Pittsburgh man pays off $40K in student loans by winning trivia game
When 27-year-old Beechview resident Dustin Gabler was a child, he watched a lot of game shows and frequently played Trivial Pursuit with his mother. Little did he know that those childhood experiences would pay off in the form of a run of wins in an online trivia game called Givling.
A 2014 University of Pittsburgh graduate with a double major in communications and English writing, Gabler didn’t expect to be able to pay off his student loans until 2025. He wondered whether getting on a trivia game show would help, although that felt like a reach.
“ ‘Jeopardy!’ always seemed impossible to get on, let alone win,” said Gabler.
Gabler, now a proposal writer for PricewaterhouseCoopers, kept digging and, through a Faceook ad in 2015, discovered Givling, a trivia game designed to help people pay off their student loan debt. Contestants compete as part of a team of three and are asked 45 true or false questions.
Each contestant is allowed up to two wrong answers. Team members with the highest score for the week win a third of the cash prize.
Givling’s questions range from knowledge of movies to the Latin scientific names for species of birds. According to Gabler, some examples include questions such as “True or false: Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg have never appeared in a movie together. Andy Warhol was born in New York City. Alexander Hamilton was the president of the United States.” All are false, by the way.
Gabler says he never studied. He prepared by playing more games.
“I started to pick up on some of the trends, and knowing how questions are asked and even just having an understanding of a better way to guess,” said Gabler. “You can get better at ‘Jeopardy!’ by learning to read the question more and looking for those context clues to help yourself out.
“Now I’m winning $40k at home in my pajamas,” said Gabler.
To date, Gabler has won six times with his winnings actually totaling more than $40,000. He has paid off his student loan debt in just over five years.
“It’s a huge relief,” he said. “It’s something that has been slowing people my age from being able to buy a house, get married, have kids, a lot of things,” said Gabler. “So, for me to get rid of it in five years … my wife and I are house hunting.”
Founder and CEO Lizbeth Pratt, a stockbroker, established Givling after reading that student loans can’t be dismissed in bankruptcy. She decided in her retirement to do something about the student loan crisis.
“After looking at that and deciding she wanted to do something philanthropic in retirement, she decided to harness the power of crowd funding and gamify it,” said Givling chief marketing officer Seth Beard. “She knew that trivia is really popular. Bars and restaurants have trivia nights and people really tend to like those types of games and it’s a skill-based game.“
She hired a professional trivia question writer. The prize money comes from corporate sponsors and ad revenue.
So far, over $4.25 million has been paid out, including the $40,000 won by Dustin Gabler.
“When a contestant reaches the 45-question limit, that’s what we call ‘running a gauntlet,’ ” said Beard. “Dustin is really good at running gauntlets.”
Beard says that if one of the 2020 presidential candidates promising to wipe out student loan debt is successful, Givling will pivot to helping people with mortgages, retirement accounts or medical bills. Gabler, for one is hoping that happens soon.
“I’m a big proponent of wanting to fix the educational system and even if I can’t benefit from the loan payoff or future educational funding, it would make me happy to know that even one person didn’t graduate with the debt I did,” he said.
Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected].