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Are Cheaters and Insiders Winning the $50,000 ‘HQ Trivia’ Grand Prize?

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I doubt I’m the only one who is surprised that the HQ Trivia (Free) phenomenon is still going this strong, but with that popularity accusations of cheaters and insiders winning is reaching new heights. In the world of the App Store, it seems like the harder a fad hits, the faster it is to fade. HQ Trivia has seemed oddly immune to that, likely in part to their ever-increasing prize pools. Last night, they played a game with a $50,000 prize pool, ending with six winners who took home $8,333.33 a piece. Needless to say, it’s a pretty unbelievable thing to think that can even happen. Imagine just opening up an app because you got a push alert, answering some questions right, and taking home over eight grand!

Unfortunately, once you throw any sort of prize of value into the mix, people suddenly get very motivated to find whatever advantage they can to win the prizes. There’s no shortage of HQ Trivia bots out there, and the easiest one to use was HQuack which we’ve posted about before. It’s currently offline, and it really wouldn’t surprise me if they got hit with a cease and desist. Github is loaded with bots, although they’re all quite a bit more difficult to get working than HQuack was.

The thing with these bots is that the way they work is by using some low-level of AI to read questions from the game then blast them into Google, Wikipedia, and other data sources to try to figure out what the answer is. HQuack claimed to be 85% accurate, and even that seems a little optimistic as a lot of the time questions are phrased in a way that are difficult to directly search for. Of course, that doesn’t stop accusations of cheating when over 540,000 people are still watching after losing the game.

This particular instance seems like it might hold more water than the typical “I lost, so everyone else much be cheating" reaction. Last night, Scott Menke, (HQ player smenks13) was part of the winners pool, and his HQ avatar includes a photo with him and HQ Trivia host Scott Rogowsky. This has led to reddit users suggesting there’s some sort of inside play happening, which normally I’d write off as “So what, the dude took a selfie with a vaguely famous guy," but folks who have done more research into the identity of smenks13 have determined he even went to the same college as Rogowsky, potentially linking them even closer. All sorts of other conspiracy theories also are flying, including the fact that the winner actually developers quiz games himself, so he might have the skills and know-how to craft some sort of super-bot, even if he wasn’t fed answers directly from the HQ host.

As much as I love a good conspiracy theory, reality is usually far more boring. Menke posted a AMA on reddit getting into some of the details of his life. It turns out he’s been on Jeopardy and also made an appearance on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Additionally, his work history on LinkedIn is filled with positions involving actuarial science and statistics. According to his AMA, the avatar photo came from a holiday party they were both at, additionally, the guy seems to just genuinely be very good at trivia-related things. You don’t get on two game shows if you’re not.

In the end, are there cheaters and insiders winning HQ Trivia? It’s not outside of the realm of possibility, but this one seems legit.

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