1.5 years of Trivia: Total N00b to LearnedLeague Group A

It’s been six months since my first blog, detailing my journey from a total beginner at Trivia (44/150 correct answers in LearnedLeague), to making it to Group B. Apologies for the spoiler in the title, but I made it to Group A!!!

When I first started doing Trivia my gut feeling was that it would take many years to get to Group A level. Like how could I ever make up the knowledge gap that I had. And how can I just learn everything about everything? But it turns out if you study nonstop every day like a psychopath, it’s not as hard as it looks.

My Progress

I am super happy to have completed the direct path from E to A. My first season of being in the E group I wasn’t yet good enough to make it out of E, but after that I advanced to the next group with each successive season. I wonder if anyone has ever done that before, at least anyone who legitimately belonged in the bottom group when they started.

However, despite my upward rise in the rankings, the fast progress that I was seeing throughout my first year seemed to have slowed down quite a bit, as my Total Correct Answers in Learned League tapered off a bit. For example, my last three seasons have been 103, 100 and this season I hit my all time high with 107. Whereas before this I was going up much faster (44-60-82-93-103 correct was my progression)

However despite this, I am still making some serious progress. The most aggressive progress I’m making has been in Jeopardy. When I last updated you in May, my CORYAT score was hovering around 28,000. It’s now at 31,500 for my last 50 games. (For those who don’t already know, here is more information on what CORYAT score is.) It seems that every single month there is a significant uptick in my Jeopardy score, which is probably because I spend so much time studying old games, questions and making flash cards and reviewing them. The longer term goal for my Coryat is $35,000, and then once I hit that I can figure out what my next goal is. Although I’m guessing this goal will take a while to achieve.

My Daily Double get rate is now slightly above 80%, whereas it was closer to 75% the last time I updated you. For reference, the average Jeopardy player seems to hit Daily Doubles at about a 63% rate over the last year. The medium-long term goal here for me is 85%+, although I suspect that this will be very difficult to reach. To put it in simple terms, I just don’t know the answer too often, and 85%+ is knowing a lot of answers!

I’ve also had the great fortune to play some online trivia/Jeopardy training games against some established strong players and have held my own on occasion. There are plenty of players that I’ve played who are without question better than me at the moment, but the fact that I can win every now and then is encouraging. And with every week it feels like I’m getting just a little bit sharper.

My Big Takeaway: Trust Your Gut

Lets swing back to Learned League though and focus on what were some of my biggest issues in this past season, aside from the basic one of not knowing things:

My Biggest Learned League weakness: I managed to get 4 questions wrong this season in the exact same way: Not listening to my intuition. I have built up a large intuition due to tens of thousands of handmade flashcards (about 60,000 of them now). It is impossible for me to have an exact and thorough knowledge and recall of these flashcards, but sometimes my brain knows something that my rational mind doesn’t know and can’t even explain. There were a few specific instances of this happening in this season’s Learned League and I’ll give an example of what happens to my brain when I mess up in this way. Not only did I screw these questions up, but in most cases my unconscious brain knew I was going to be wrong, and I knew that I should follow whatever vague spidey sense I had, but because I couldn’t logically explain it, I decided to put a different answer down that was something that I could at least explain. For example, this is how I mentally contorted myself out of the correct instinctual answer to this question:

At first, I instantly wrote down MOUNTAINS. I felt like it may have been asked in the top row of a jeopardy game at some point. But this was an extremely vague memory and I convinced myself I was making it up. But one thing I did know for sure was that oro meant gold in Spanish. And while I knew that Latin and Greek roots almost never have much to do with each other, at least it was something I could explain to someone instead of “Ummm I dunno I kind of remember some thing on a flash card, but not really”. So I put gold, and of course it was mountains. This wrong answer also cost me the match.

Alas, I did not learn enough from this fiasco and made the same mistake of talking myself out of the correct knee-jerk answer in three other questions. But over the course of those mistakes, the lesson sunk in and my methodology for how to rely on my intuition solidified. Now, I believe that when my brain quickly thinks it knows something, it’s almost always right and I should never under any circumstance use some twisted logic to put something else down, just so that I can justify my thought process. To reinforce this conviction, I’ve written a rule on the top of the place where I put drafts for my answers:

“If you have a first instinct about something and you can’t quite understand why, you have to be nearly positive that any new answer is correct in order to change your answer”

I used to say I had to be 70% correct, but I somehow convinced myself that some of my other guesses that went against my intuition could be 70%. So now I have to be like 95+% sure in order to against an unexplainable intuitive feeling.

The good news is that after the Learned League season ended I had two specific opportunities to test this in the other leagues I compete in.

REDEMPTION QUESTION: EXAMPLE #1In geometry, a regular dodecahedron has twelve flat faces. Each face of the regular dodecahedron has what shape?

This question is from the league I play on BPTrivia. The moment I saw this question my brain immediately said “pentagon”. I had no idea why it was saying Pentagon, but it was the first thing I wrote down and it just felt right for no logical reason. Then I decided to envision the shape and I ran into problems. I just had a lot of trouble envisioning pentagon’s on a die, but somehow it was much easier to envision hexagons and it felt a lot more natural to me. There was a giant hexagon in my mind’s eye, staring at me in the face. But I told myself this was a perfect time to test my intuition. My unconscious brain wanted pentagon for some reason, and so I decided to put Pentagon. Of course it was pentagon! It turned out that I had some flash card about this but I hadn’t seen it in months, so the memory was kind of pushed into my subconscious.

