all you know they might be making their weekly phone call to their dear silver haired old granny. So you say nothing, and if they are cheating, they get away with it. I have heard of pubs where phones are banned for the duration of the quiz, but policing this is too hard to make it more than a token gesture towards the notion of fair play.

2) Let Your Fingers Do The Walking

Thinking about the Rugby club, one of the teams that uses a phone also backs this up with recourse to a book ! They're not the only team to do it either. If you use anything like a list question - who won whatever in 1997 - for example, the book will be opened in their laps and both teams will invariably get the question right.This is absolutely true, and they're totally shameless about it. I have to say that the two individuals who do it are both women. Last year during one of my stints as Qm I did try to shame them, by telling them personally over the mike not to use their books, and suggesting that if they were that desperate to win they should come up to my table and I'd show them the answers. At the end of the quiz Brian, the organiser, gave me a telling-off for saying it. Not that he was trying to say that they weren't cheating, only that I shouldn't have embarrassed them about it. Embarrassed ! They were so embarrassed that they continued to cheat throughout the rest of the quiz, and in ever one of my quizzes since !

3) Ask the Audience

The only times that other men have approached me in the Gents Toilets with an indecent proposal has been during quizzes. In a certain type of quiz you are almost guaranteed to be approached in the gents at half time, and offered a chance to swap answers with other teams - they'll give you something you don't know for something they don't know. Its actually normal practice in some quizzes, so much so that the QM actually had a quiet word with John and I after a quiz we won, telling us that other teams had complained when we had refused to swap some answers with them. So far from being the only team who weren't morally bankrupt, we were made to feel somehow that we were a bad influence on the quiz.

4) You scratch my answers and I'll scratch yours

The fact is that if teams mark each others' papers there is always the opportunity for collusion. Like phone cheating it is notoriously difficult to prove this has actually happened. The only way you can be absolutely that Team A hasn't been colluding with Team B is to grab their paper as quick as possible to mark it yourself so that they don't have the chance. I'm fairly sure that one team in The Culverhouse on Sunday thinks that John and I have been cheating somehow, since they always grab our paper as soon as the last round ends.

5) I'm All Ears ( and Eyes )

'Earwigging' is a commonly known term in quiz circles. I think I probably need to define my terms here. If the layout of a particular venue means that you can't avoid sitting close to each other, and you accidentally overhear some of another team's correct answers, then that's not your fault, and you can't be blamed for it. However there is a world of difference between this unlooked for ( or unlistened for ) windfall, and the practice of earwigging, which means deliberately listening for another team's answers. The good thing about earwigging is that its easy enough to fix a team that you suspect of doing it. Just feed them some wrong'uns, and laugh like a musketeer when they realise what you've done. I was playing in a Sunday night quiz league when we suspected that our opposition were doing just this. We fed them three wrong'uns in the last round, and they swallowed them all, hook, line, sinker and copy of the Angling Times. They left after the announcement of the result without even saying goodbye.
Its more difficult to protect your answers from prying eyes, but then its less necessary too, for if someone else is trying to catch a glimpse of your answers, chances are they're making it obvious that they're doing so.

6) Sleeping With the Question Master

This isn't as bad as it sounds. What I really mean is receiving aid from the question master in the careful selection of questions which he/she knows will particularly suit one particular team or player. Case in point, one of the guest QMs we had in the rugby club a few years ago. Whenever he did the quiz, his wife would still play with his usual team. With the result that all bar one team would average between 3 and 5 out of 10 on his ridiculously boring and difficult questions, whereas the team with his wife would average between 9 and 10 on his ridiculously difficult and boring questions. At the end of the last quiz he did for us he announced that he was doing a charity quiz in a different venue in a week or two's time. I shouted out that my money was on whatever team his wife was in to win. He never offered to do another quiz for us again.

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