Fantasy Football Fortunes, a Superstorm, and Business School Update

[insert cliche blogger excuse and apology for not having updated site in a while here].

Daily Fantasy Football

I went on an unbelievable heater at DraftDay last weekend scooping a huge jackpot in their ‘Hail Mary’ game and scoring victories in a handful of other big-guarantee games as well.

The Hail Mary game splits the prize pool among all players whose lineups score 200 points or more. The jackpot hadn’t been hit in the week or two prior, so the prizepool from those games carried over to last weekend.

When Matt Schaub hooked up with Andre Johnson for a 48 yard screen pass touchdown in overtime, not only did Schaub go over 500 yards passing on the day, but my lineup came within striking distance of crossing the coveted 200 point threshold. In the afternoon games, Marcel Reece and Rob Gronkowski both put up strong performances to put my lineup over the hump.

Going into Monday Night Football, I was the only person qualified to win the $8,000 jackpot. However, just 1.6 points behind me loomed ‘MoneyMace’ who still had Bears kicker Robbie Gould remaining on his roster. Additionally, about 36 points short of 200 was ‘hawk13jh’ who still had Vernon Davis and Matt Forte on his roster. So I considered it extremely improbable that I would get to keep the jackpot all to myself and was going to be happy if it were to be split between just ‘MoneyMace’ and myself.

Then, the improbable happened. Gould’s services were required for just a single extra point leaving MoneyMace on the bubble of a $4,000 score. And although Vernon Davis had a strong game (20.30 fantasy points), Matt Forte was rendered ineffective by the 49ers defense which kept hawk13jh on the other side of the jackpot threshold as well.

The last few minutes of this game were one of the most intense sports-viewing experiences of my life. At any point, Matt Forte could have caught a long screen pass for a touchdown to get hawk13jh to 200 and the subsequent Gould extra point would have gotten MoneyMace there too. A single play could have snatched $5,333 out of my hands, but it never happened!

I woke up the next morning and checked my DraftDay balance first thing to make sure the occurrings of the previous night hadn’t been a dream. I won more from a single weekend of daily fantasy football than I have in any poker session since the 2011 World Series of Poker. When I started playing daily fantasy sports, I never imagined that to be possible.

If you haven’t tried out daily fantasy sports yet, I recommend it, especially for the poker playing types who find themselves without their favorite hobby since Black Friday. Go here to play me in a free NFL fantasy game at DraftDay where the winner gets $5 to seed what might eventually become your own sick daily fantsy football score.

Bonus: In one of the contests I won over the weekend, a free NFL jersey of the winner’s choice was among the prizes. I’m giving this jersey away. Beat me in this $1 fantasy football contest for this weekend’s NFL games and you’ll be entered into a random drawing to win rights to the jersey.

Hurricane Sandy

So my girlfriend’s family’s house on Long Island endured some pretty serious damage from Hurricane Sandy. They’ve been lucky not to have things as bad as some families from the New York area. But there world was still turned on its head by the storm.

In the lower level of their house was about a foot of water during the peak of the storm. They’ve since had to tear up the carpet and knock out the walls due to the water damage. They lost a bunch of furniture and appliances that they were unable to move to higher ground before the hurricane made landfall. Additionally, one of their vehicles was ruined in an electrical fire during the storm.

I was out of New York and was supposed to fly there a couple of days following the hurricane but had to push my trip back since the region was basically in disarray. Then, on the date I rescheduled my flight to, they were hit with a pretty bad snowstorm which forced me to push back the trip even further. I’ve been out here for a week now and while the area has made huge strides towards piecing itself back together, there is still evidence everywhere of the natural disaster.

For example, it’s not uncommon to see huge piles of trash that once constituted parts of a home, like these from my around girlfriend’s neighborhood, strewn about on the street waiting for garbage collection.

Business School

The storm took me out of the rhythm I was in for applying to business schools such that I’m probably going to miss the Round 1 cutoff date for NYU Stern. I could rush an application in before the deadline but I feel like it makes more sense to take the time I need to submit the best application and essays I am capable of even if it means missing the first application cutoff date.

Applying to business schools has been more work than I anticipated. I have plenty of incentive, desire and motivation to enroll in a great MBA program but it’s another challenge altogether to package this energy into concise application essays that will influence an admissions office to grant you entry into their program. Perhaps it is this struggle to convey my background and ambitions in written essay form that has sidelined what focus I may have otherwise had for updating this space, but it’s on my mind that improving at organizing some thoughts here with more regularity can be a good thing.

Thanksgiving Link Dump

Finally, Happy Thanksgiving! I’ll close with a few links to content I have enjoyed or at least found interesting lately:

Shawn Achor on Gratitude – In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here’s one of my favorite Ted Talks, Shawn Achor on how practicing gratitude daily can make us happier people.

