My EXCLUSIVE interview with big-winning, record-setting game show LEGEND David Poltorak – Part 4

When you left us last week, David had auditioned for Sale of the Century, he’d done well, and he was now back home, waiting by the phone…

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DP: So, I’m thinking “I don’t really need to study that hard for this show”. I was always into general knowledge and learning capitals of countries and longest rivers and kings and queens and presidents and U.S. capital, state capitals, and so on. So, I figured it’s probably not going to be too hard to study for Sale. But once I’d done the audition, I then religiously watched the show every night. I was living by myself in a King’s Cross flat. I had a sheet of paper and a pad that I would divide into four columns, with the three contestants on screen and me at home. I’ve got a right and wrong column in each of those columns. So, I would then compete against them to see who could hit our buzzers first. (Mine was just hitting the floor). If I buzzed in first, then I got to answer the question.

SH: David… this is music to my ears, because that’s exactly what I did for Temptation! I had the same idea (without knowing this about you)… and you’re right – what a wonderful training tool! The only difference I had was that I recorded the shows, and used my remote as the buzzer. So, I’d hit PAUSE, and if the show paused before I heard anyone else’s buzzer, I knew that I was faster; that was my entree to answer the question.

DP: Wow. I could show you my scoresheet; I’ve still got it. 

SH: Oh yeah! Please!

DP: I don’t know if you can see that…

SH: Wow, look at that!

DP: It’s three pages of that.

SH: So, how many games?

DP: 70. 70 games, so about 14 weeks. That’s how long it took me before I got on the show. In all these games I played at home I never lost.

SH: That’s good.

DP: I rigorously tried not to favour myself. But I thought “I’m not as pressured as them because I’m at home, I’m not in the studio, I’m not actually playing for it”. So, I discounted that fact somewhat that I was winning every time. But the reality was that I actually got bigger scores when I was on the show itself… because there were only three contestants, not four. So, there were fewer points to go around, so I actually did better on the real show. Doing that at home and not ever losing, gave me enormous confidence. So, all I really had to worry about was “when were they going to call”? And as it turned out, I only had to wait a bit over three months

When the contestant co-ordinator, Michelle Seers, rang, I asked “Is the jackpot still there?” And she said, “Yes.” Back in those days, the format was slightly different. If you won, you didn’t just automatically go through to the next prize level; you had to win a certain amount of money to advance to the next level.

SH: Oh right. So, some people might have won, but not progress to the next level, and they’d have to come back and win again the next night in order to get there?

DP: Exactly. And the guy I beat on my first night was on his eighth night and he was still only going for all the prizes. He wasn’t going for the jackpot yet.

SH: Right.

DP: I beat him and felt pretty bad about it… a little bit. He seemed like a nice guy and I felt a bit sorry for him. But certainly that’s what I set out to do. On my second night, I came so close to losing. I remember (host) Tony (Barber) saying, “Beware the Second Night Syndrome.” He often said that. It’s so real. I think it’s like a performance where you do a dress rehearsal or an Opening Night and you’re fabulous, and the next night you try to repeat it and you’re doing it from memory and not feeling, or something. You’re out of the zone.

SH: Right; you breathe a sigh of relief because you got through the first one and you take your foot off the accelerator a little bit. It’s a very real danger, but it doesn’t necessarily help to have the host saying that to you all the time.

DP: Well, it was good as a warning, I suppose. I’d seen him say it before, and I’d seen lots of people win really well on their first night and then crash.

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I can definitely vouch for that – Second Night Syndrome is a widely accepted phenomenon in the world of theatre. Drop by again next week, when we’ll learn how David handled his third, fourth and subsequent nights on the show…

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