After a hard day's work, many Sydney locals blow off steam at pub trivia, a popular group activity where the prizes can be substantial.

The events are usually run by an MC who asks the questions, keeps score and hands out prizes, which range from bar vouchers to free food to t-shirts and hats. Jackpot prizes can make the game even more exciting, with some pubs offering  $1,000 Australian dollars to the team that correctly answers a difficult set of trivia questions.

So which pubs have the best trivia and the biggest payouts? For $100 bar vouchers, head to Technology Park Hotel in Alexandria, The Townie in Balmain, the Coogee Bay Hotel in Coogee, the Harbord Beach Hotel in Freshwater or The Union Hotel in North Sydney. To strike it big, shoot for the rarely won prize at Dicks Hotel Balmain, one of the pubs that offers a $1,000 Australian dollar prize.

As enticing as a good reward may be, prizes don’t have much to do with participant retention and enjoyment, said Andrew Coorey, owner of Sydney's Best Trivia. On a typical evening, a trivia night might pull in 90 people, but 80 of those people will leave without winning anything at all, he said. Other factors, such as location, a good MC and decent meal options are more important for getting participants in the door week after week.

To find a good trivia night, check in with your favourite local pub – unless, of course, you're after the big win.

Brooke Schoenman is the Sydney Localite for BBC Travel