Kylie is a small-town Indiana native who fell in love with Indianapolis while studying at Butler University. Now, she works as a live music marketer for Forty5 Presents—the entity that owns The Vogue Theatre in Broad Ripple and The Rock the Ruins summer concert series. She also oversees the “Fun on Weekdays – Indy!” GroupMe where Indianapolis residents can find out about upcoming events in the area. Kylie is a coffee shop and trendy taco fanatic, but her favorite part of Indy is its approachable and inclusive community!
Hambone’s hosts the best trivia nights in Indianapolis.
The year is 2007. The first iPhone just came out, and something as trivial as the weather app has sparked the latest evening craze. Down at a hole-in-the-wall bar in Fountain Square, Hoosiers started lining up to guess the temperature in 10 different cities around the world—with just a $5 buy-in and a promise that the winner takes all!
Fast forward a decade-and-a-half later, and the mastermind behind this friendly competition has turned his evening pastime into a trivia empire. Matt Hammond is a local legend who’s reimagined the classic trivia night and given Indianapolis a reputation as The Trivia Capital of the Free World. And at the center of it all is Hambone’s Trivia—the company he founded and christened with his childhood nickname.
If you’re looking for trivia here in Indianapolis, it doesn’t take long to realize that Matt has his finger on the pulse of all things quizzing. For over 15 years, Matt and his team have cultivated a strong trivia community in Indianapolis and built a brand around their events. In fact, Hambone’s is the brains behind most of the trivia competitions across the city! They offer their custom trivia services to local bars and restaurants, as well as private events upon request.
I recently had the chance to sit down with Matt Hammond and ask him about the history of Hambone’s, including the secrets behind their tricky trivia and where to find the best competitions for trivia buffs and casual quizzers alike.
Hambone’s journey started with just a passion for trivia.
Soon after his weather quiz gained popularity, Matt Hammond and his friends started hosting weekly trivia nights at The Elbow Room—a bar that once resided in Fountain Square. For two years, Matt worked as an attorney by day and a trivia host by night, hosting quizzes and competitions in exchange for free beer.
It didn’t take long for word to get out about Matt’s competitions, and other bars, restaurants, and nonprofits started asking him to host trivia nights for their organizations. These competitions helped boost weekday bar attendance, provide family-friendly activities during dinner, and even raise money for fundraisers.
Matt only agreed to these opportunities sporadically because his day job demanded both time and authenticity. But as the interest continued, he decided to get out of law and see if he could monetize his love of trivia. And thus, Hambone’s Trivia was (officially) born!
Since then, Matt has found major success growing his trivia business across local restaurants, bars, events, and fundraisers—all through word-of-mouth promotion. Indianapolis is the kind of city where everyone knows everyone, so there’s a strong sense of community once you get connected. In all the years Hambone’s has been in business, Matt has never spent a dime on marketing!
Hambone’s has the best trivia in town—hands down.
The secret to Hambone’s success is their custom trivia. Matt puts a lot of thought and care into every trivia question, and it really makes a difference! People love Hambone’s trivia nights because the questions are the perfect blend of fun, challenging, and genuinely interesting.
After years in the business, Matt Hammond has developed a fool-proof process to keep his trivia both fresh and fair. Every morning, he wakes up, works out, and uses his skills as an avid Google researcher to write 100 new trivia questions. He then submits these questions to his personal trivia vault, where he rates them for both difficulty and quality on a scale of 0 to 5.
According to Matt, the ideal question should rank about 3 to 4 for difficulty and a solid 5 for quality. That stringent standard of quality means about 25% of Matt’s trivia never sees the light of day. But the questions that do leave the vault are guaranteed to keep even the most seasoned trivia fanatics engaged and on their toes.
Another major factor in Hambone’s success is that their competitions rarely use themes. Other trivia nights tend to group their questions around a certain topic or theme. But Matt and his team try to keep questions more general in order to attract a more diverse crowd of participants across the city. Their trivia questions also tend to encourage discussion—rather than asking for hard facts that people either know or don’t know. This makes each question more relatable, more interesting, and a great conversation-starter for the teams!
Matt Hammond mastered the pandemic pivot.
Over the years, Matt Hammond has built a trivia empire here in Indianapolis—with many memorable moments along the way. Hambone’s has hosted a variety of private events for locals and celebrities alike, including a retirement party for Andrew Luck and trivia with Indy 500 drivers. Matt even met his wife at a trivia night and eventually weaved his engagement proposal into trivia questions.
