The Best Sports Trivia Players of All Time
It’s been a little over one week since we launched Run the Table here at The Odds Factory, and we’re already giddy watching our readers make money every day, simply by being good at sports trivia.
For those of you who are new here, Run the Table is our daily instant win game, where users compete to answer 6 sports trivia questions in under 60 seconds, with the fastest person to answer all 6 correctly taking home $25.
You get 5 chances every day, so before you finish this article, go play, make $100 and then come back.
Okay, welcome back. Now whether or not you won today, you’re probably thinking to yourself – “Hey, I’m pretty good at sports trivia. I might even be the best in the world. I wonder if I could do this for a living.” Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re not even close to the best sports trivia player in the world. And even if you won RTT every single day, you’d only make $36,500, which after taxes, would put you right around the poverty line. So…don’t quit your day job.
However, there are some sports trivia players out there who have quit their day jobs to pursue a professional trivia career and seen incredible success. Let’s break down the best sports trivia players of all time.
The Best Sports Trivia Players of All Time
4. Chris Drummond
A sports trivia wiz from across the pond, Chris Drummond has been able to scratch out a living of nearly $60,000 a year, just by playing trivia at pubs in the UK. He benefits from the fact that you don’t have to pay taxes on gambling winnings in England. But this is still undeniably an impressive, though exhausting, way to make a living.
The key factor to his success has been his mastery of pub quiz machines. These machines are similar to the gaming monitors you’ll see at some dive bars (normally they have solitaire or poker or something along those lines) except they’ll ask a variety of trivia questions in different categories. If you answer correctly, you’ll win tokens for a small jackpot from the bar (usually $5-$20) that you eventually cash in at the end of the night. Kind of like a smart person’s Dave & Buster's.
Drummond has spent years traveling across pubs in the UK, grinding out thousands of dollars a night before he’s either asked to leave or the bar runs out of tokens. There are several factors to Drummond’s success.
Factors to Drummond's Success
Next time you’re in the UK, take his advice, pick that middle number, and laugh your way to the bank.
- He’s crazy. Anyone who travels around to pubs, staring at a screen for 10 hours a day, trying to win $5 jackpots 100 different times, is a little too nuts for my taste.
- He is hyper-focused on sports trivia. Rather than try to know all the trivia, he tries to focus his knowledge on one or two broad categories (sports is one of them) and visit pubs that have quiz machines that feature the categories he’s familiar with.
- He has picked up on trends from playing so much. According to Drummond, there are many patterns in the quiz games that are consistent across machines, and “the most striking is on answers with a numerical value – 80% of the time it's the middle one of the three given. Similarly, on dates, it's almost always the earliest.”
3. Vinny Varadarajan
New Jersey’s finest, Vinny Varadarajan, makes his trivia money the old-fashioned way, by dominating Jeopardy!, or at least a version of it. In 2016, Vinny became record-holder for consecutive wins in Sports Jeopardy!, a Jeopardy! spin-off show on Crackle (remember that?) hosted by Dan Patrick, went he won 15 straight games and over $70,000 over the course of 4 months on the show. His 15-game winning streak puts him 6th all-time in consecutive games won, just a few notches down from Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer.
This man is an absolute legend and became a crowd favorite for his positive attitude and just overall wholesome vibe. Luckily for him (but not us sports trivia fans), Sports Jeopardy! was canceled after three seasons, so his record looks to be safe forever. Nowadays, he’s enjoying his time in the sun and absolutely dunking on people on Twitter.
We are now officially a Vinny Varadarajan fansite. I haven’t checked with my boss if that’s okay, but I can’t imagine he’d be upset.
2. Howie Schwab
The self-proclaimed “Sultan of Sports Trivia” is easily the biggest celebrity in the glamorous life of sports trivia and the only person on this list to host his own show on ESPN, Stump the Schwab, which was one of the most electric pieces of television I’ve ever watched. Hosted by Stuart Scott and running for four seasons, each episode would feature three players, who all competed against Schwab in sports trivia. Incredibly, he went 64-16 during Stump the Schwab’s run, an unbelievable 80% win rate. Not too shabby for the one-time ESPN producer and statistician who somehow found himself on a prime-time TV show.
Even after the show was canceled in 2006, Schwab was able to hang on at ESPN until 2013, when he was part of a massive round of layoffs at the company. Luckily, since legends never die, he’s landed on his feet and is currently hosting two separate digital sports trivia shows. I pray to God he never finds out about Run the Table because none of us would stand a chance. Especially if he gets a college basketball trivia question. The man is a goddamn encyclopedia.
1. Jamal Malik, Slumdog Millionaire
Yeah, I know. It’s a “fictional character.” So what? This man withstands police brutality, escapes the slums of India, and gets the girl of his dreams, all thanks to sports trivia. Can Stump the Shwab say that?
Now sure, technically he only answered one sports question and it was about cricket – “Which cricketer has scored the most first-class centuries in history?” However, it’s important to remember that this is the question that catapults him into the big money rounds. It’s a pivotal moment when he turns down the chance to walk away with money and decides to keep moving on. Even more importantly, this is the famous scene where the host tries to give him the wrong answer in the bathroom after he has narrowed it down to two options.
Jamal had the courage to reject this false answer and continue his question for a million rupees. And to me, that warrants a #1 spot on ANY list you can make, even if you’re a fictional character.
Now go play some more Run The Table and maybe one day you’ll make it on this list.