It has the pageantry of the Academy Awards and the wit of "Jeopardy." Add some beer to the mix, and things get over the top. Anything can happen when hundreds of geeks descend upon Austin for the mother of all pub trivia competitions Saturday.
Geek Bowl VI draws proud nerds from across the country to compete for several thousand dollars in cash and bragging rights. As the weekly Geeks Who Drink pub quiz increases its national reach, its annual Geek Bowl event is leaving the competition's home base of Denver and coming to Austin for the first time.
Think you can take on a geek at pub trivia? There's room at the Austin Music Hall pay-to-play event for players as well spectators. About 130 teams are expected to play, with local teams making up about 80 percent of the competition.
Among the fierce contestants is Austin's own Bobb Ha. He's a regular in the pub trivia scene, having played at most pub quiz venues in the city, where he's snagged several wins. He usually plays about twice a week at his go-to bar, the Highball, which features official Geeks Who Drink trivia. But training for what's been described as the Super Bowl of pub quiz dorkdom requires extra effort. He's stepped up his playing skills; in the first 19 days of 2012 he'd already played in 14 pub trivia contests and some online quiz games.
"It's nice that (Geek Bowl) is on home turf," said Ha, who will compete with Team Dong. "There are some really strong teams, but we're cautiously optimistic. It would be cool to at least beat some other Austin teams so that we have some bragging rights."
Known for its live entertainment between rounds from comedians and musicians, Geek Bowl promises to take advantage of Austin's live music scene and local musicians. Performances are a top-secret surprise, but past Geek Bowls have featured opening musicals, trash-talking rap videos and even appearances from mariachi bands during live audio rounds.
Audiences will also be treated to a dance-off where teams can compete to win back their entry fees.
If you're not up for competing with the pub trivia all-stars, consider being part of the audience. They get to play along but are not scored and can't mingle with the contestants during the competition.
The questions are only slightly harder than those at the weekly Geeks Who Drink trivia, said Quizmaster-in-Chief John Dicker. The six-person teams don't have to be champions anywhere or have won any certain amount of games to compete in Geek Bowl VI.
"I'm dead set against any type of barriers for teams," Dicker said. "We always make it so that the team out of nowhere who no one has ever heard of has a chance to win."
Dicker said he hopes to position Geek Bowl similarly to other fun nerd-loving fests like Comic-Con or DragonCon.
"It may be sort of a pipe dream, but next year we'd like to add panels on relevant topics and other nerd-like stuff that will get people to arrive a little earlier and extend the festivities," he said. If the event goes smoothly, organizers are considering keeping Geek Bowl and all its geek pageantry in Austin for a few more years.