But one of their most unforgettable moments was the COVID-19 pandemic. Like all of us, Hambone’s faced the glaring issue of lockdown and what it would mean for business. With restaurants and bars shutting down across the state, Matt had to find a way to make his company pandemic-proof.
His solution? The Monster Game! In 2020, Hambone’s launched a family-friendly virtual trivia competition, so teams across the world could still sign up and play. This event works just like your typical trivia night—where friends and family team up to answer questions, earn points, and hopefully win the day. The only real difference is that Hambone’s hosts via live stream.
It was the Monster Game that gave Indianapolis its nickname as “The Trivia Capital of the Free World.” People across the country started joining the Hambone’s craze. And to this day, Matt still runs into people who say that virtual trivia helped keep their family sane during the most devastating days of the pandemic.
Photo courtesy of Orr Fellowship
Compete with the toughest trivia teams in Indianapolis!
Now, Hambone’s hosts about 32 trivia competitions a week in the Indianapolis area with some of the most popular taking place in Fountain Square, Broad Ripple, the Northside, and the suburbs. These competitions are open to teams of all skills levels. But if you’re looking for a challenge, Matt recommends checking out Sam’s Silver Circle in Fountain Square and Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple.
Bars like these tend to attract the more die-hard trivia teams—the local legends who go by the same name for every event. At Union Jack Pub, you might run into Wagery Without Prudence, Manley’s Irish Mutts, Fast Eddie, and If You’re Not First You’re Last. There’s Taking Care of Quizness up in Westfield and Asleep at the Wheel down in Fountain Square. And two of the oldest teams in the league are Hot Dog No Sandwich and Second Place Yo—who got their start all the way back in The Elbow Room.
To determine the best of the best, Hambone’s divides the year into 8-week competitive seasons. At the end of each season, teams that participated in all eight weeks can drop their two lowest scores before adding the rest together. Then, the team with the highest cumulative score gets a cash prize!
They also host the bi-annual Hambone’s Classic, where top teams from around the city are invited to participate in an all-star trivia competition. Winner takes home the title of the Best in Indy and bragging rights until the next team takes the crown.
Grab your friends and join the trivia train!
Ready to dip your toes in the waters of Indianapolis trivia? Matt Hammond offered some quick tips for anyone new to the trivia scene and interested in getting involved.
For starters, Hambone’s actually hosts two different types of trivia competitions: Ascension Games and Wild West Games. Ascension Games only allow for teams with six people or less, while Wild West Games don’t have a limit on team members. Most of the popular spots like Sam’s Silver Circle and Union Jack Pub host Ascension Games, so just make sure you have the right number of players.
If you’re looking for a game, the best place to start is Hambone’s Instagram and Facebook. They post each week’s trivia schedule beforehand, as well as updates on when a new season will start. Hambone’s also posts regular highlights from winners and maybe even some hints if you’re paying attention.
And best of all, Hambone’s isn’t the only trivia in town! Indy’s trivia craze has led to a variety of different events and competitions across the local bar scene. Check out this list of the best trivia nights in the Indy region—from Fountain Square to Fishers.
Every venue has something unique to offer, so the best place for trivia depends on what experience you’re looking for. Matt recommends a few different spots for new people looking to join Indy’s trivia community.
For Beer Lovers: Check out Guggman Haus, Sun King, and Scarlett Lane Brewing.
For Cocktail Lovers: Take on trivia night at Hotel Tango.
For Foodies: Enjoy an evening at Natural State Provisions.
For Bar Food Junkies: Hit up Root’s Burger Bar, Union Jack, or Dugout.
For Themed Trivia: Ash & Elm Cider is the exception that proves the rule.
For An Old-School Experience: Try Sam’s Silver Circle or the Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple. The trivia at Union Jack is hosted by Matt Hammond himself, while Sam’s is the location that Hambone’s truly took off as a business.
Today’s trivia competitions look very different than those rowdy nights back in 2007—with nothing but some beers and a weather app. But the spirit of that early trivia lives on here in Indianapolis. Our community has such a passion for friendly competition, where everyone can flex their skills, test their mettle, and have fun while doing it.
It’s no surprise that a team of Hoosiers made history and transformed Indianapolis into the “Trivia Capital of the Free World.” So, next time you’re in town, check out Indy’s trivia night lineup—and see why Hambone’s Trivia is the real deal.