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Slapbowl occurs when a tournament has insufficient functional buzzer systems to play every scheduled game with one. Players thus slap the table (hence the name), yell "buzz!", or otherwise make some kind of noise to indicate that they know the answer. Any moderator in a so-called "slapbowl room" should be as impartial as possible and sit as close to the exact middle of the two teams as possible, since all buzzer races will be determined by which sound the moderator claims he/she heard first. It is the duty of the tournament director to ensure that slapbowl is avoided if at all possible or minimized if unavoidable.

A quizbowl-slapbowl hybrid of sorts occurs when the buzzer system in a given room has an insufficient number of working buzzers or lights to allow every player to be uniquely recognized by the system. It is debatable whether rooms with this problem constitute true slapbowl rooms, as while some players are playing slapbowl, many are still able to buzz in the conventional way.

The only team known to have preferred the slapbowl format to using a real buzzer system was Yeshiva University, since pressing the buzzer at a usual Saturday tournament violates the Sabbath; they thus preferred to yell "cheese" to indicate buzzing. This is referenced in the Boston University Quizbowl Constitution.

Bryce Durgin also has been known to prefer slapbowl rather than take time to find a replacement buzzer, as evinced by his game against Michigan at the EFT 2 at Chicago.

Tournaments known to have used slapbowl rooms

  • 2009 Minnesota Nationals Warmup (high school; also hilariously featured only two rooms)
  • 2009 ACF Nationals
  • 2008 VCU Novice (Zot bowl mirror)
  • 2007 TRASH West Regionals
  • 2007 TRASH Eastern Canadian Regionals
  • 2007 Penn Bowl
  • 2007 Brandeis mirror of Deep Bench
  • 2007 Princeton High School Tournament
  • 2002 NAQT Great Lakes Sectional
  • 1988 Elvis