Joe Rogan Experience Podcast with Tim Ferris – The brain is a muscle and Tim Ferris appears to have exercised his to impressive strength. As is probably true of about anyone in marketing, I’m sure he’s full of shit about some stuff, but Ferris deserves credit for being an interesting person to listen to. In this Podcast, he speaks with Rogan about the future of technology and how globalist food corporations could (and should) die off in favor of locally produced food.

|Dark Matters| Tumblr – I’m the worst about finding for myself good music to listen to, so I tend to rely pretty heavily on others who are cooler than I am and thus better at stuff like that. One such friend recently started posting good music he finds on Tumblr and I’ve been digging it so far. Thanks for keeping me in supply of good tunes, Sam!

Tweets I Favorite – I’m pretty dedicated to my Twitter addiction and a while ago started getting really liberal about “favoriting” tweets. Favoriting is like the bastard step-child of retweeting. It’s a way of logging a tweet as having been distinctly appreciated. Retweeting also accomplishes this but I find several tweets on a daily basis that I thoroughly enjoy but not enough to impose upon my followers by spamming their timelines. That’s when favoriting comes in handy. With that said, anyone out there who respects my Twitter game might enjoy my favorites page as a decent source for entertainment and finding new accounts to follow.

The Blogger Outreach Equation – This is a must-read for anyone involved in or interested in Internet marketing. Kelsey Libert hits a homerun explaining how you can use social media to gain visibility and create value. The tips in this article can be helpful for anyone running their own business, trying to land their dream job, or trying to break into the Internet publishing world.

Business School, DraftDay, New York, Photo Blog

Five Things I Learned Applying to Columbia Business School

I just submitted my early decision application to Columbia Business School. Since Columbia was the first b-school I’ve applied to, it was a big learning experience. Whether or not I get admitted, I found the whole application process to be rewarding. Here are five things I learned along the way:

1. MBA students are really nice. At least at Columbia they are. I had the chance to speak with several Columbia students and I was blown away by how helpful they were. Going into this process, I had kind of pictured MBA students to be like mini-Gordon Gekko’s: power-hungry, suit-wearing fiends whose path you had better not disturb. That wasn’t the case at all. In fact, the total opposite was true. Every student I had the chance to encounter was warm, helpful, and extremely generous with their time despite the rigorous scheduling demands of an MBA program. I have to say, it really restored my faith in humanity.

mr_gordon_gekko

MBA students are not like this guy

2. Visiting the school you’re applying to is highly valuable. I cannot emphasize this enough, especially for people applying to a program that is their top choice, you must visit the school while working on your application package. Schedule meetings with current students (if the school you’re applying to isn’t as awesome as Columbia in that they don’t have a contact a student interface, then find some on LinkedIn), ask them questions to gain a better understanding of their experience and why they chose the school you’re interested in, sit in on some classes, attend some informational sessions held by the admissions office, pay a visit to the admissions office to ask them questions you have which are not addressed on the school’s website. Doing these things will make the process of applying infinitely easier and also help to demonstrate to the school that you are serious about wanting to be there.

3. Man… you really gotta sell yourself! I tend to think I’m a pretty humble guy. I mean, I’ve done some cool things in my life but I’m not really one to go around gloating about it (despite the somewhat self-promotional nature inherent to having your own blog!) That’s why when I had to really get serious about filling out a business school application, I found it really challenging! You’re competing with thousands of other people all of whom have some really cool backgrounds and experiences. And you’d better believe that they’re all putting a positive spin on the work experience and achievements they’ve made. It’s not the time for modesty. You’ve got to be a little self-indulgent in giving the admissions committee a reason why they should admit you even if it makes you a little nauseated to focus on why you’re so great.

4. Application essays are brutal. Speaking of selling yourself to an adcom, you are awarded a fairly narrow window for how to go about doing that. In the case of Columbia (and this is fairly standard for other schools), there are three application essays with an optional fourth essay you can use to address any weaknesses in your application. Three of these have a 500 word limit while one has a limit of just 250 words. If that seems like a lot, believe me, it’s not.

You know why they should admit you. You’re awesome, right? But good luck packaging that awesomeness into three or four very concise essay responses; it’s the best chance you get to sell yourself to adcom before they set your application aside and move on to the next one. No pressure or anything! I felt like a political speechwriter trying to optimally craft every last word and phrase to my advantage. It was an arduous process. My advice: get started early.

5. Good contacts are priceless. It’s tough to make your way through this world on your own. As Tim Ferriss says, “you are the average of the five people you associate with most.” When applying to business school, it’s crucially important to have valuable contacts in your back pocket. I was lucky to have some great business associates to write recommendations and friends who are Columbia MBA grads to help guide me through the process. I was also extremely lucky to have a very patient girlfriend who helped me refine my essays and tolerated my neurosis as I combed over the impact every last word would have on the impression I made on adcom. I can’t imagine trying to submit a worthy application without the help of these folks. I owe them big-time when I catapult my way to Gordon Gekko riches via an MBA degree. ;)

Business School

Studying for GMAT Tips and Preparation

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately focusing on getting into business school, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to start passing along some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

The first step towards being admitted to an MBA program is to take the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT). Business schools use this test to evaluate if candidates can handle the academic rigor of an MBA program. Here is a lean-guide (read: need-to-know info only) about how to prepare for the GMAT:

Understanding the GMAT

Here are some very brief facts to help you understand the GMAT.

