How to Win HQ Trivia, the Hot New Live Game Show Handing Out Real Money

hq trivia
Courtesy HQ Trivia

If you’ve noticed in uptick in coworkers and friends stopping dead in their tracks around 3pm EST to stare intensely at their phones, it’s likely they’ve fallen under the spell of HQ Trivia. The live mobile game show app, developed by the team behind Vine and launched in late August, draws hundreds of thousands of contestants multiple times a day to compete for a pot of actual cash. To win, you just need to answer 12 multiple choice trivia questions correctly within the time limit and a piece of the jackpot -- usually $1,000 per game, but it's been as big as $8,500 -- is yours. Simple enough, right? Wrong. Winning HQ is hard as hell.

You might think it’s smooth sailing while breezing through the first few gimmes, but the overwhelming majority of players get booted around the seventh or eighth question. Outsmarting the game by frantically Googling questions in real time in hopes of settling on the correct answer under 10 seconds is impractical at best (though it hasn't stopped tons of people from trying). However, there are actually ways to improve your chances of winning, besides hardwiring your brain to Wikipedia. Here are some tips, tricks, and hacks that could take you to the leaderboard.

Invite others to join

Whenever a new person joins and plays their first game using your referral code, HQ banks an "Extra Life" in your account, which allows you to continue playing even if you get an answer wrong. They're applied automatically and may only be used once per game, but that could be just the sort of wiggle room you need to win big. To invite friends to play en masse, open the app anytime there isn't a game in progress and tap "Get More" in the Extra Lives section. 

There's also a newly discovered hidden cheat that will score you a free Extra Life. All you have to do is launch the HQ app, place two fingers on the screen, and swipe up really fast over and over. Do it properly and you'll end up with a bonus life automatically added to your account. 

hq trivia win screen
HQ Trivia/Baylor Linn

Get rid of the comments section

Some may find it an engaging touch, but the deluge of live comments scrolling across the screen during each game make for one hell of a distraction, and one you definitely don't need while wracking the depths of your brain for esoteric knowledge. The good news is you can make them disappear at will by simply swiping right across them. 

Play with a group, and come prepared

Face it, even if you win, you’re mostly likely only going to win a fraction of the jackpot, so why not dramatically increase your chances by divvying that slice up just a little more? For obvious reasons, assembling a group of smart folks with individual areas of expertise to play as a team makes sense.

Recruit your go-to pub trivia team, or schedule a very important recurring "meeting" with your brightest colleagues at 3pm every day, and go for it. Just be sure that when you huddle, everyone else is playing along on their own device. That way, when the time comes, you can submit multiple answers on questions you’re all iffy on, and stand a better chance to make it all the way to the end.

Play every game you can

It stands to reason that the only way you're going to get better is with practice, so play as much as you can. The game is live twice a day during the week at 3pm and 9pm EST, and once per day at 9pm on the weekend. Enable your notifications and you'll get an alert a couple minutes before each game begins, so you'll know exactly when it's time to take that "bathroom break" at work.

hq trivia
HQ Trivia

Follow HQ on Twitter

The app's official account occasionally hints at or teases the answers to certain questions it'll ask in a forthcoming game, so it's worth keeping tabs on what they're posting. Also, if they have a particularly hefty jackpot planned for an upcoming game, this is where you'll find out ahead of time -- giving you enough notice to assemble that crack team of trivia fiends.

Keep watching after you're eliminated

Although it'll be painful if you find yourself knowing the answers to the tough questions, it's worth sticking around. Not only will repeat exposure to tough trivia help prime your brain for more, but you might end up learning something that'll help you in a subsequent question. The best reason to stick around, though, is for a chance to unlock an Extra Life. According to Lifehacker the game occasionally offers everyone playing and watching a special "prize box," which might contain one.

Keep an eye out for "gotcha" questions

Pretty much every HQ game includes at least one "savage" question that eliminates a huge swath of players. That's not a fluke -- those questions are carefully designed to do exactly that. Oftentimes, they play on your instinct to choose one of the more seemingly absurd or obvious answers presented to you, when in fact that one is actually incorrect. That's another reason why it's a good strategy to keep watching even after you're eliminated, so that you can learn to better recognize a savage question and get a bit in the heads of the team that writes them. 

Don't let the first few questions trip you up

Oftentimes, people will second-guess themselves during the first few questions, thinking the answer couldn't be as incredibly easy and obvious as it generally is. The thing is, the first two to three questions are almost always obvious and incredibly easy. That's by design, so don't strike out early on just because you think the questions should be tougher -- you'll have plenty of opportunity to wrack your brain on such things later in the game.

Prep during your downtime using a practice app

Although you can only play the real HQ Trivia via the official app at 3pm and/or 9pm ET, some HQ-loving developers have created a special mock HQ app that can help you practice playing the game whenever you have a few free minutes. Currently available for Android, the free and aptly named Practice HQ Trivia lets you practice thousands of trivia questions to prep your noggin for the big game -- without worrying that a few thousand bucks are on the line. Unfortunately, it doesn't incorporate the added stress of a 10-second timer, but the familiar interface should still get you in the zone.

Get a hints from smart friends

One of the newest social features HQ's added to its app is an answer-sharing feature, which allows you to add friends who also use the app, and see which answers they're picking during the game in real time. This gives you yet another crutch to lean on when you come upon a question you don't know the answer to because as the 10 seconds tick down you'll see which answers your pals are going with (their pic will show up next to what the one they selected), giving you enough time to copy the ones you trust most. Obviously, your wisest move would be to connect with your smartest friends who also play, which you can easily do by tapping the icon in the upper left corner of the app, and searching for them.

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.