REDEMPTION QUESTION: EXAMPLE #2CURRENT EVENTS – On December 5, 2022, a national laboratory conducted an experiment that resulted in a breakthrough in modern science – the first ignition in a controlled fusion experiment, which indicates that the reaction produced more energy as output than it required as input (although only if you measure the energy input in a specific context). This breakthrough took place at a national laboratory named for WHAT CITY which also serves as the namesake for a super-heavy element associated with the laboratory?

This question comes from a new cool Trivia League called LiquidKourage. It’s super fun, but it’s currently pretty small, and I highly recommend joining it if you’re into Trivia. This one was really spooky for me because I still don’t know what happened. I knew exactly one city that is associated with an element and that also has an element named after it, and that’s Berkeley (for Berkelium). So it would be really easy to just write Berkeley and feel good about that answer because I can explain it away pretty easily. But for some reason that I still don’t understand, my brain kept whispering at me “Livermorium”. This was a problem because I didn’t even know if Livermore was a city. I had some vague feeling it might be, but I definitely wasn’t sure. This seemed like the perfect time to test my intuition because it’s a really weird case where I had almost no logical reason to put Livermore down. The only reason for writing it is because in the back of my head there’s some information that I can’t quite process. And maybe I didn’t think that Berkelium was a super-heavy element, although honestly I don’t know what a super heavy element is. I decided to yolo it, and lo and behold, it was Livermore. It’s named after a guy named Robert Livermore, whereas the Laboratory in Livermore is named after another guy with the last name Livermore. I’m still very confused and have no idea what’s going on, but apparently it was the answer, and my brain is smarter than I can explain sometimes.

So where do I go from here?

I just keep doing what I’m doing for as long as I find it interesting. I assume that I’ll just keep getting better as long as I do that.

The next goal in Learned League is to become a player who gets 110/150 correct on average, although that’s not a very aggressive goal given that I just got 107 and missed some super easy things. So the real goal is to be someone who’s getting at least 120+ on average. Hopefully I’ll get there someday, but it could take some time to fill blind spots in some areas that are difficult to study for.

One amazing thing that just happened is I qualified for the top Group of BPTrivia. I’m completely outclassed in the top group there as it’s filled with some of the absolute best trivia people in the world. I will almost certainly get demoted back to the second group next season, but I’m pretty pumped to have made it at all and have my name next to all the legends.

The honest truth is that there are so many people out there who are just so much better than me, and have many years, if not decades, of more experience than me. The best trivia players in Learned League are just outrageously good. Although one really cool thing about trivia is how many different formats there are, and how being good at one doesn’t always translate into being good in another. Even a small shift like a league that has more math questions than normal, can change the skill level of a player. In games like Jeopardy, it’s really common for some of the best trivia players in the world, to not always be as dominant.

And sometimes it feels like people are really talented with things like wordplay, or parsing answers quickly. Or maybe they don’t make as many boneheaded mistakes as I do (I make a lot of them!). Like we had a question where all I had to know was basically what an acorn is, and I managed to get that wrong. Like it’s a freaking acorn, it comes from an tree, I’ve seen thousands of them in my life, and I was still very confused and managed to get the question wrong.

How exactly am I training now? I do a few specific things:

  1. Study Jeopardy games, the current games and old games
  2. Study old LearnedLeague questions
  3. Study current and old Masterminds questions. It’s a daily TV quiz show and they have a lot of bite size simple questions.
  4. I play some online trivia games, and anytime I get something wrong or take too long to get something, that someone else gets correct quickly, I know I need to study that
  5. I do Crosswords regularly to help with wordplay stuff and general connections. They’re super fun and I’ve gotten a lot better at them.
  6. Practice play playing Jeopardy or other trivia games online
  7. Play in every decent trivia contest that doesn’t require me to be in a specific place at a specific time (LearnedLeague, BPTrivia, Alex Jacob’s School of Trivia, LiquidKourage). I even joined Apocalypse Sports Trivia, which I am pretty terrible at, but I’m doing it anyway. I generally try to avoid any league that’s too focused on one subject, because I find that in these cases the questions are extremely hard and usually not as applicable to general trivia.
  8. I started studying some OQL trivia questions. I think this is some smart person’s team trivia league thing? I’m not exactly sure what it is, but the questions seem good (Although some of them seem like they might be pretty obscure.)
  9. I generally avoid any Learned League mini leagues or dailies. First off I don’t trust random unvetted people to make good questions, and secondly, as mentioned in #7, I find that they can often be a little bit too focused on one subject, and then the things I learn aren’t as applicable as things I could learn from other methods.
  10. Do tons of review on my flash cards every day with an aggressive spaced repetition plan. Honestly this takes up a huge amount of time, but otherwise I’ll just forget everything. So much of it has just been shoved into my brain in the last year, and I haven’t had a whole lifetime to absorb it and make it automatic knowledge.

Thanks for reading all of this! I’ll try to do updates every now and then for those who are curious about my progress.

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