Final Score Trivia owner is at the top of her game

Midnight Sun

A hobby that became woman's full-time job is now Maryland's largest live-trivia company

  • Team Baltimore Hons at Jilly's Ellicott City.
Team Baltimore Hons at Jilly's Ellicott City. (Photo by Colby Ware, Special…)
April 02, 2010|By Sam Sessa | | Baltimore Sun reporter

In 2002, Christy Wnuk-Fink walked into the Last Chance Saloon in Columbia and saw a flier for Final Score Trivia Night.

Intrigued, Wnuk-Fink assembled a group of friends and family, and gave it a shot. It didn't go so well at first.

"We showed up and got our teeth completely kicked in by all the other teams," she recalled.

Still, Wnuk-Fink kept coming back. Her team, Abacus Nil (it means "you can count on us to score nothing," she said), played for about 4 1/2 years. In 2007, Wnuk-Fink bought the game from its previous owner and began writing the questions herself. Now, with more than 20 games happening each week, Final Score Trivia is the largest live-trivia game company in the state.

Wnuk-Fink, 40, writes all the questions for the game herself, which is a full-time job, she said. Since she took over Final Score Trivia, she has come up with more than 12,000. The topics range from geography to movies, and some of the questions can be real head-scratchers.

For instance: "Within one either way, how many countries share a land border with Gabon?" I didn't even know what Gabon was (it's a country in Africa), let alone how many neighbors it has (three: Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo).

"It's a little bit obscure and crazy, but it's a little fun," Wnuk-Fink said. "Some of it is stuff we learned or presumably learned in high school, whether we remember it or not."

That doesn't make me feel any smarter.

One of Wnuk-Fink's favorite movie/TV trivia questions was a mash-up of the "Star Trek" series and the film "Nell." Here's the question: In the movie "Nell," Jodie Foster's character had a language all her own. Was Chakotay a word used in the language of Jodie Foster's character in the movie "Nell," or was it a character in "Star Trek: Voyager"? (It was a character in "Star Trek.")

To come up with all these questions, Wnuk-Fink pores through reference books and trolls the Internet for odd bits of trivia. She takes her task seriously: Wikipedia is off-limits because it's not 100 percent verified, and she asks the hosts of each trivia night across the region to double-check her questions before the games get under way. She also keeps a database of all her past questions so she can make sure not to repeat any.

The average player might not know the answer to every question, Wnuk-Fink said, but chances are, someone on the team will. Each team is allowed a maximum of 10 players, and the game is played in six rounds.

Each round has three questions and a set number of points a team can assign to its questions. If a team feels certain it knows the answer to one question, it can assign more points to it. As the game goes on, the number of total points teams can assign per category goes up.

After the six rounds are up, it's time for the final question. It's designed so that even the teams with the lowest scores still have a shot to win. Teams can wager up to 20 points on this question. If you don't answer questions correctly in the first six categories, they don't count against you, but if you get the final question wrong, you'll lose the points you wagered.

Over the years, teams have been caught cheating from time to time, Wnuk-Fink said. Cell phones are off-limits during the game, but that hasn't stopped some folks. Several years ago, one team had moles listening in on the questions and chatting answers to each other through Buzztime Games, a popular bar game console. On the whole, cheating is pretty rare, Wnuk-Fink said.

"If you were shooting pool, you wouldn't pick up a ball, drop it in a pocket and count that," she said. "Ninety-nine percent of the people who play the game understand the rules. They're there to have fun."

Anybody can walk into a restaurant bar with Final Score Trivia and sign up for a game. But if you're a quiz-a-holic, you can enter your team in a season, where you compete against other area teams for a $2,000 prize. There are three seasons each year, and Wnuk-Fink is coming up on her 25th season.

"With the times as hard as they are, people need to be entertained," she said. "It's a great way to earn a living."

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