My EXCLUSIVE interview with big-winning, record-setting game show LEGEND David Poltorak – Part 10

“No explanation necessary.” (Photo: supplied.)

After hearing about all the excitement of David’s incredible win ($132,200 in prizes and a cool $244,000 in cash – in 1986!), my next question was an obvious one…


SH: What did you do with your winnings? I can tell you about my experience, and what I got wrong… (It’s actually point #6, right HERE.) How about you?

DP: Well, I gave my long-term girlfriend (who I’d had throughout my 20s) about $5,000. And she bought a secondhand car. She was the only person I gave cash to. My mother was living quite comfortably with her second husband. And I think I gave her some leather goods. I gave my father a telescope.

SH: I got a telescope. Love telescopes!

DP: I wouldn’t have known how to have a discussion with anybody in my family about what would be appropriate to give them, to make them feel good; I wouldn’t have known where to start. You know, I remember my mother saying, “Look I’m just very happy that you’ve won and that this all worked.” She was sort of an unemotional person. But she was also very rational. And she didn’t want anything. I gave her a briefcase and some luggage, and she was very grateful for that. She was just happy to have the story, as much as anything.

My father subsequently moved to Tasmania with his second wife, but she died shortly after they moved there. And at the wake at my father’s house after her funeral, he was showing everyone the magazine cover from Express.

(This one).

SH: “My son! I’m proud of him”?

DP: I’m watching this and thinking ‘this just doesn’t compute’. A friend of mine put me onto an accountant, and he put me on to a stockbroker – a very sensible guy – and I basically left it up to him to decide where to put my money. I ended up buying a lot of debentures, and put money into the stock market, which was the start of my portfolio. I bought a unit in Woollahra the next year. I went on the trip I won, with my girlfriend at the time. That was the first-class trip to India. But we went business-class, so we could go on to England afterwards. We broke up in England, and I went on to Europe and I came home three months later. So, I was very sensible with the money. I wasn’t working, I was just living off interest; interest rates were really high. So, the term deposits were basically funding my living.

“My cash jackpot cheque, back when $244,000 was worth something!” (Photo: supplied.)

SH: You’re in your early 30s at this stage?

DP: Yeah.

SH: Not long after this, you went back to Sale the Century for your first ‘Champion of Champions’ tournament. How soon after your big win was that?

DP: I think it was fairly early; maybe early ‘87. And I shouldn’t have done it. Because I just wasn’t in the frame of mind. I didn’t study enough, and I just didn’t enjoy it.

Australian team at the 1987 ‘Worlds’: L – R Cary Young, me, co-host Alyce Platt, Geoff Saunders, host Tony Barber, David Bock, Virginia Noel.

SH: Why’s that?

DP: The ‘fame’ aspect of being on the show… I was very ambivalent about. I liked some aspects of it, but I often felt very uncomfortable. I’d lose my bearings with people, in terms of not knowing whether people knew me because they knew me or knew me because they’d seen me on TV. And I found that a really creepy phenomenon. I was surprised by how many people knew me from TV.

SH: Yeah, it was a big-rating show.

DP: A big-rating show. And it was like anywhere I went; someone was bound to talk about it. And if they didn’t talk about it, I didn’t know whether they were just not mentioning it to be polite. So, I thought ‘Wow, I can see the value in anonymity’… But it was nice when people would come up and say, “Hey, I saw you on TV!” It was great. I mean, that was terrific. But often people would say hi, and sometimes afterwards I’d find out it was someone I actually knew! (And I was thinking, that they’d just seen me on TV…) I was offending people left, right and centre!

But I still thought of myself not as a ‘quiz person’; I still had ambitions as a writer and I didn’t want to become just totally associated with quizzes.


And yet, David’s subsequent career would prove to have a significantly quiz-centric vibe, starting with several appearances on various Sale of the Century ‘Champion of Champions’ tournaments. This is where he’d be going up against the best of the best, and next week, we chat about all the highs – and lows – of that level of intense competition.

Until then, then!  

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