My EXCLUSIVE interview with big-winning, record-setting game show LEGEND David Poltorak – Part 5

Hello! When David and I left off last week, we were chatting about the dreaded ‘Second Night Syndrome’, which comes into play just as much in quiz shows as it does in other types of live performance…


SH: Do you think that your experience as a performer (you’ve done stand-up and lots of Theatresports) added an edge to your game?

DP: It definitely did. I definitely thought that. Not only had I done Theatresports, but I’d also just been in an ABC series of Theatresports. So yeah, I’d been in front of cameras, I’d been in front of an audience, I’d had to do some pretty silly things. Yes, that whole thing of the-rabbit-in-the-headlights wasn’t part of my concern when I was on the show.

SH: That’s a real pattern with a lot of winners I’ve talked to. A lot of people have had experience in front of an audience, whether it’s Matt Parkinson or Russell Cheek, people who are no strangers to being looked at and to being performers.

DP: I also think that’s why school teachers often do well on quiz shows.

SH: Yes.

DP: They’re confronted by a hostile crowd every day!

SH: You bet! So, when you got onto your first episode, where did it fall in the record day? Was it the first show, the second show…?

DP: When I went down on my first record day, I was on the Tuesday show.

SH: So on your record day, you had the advantage of watching the Monday night show play out… and then you got picked for the Tuesday show. And so you powered through Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night… winning convincingly on every night? 

DP: Except on the second night, because on that one, there was a guy there who was smugness personified; a big moustache, one elbow on the desk just lightly leaning one hand on the buzzer… you know, ‘Mr Casual’. And he was also very good. And we’d both bought from the Gift Shop, because I had this attitude that people who don’t buy from the Gift Shop A) look stingy, and B) can trap themselves. Obviously, you want to be strategic, but I think there’s a psychological advantage you get from looking magnanimous or being risk-taking that frees you up a bit. And I just thought it was good for the viewers; I didn’t like watching people who didn’t buy. I decided that when the opportunity was available – without putting myself at too much risk – I would buy, and so I bought everything I could.

SH: That’s interesting. 

DP: The only time I didn’t buy was on the last night, when I was going for the big score. I just wanted to see how big a score I could get. And I missed out on a really great central Australian prize!

SH: That’s interesting. I was the opposite of you; I never bought anything.

DP: Oh, okay. 

SH: … Because I just really wanted to grind my lead into their faces! 

DP: (LAUGHTER) Oh well, each to their own! 

SH: But I wasn’t winning by staggering margins like you were. So I just played it extra cautious and Ed (the host) would often say “Come on! You’ve got to buy something!” and even the producer came down to the studio floor and said “Are you going to buy anything?”

DP: Right, right. Well, you’re not breaking any rules. There was a guy called David Bock who was brilliant – I think he was a chemical engineer – and he never bought anything and he won a few championships and Tony called him David “spider-in-the-pocket” Bock. So you’re Stephen “box-jellyfish-in-the-pocket” Hall! 

SH: Yes, that’s me…

DP: So anyway, in this second episode we both thought things from the Gift Shop and this guy had bought something when he was ahead of me. And then he’d stormed ahead of me in the second or third round and Tony’s saying “Oh, David – beware of Second Night Syndrome.” And we go all the way through and I miraculously catch up to him in the Fast Money and I end up 4 points ahead. And the final question is “The novel Go Tell It On The Mountain was written by James… who?” And we both just sat there… 

SH: Yes, I couldn’t tell you.

DP: … Because if I buzzed in and was wrong, (I’d lose 5 points and) he was going to win. And if he buzzed in and he was right (he’d win 5 points and) he was going to win. But neither of us knew the answer and I was $4 ahead… and so I won.

SH: Wow.

DP: And the answer was “(James) Baldwin”. 

SH: I wouldn’t have got that. Gee, that’s too close for comfort, isn’t it?

DP: And I thought “I have not had such a close game in all the months I’ve been playing this. It’s not going to get any harder.” I just thought “it’s mine, this is mine – I’ve won.” Winning that second game made me feel I’d won the whole lot.

SH: What a great way of framing it! That’s a really valuable thing for your mindset, going forward.

DP: Yeah. I found out later from Michelle (the contestant co-ordinator) that after the show, this guy was stomping up and down at the back of the studio audience saying “I shouldn’t have bought the dining suite! I shouldn’t have bought the dining suite!”

SH: No he shouldn’t. But for your sake, he should have!

DP: It’s the same thing with the show Beat The Chasers; half a second – one question – can make all the difference.


Next week, we continue through David’s amazing run on Sale, which culminated in that incredible score of 200 points, and that massive jackpot of cash and prizes worth $376,200! See you then!

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