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Trivial Pursuits: The Best Pub Quizzes in SF

Alright, so you're overeducated and underpaid. But there is one arena where the underdog becomes overdog, and the useless degree becomes useful: bar trivia night. Gathering a group of like-minded friends and a couple of pitchers at one of these events can be a perfectly blissful way to pass a weekday night (and discover previously unknown penchants for 80's music or geography on the path to victory). Here are five of the city's best trivia nights. Wage slaves be forewarned: trivia is a weeknight pastime, as it's usually a way for bars to attract customers who otherwise wouldn't show up outside the weekend.

Edinburgh Castle: This long-running trivia night, hosted by sage quizmaster Carl Gibbs, is San Francisco's most famous and undoubtedly its hardest, attracting some seriously talented teams. Even with a group of our brainiest friends, we've had a hard time breaking the top five, thanks to Carl's notoriously difficult music and celebrity-photo rounds. The challenge, however, makes the occasional triumph all the sweeter: only at Edinburgh Castle could we discover that we actually knew what the dot on top of a lowercase "i" is called. The answer is a "tittle," in case you were wondering. Tuesdays, 8 pm, 950 Geary St., Tenderloin.

Mad Dog in the Fog: The trivia night at this Lower Haight Irish pub is so popular that it now happens twice a week. The crowd is a bit younger and boozier than Edinburgh Castle, thanks to a slightly easier array of questions, and things can get crowded, so arrive early if you want a table. One knock on Mad Dog: a recent attendee informed us that they've seen an uptick in cell-phone cheating lately, as the crowds make it hard for quizmasters to monitor under-the-table Googling. Do the right thing, folks, and put the iPhone away; when it comes to pub quizzes, knowing is the entirety of the battle. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8 pm, 530 Haight St., Lower Haight.

The Bitter End: Trivia night at the Bitter End has three advantages: a short four-round duration, making it easy to get home at a decent hour, good food available within the bar (nachos!), and a free round of shots for the team with the best name, meaning even the worst team can still come out winning with a little bit of wit. Oh, and they raffle off T-shirts, too. All of this awesomeness, however, means big crowds, so be sure to arrive early to get a seat. (Bonus points if you make it before 8 pm, when all draft beers are $3.) Tuesdays, 9 pm, 441 Clement St., Inner Richmond.

Elixir: Usually known for its classy cocktails, the Mission stalwart goes a little more low-key for its Tuesday Elixir Quiz, with local comedian Sal Calanni hosting. It's a long quiz (60 questions), but the booze options help to pass the time: Canton Ginger Liqueur sponsors the event, with $2 Canton cocktails and a free round of Canton shots to the team that correctly answers a pre-selected question about cocktails. Get there early, though: it's tiny and crowded, and some quiz attendees have had to stake out space on the floor. Tuesdays, 9 pm, 3200 16th St., Mission.

Elephant & Castle: This Canadian chain of pubs gets mediocre marks for food, but trivia hounds will appreciate two of the SF location's unique assets: an early quiz that takes place during happy hour, and the ability to reserve tables for trivia in advance (their number is 415-268-3900). The questions come from pub-quiz dispensers Brainstormer, which makes for challenging (and thirsty) work. Thursdays, 6:30 pm, 424 Clay St., Financial District.