Man with 15,000 answers mines rich vein in trivia: Law student takes pounds 60 maximum jackpot out of dozens of pub quiz machines every week

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The Independent Online
THESE DAYS Gerry, 35, goes to the pub in disguise. Every night except Wednesday, he visits six in succession and empties their trivia machines. He knows 15,000 answers. He makes a small fortune.

Gerry - he will not give his full name - has leapt on his bike with such enthusiasm that his initiative would surely warm Norman Tebbit's heart. Unable to get solicitor's articles in the depths of recession, he began an MA in International Law at Coventry University last year with a view to teaching instead.

Such was his talent for trivia that he has paid his tuition fees in instalments out of his winnings. Now they also support a car and chauffeur. On a good week, he has pounds 850 tax-free to play with.

Gerry, a former army medical technician, takes trivia very seriously. He plans raids with military precision, making sorties to locate the most lucrative quiz machines in pubs from Derby to Newbury before descending, commando-style, to empty them.

If he cannot answer a question he repeats it into a portable dictation machine and looks up the answer at his Coventry home. Usually he finds it in one of the hundreds of books he has accumulated for the purpose. If not, he goes to the library.

Landlords are not impressed by his performance, although legal, which is why he tends to wear wigs. He tries to escape attention by buying a pint and not going on the machines immediately. But the moment he starts winning, the locals huddle round in innocent admiration. Then the landlord gives him the boot.

The machines Gerry targets allow the pounds 20 jackpot to mount up as credits so his game goes unnoticed until he has extracted the maximum pounds 60 for his 20p stake. 'But it's hard work at the end of the day,' he said. 'I've had to employ a driver to take me round the country. I'll say, 'Let's hit Derby tonight', so we check out all the pubs for machines. Then we come back the following week and hit them.

'I work every day except Wednesday. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the busiest because everyone thinks they're clever and plays the machines. That means you can win by answering less questions. On Monday and Tuesday I mop up the areas I didn't do at the weekend. It's a hell of a life, actually.

'I can't go to most of the pubs in Coventry any more. For example I used to do the Sunday pub quiz in one pub but the landlord banned me because I knew all the answers. In fact he wouldn't pay me the prize even though I'd paid the entry fee. I tried to explain that was illegal because we had entered a contract but he just told me to get out.'

People get a 'little bit jealous' when Gerry and the nine other trivia masters in the West Midlands constantly win, which is why he prefers not to be identified. One colleague made the mistake of playing a quiz machine after several drunken rugby players. They felt his winnings were unfair, smashed up his car and laced it with paint-stripper.

Once, the law student had a close call with the DSS after a hire car company asked why he always paid in pounds 1 coins. He said: 'But when the DSS came round I told them my winnings came under the Gambling Act 1968. I said, 'Are you going to take away someone's Grand National winnings? You can't do that.' So I was able to circumvent their little attack.'

West Midlands landlords will be pleased to hear he is thinking of moving; Coventry is getting 'too hot to handle'. It is one reason why he rents his house. The other is that his wife and former quiz partner has left him, taking their daughter with her. Nothing trivial about that.

(Photograph omitted)

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