Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A Rainy Night In Newport - Cash Prizes

Right, so we’re back at work, the league finished weeks ago, and it’s a Monday night. You’re right, there’s nothing else for it, we have to go to Newport.

Actually we don’t HAVE to go at all, and I certainly don’t want to make it out that the Monday night quiz in the Pill Harriers is a chore. Its anything but. I haven’t been since before Christmas, simply for the reasons that I’ve been playing in the league in Bridgend on a Monday night, and then after that my son Mike prevailed upon me to come and try to win some money with him in Cardiff, and then we had that nice little run of bank holidays. But those reasons are no longer valid.

In fact, its not a case so much of no longer having any good reason not to go to Newport, but a case of having very good reasons why I should. It works like this – at the moment its just myself and Brian who are taking turns compiling the Thursday night quiz for the Aberavon rugby club. Now, for all I know someone else will turn round this Thursday night and volunteer to do next week’s, and very welcome this would be too, but its not something I can bank upon happening. So at the moment I’m only actually playing there every other week. John and I were playing every other week on a Tuesday night in the Duke of Wellington in Cowbridge, but that’s currently closed for refurbishments. When it reopens a new landlord will be taking over, but whether he will resurrect the quiz is anybody’s guess. It will be a shame if he doesn’t, but there we are. So there’s no quiz on a Tuesday night at the moment. All of which leaves the Sunday night quiz in the Dyffryn Arms in Rhos. Very enjoyable it is too, but even so its just not enough when it’s the only quiz you get to play in during a week.

It isn’t just that, though. Sometimes you just need to be in a proper, hard quiz, with people who don’t mind it being a proper, hard quiz. If you’re a long term reader you might know that I’ve discussed the quiz in the Pill Harriers rugby club in Newport before. Its run by Trevor Parry. You might know Trevor, and if you’ve played in various leagues its just possible you may also have played in his quizzes before now. I’m not sure how many he is currently supplying questions for, but I fancy he has quite a few. Whatever my gripes about the handicap system that they use in the quiz on a Monday, I would never try to deny that the standard of the questions is very good, a cut above what you’ll get in most other places. And you know sometimes, well, sometimes that really is what matters most. So much so that you’ll even drive the best part of 40 miles there, and 40 miles back to play in it.

By way of a comparison, in the Sunday night quiz, which I have already said is a good, enjoyable quiz, there are 5 rounds of 10 questions – most of them not too hard. Sometimes there’s also a picture round, and sometimes there isn’t. In the Cowbridge quiz there were 7 rounds of 10 questions. Two rounds of general knowledge, and 5 specialist themed rounds, on one of which a joker must be played. In the rugby club on the Thursday there are 8 rounds of 10 questions, and a handout, usually pictures but not always. In Trevor’s quiz on a Monday night there are 3 specific General knowledge rounds of 20 questions. Then there’s a photograph handout, then a questions handout. The second handout usually has a good 50 or more answers required, so there are , when you think of it, well over 100 questions in the evening.

By way of another comparison too, there is still a cash prize. Now, my attitude towards cash prizes has undergone an unusual metamorphosis in recent times. Even as recently as five years ago round our way it was quite possible to play in cash prize quizzes 4 or 5 nights a week, two of which could be for very significant amounts. Most of these have either disappeared, or seen the cash prize replaced by wine, beer tokens, whatever. Is this due to the plague of mobile phones ? Possibly. Whatever the case, the cash prizes have gone. Now, I won’t lie to you, up until relatively recently I looked upon this as a handy source of additional unearned income. Whenever a money quiz folded, or changed to prizes, it used to really annoy me. Yet now, while I’ll never turn a cash prize down, I can’t say its that big a motivating factor for me. Case in point, I’ve played in a £100 first prize quiz in Cardiff maybe 6 or 7 times, and won it every time apart from the first. The reason why I only ever go once in a blue moon has nothing whatsoever to do with not wanting to do what I believe is known in the trade as ‘killing the goose that laid the golden egg. ‘ No. The fact is that I just don’t like the quiz very much. End of story. In fact if it wasn’t for Mike dangling the carrot of getting to spend an evening in his company, I probably wouldn’t go again. Whereas if the cash prize in Newport went the way of all flesh, I don’t think it would really bother me. Granted we never won it that often, and granted that it wasn’t ever quite of life-changing proportions, but nevertheless it would sometimes pay for your petrol and a drink or two. But I have to say that its not as important to me as either winning, or at the very least feeling that I’ve played quite well.

While I’m on the subject of cash prizes, looking back now , with the benefit of hindsight I can see that they were always something of a mixed blessing. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when you’d win a cash prize and the money would come in very handy, but then there were all the times when you were mentally already spending the money, and then you didn’t win. We’ve probably all seen how people will use phones to cheat in a quiz where there’s no cash, only a prize, or maybe even no prize at all at stake. So you can’t entirely blame cash prizes for the spread of phone cheating, but undoubtedly a cash prize must have increased the temptation.

Also there was the reaction of those who didn’t win. I shall have to be careful how I phrase this, as it really isn’t my intention to upset anyone in particular. Still, I think particularly of the £100 quiz in a pub in Neath, which I have promised myself never to mention by name in any arena that might give them free publicity. Alright, John and I were rather sneaky in the way we played there the first time. We turned up an hour before the quiz was advertised to start, had a couple of drinks, and generally behaved like two old codgers who’d just popped in for a drink and a chat, and then we let the landlady ‘talk us into’ playing in the quiz. The rule was that there was a maximum of 60 marks available. First prize was a gallon of beer. However if the winning team scored over 50 out of 60, then the first prize was £100. No team had ever achieved this feat before. We scored 54 that night, and left it for 3 or 4 weeks, then came back and scored 55. We did this a couple more times, and then the landlord finally made a point of approaching me one evening, and saying piously something like,
“Its not me, lads. As far as I’m concerned, if the prize is there, its there to be won. But . . . “
- Here it comes, I thought. –
“ But it’s the other teams. They think its unfair. (It wasn’t. ) They say that you only come into the pub to play the quiz. ( We did ) . They say that you’ll win the money every time you play ( We would ). “ and so on, and so forth. I have to say that it crossed my mind that he was himself getting a little sick of paying out £100 a month when prior to our arrival on the scene he didn’t. Still, if you took what he said on face value, the fact is that no other team had come close to winning the money in over a year. There is no reason to think that they would have been able to do it whether we were there or not. Which left me to ask myself – would they ever have complained about a team winning each time they played when they were only playing in one out of every four quizzes. I doubt it. Jealousy over money.

Mind you, having said all that against cash prizes, I still accepted my share of the pot last night.

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