The test is broken down into four sections:

Only the Verbal (41 questions) and Quantitative (37 questions) sections are used to compile your composite score that will range between 200 and 800 in ten-point increments. For that reason, those are by far the two most important sections. I spent very little time preparing for the other two sections since I ascertained that I could score well-enough on them to appease any business school I wanted to get into without needing to spend any time worrying about them.

The GMAT is a computer adaptive test. That means that the computer starts feeding you questions of higher difficulty as you answer questions correctly. Contrary to popular opinion, this does not make the first few questions of each section more important. Some people simply refuse to believe this is not the case. Let them live in their fantasy worlds and prepare for the GMAT incorrectly, but it’s a myth that the earlier questions are worth more.

The average score on the GMAT is about a 550. The average score for students admitted to the top-ranked program at Harvard is about a 720. I scored a 710 which was a nice improvement on my first cold practice exam score of 650 (though not as good as a subsequent practice exam score of 730; there’s a fair amount of variance to be expected with your final score).

Formulating Your GMAT Study Strategy

There is an entire industry dedicated to helping people prepare for the GMAT. When I was first beginning to take seriously the idea of taking the test, I was overwhelmed with where to begin. Here is what I recommend:

First, go to the GMAT website and download their Free Test Prep Software. This software includes two full-practice exams as well as a bunch of practice questions and other stuff you probably don’t really need.

Next, take just a small handful of practice questions from each of the five different question types: Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning and Sentence Correction (Verbal) and Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency (Quant). The goal here is simply to familiarize yourself with the format of the questions you’ll be seeing before the next step which is…

Take a full practice test.

It’s important to give yourself a baseline measurement for how you would perform on the test before you start studying. It takes about 3.5 hours to complete the GMAT. Free up some time and do it; it’s not as pain-staking as it sounds.

You get 30 minutes to do an AWA essay, 30 minutes to do the Integrated Reasoning section, an optional break of up to 8 minutes (use it), 75 minutes to do the Quant section, another optional break of up to 8 minutes (again, use it), and 75 minutes to do the Verbal section.

Simulate the testing environment as accurately as possible by blocking out distractions and preparing for the test just like you would the real-thing.
Don’t worry too much about how you do on the Essay and Integrated Reasoning sections. Take them anyway to familiarize yourself with them in preparation of the actual exam, but what you should be most concerned with is your Verbal and Quant composite scores. These scores will help you formulate your study strategy.

In my cold practice exam I scored in the 90th percentile on Verbal and in the 53rd percentile on Quant. So my strategy thus became to spend all of my study time trying to improve on the Quant. I banked on the fact that I was already proficient enough with the Verbal section that it wouldn’t really be a wise use of my time to study for it.

Buy the official test-prep book and work the questions. There are a ton of GMAT prep guides out there but this is the only one created by the creators of the test. It contains hundreds of practice questions so you can spend a few hours each week for a few months and still not run out of fresh questions.

Do the following things as you study problems from the book:

I recommend taking one full practice exam each month during your studying period. This will help you gauge the progress you are making as well as keep your mind trained for test mode (there’s a big difference between taking your time answering problems from a book and doing timed problems on a computer).

Almost every GMAT question has a forum thread dedicated to it somewhere where nerds like me spend time analyzing the solution. If there’s a question that is really giving you fits, Google the language from the question to find a discussion which will help you better understand the answer explanation.

Preparing for G-Day

G-Day is the ultra dorky term for the day you actually are to take the GMAT. Here is how to prepare:

1. Register at least two weeks in advance. Spots fill up fast at testing centers so don’t assume you can get your preferred date and time at the last minute. Also worth noting: it costs $250 to register for the GMAT.

2. Review notes in the final week. Spend the week leading up to the test focusing on the problems and concepts that have presented you with the most difficulty along the way. The goal is to feel extra comfortable with concepts that only weeks ago brought you to your knees.

3. Familiarize yourself with what to expect at the testing center. One of the many great resources on the GMAT website is info on what to expect on the day of the test. Read this so you don’t spend brain power on test day getting sidetracked with unexpected info and demands.

4. Stay comfortable and refreshed. Wear the clothes you feel most comfortable and confident in to the testing center. Eat a nutritious (but not glutinous) meal a few hours before the test and bring some snacks and water to the testing center to consume during breaks. Just relax and enjoy the process. There’s no reason to be anxious or nervous. As soon as the questions start popping up on the screen your brain is going to remember what it’s doing and you’re going to be fine.

5. Keep track of time. It’s very important not to run past your time limit in any of the sections. You should have a familiarity with the timing of each section from the practice exams. Here is a good rule of thumb: with 55-35-15 minutes remaining on the clock, you should have answered 10-20-30 questions in the Quant section and 11-22-33 questions in the Verbal section. If you’re behind pace, speed things up because it’s important not to leave any questions blank.

You’ll receive your composite score for the Quant and Verbal sections immediately upon completion of the test. That’s a nice feature of computer adaptive testing: no agonizing wait for your score to be mailed to you (you do, however, have to wait a couple weeks to receive your Essay and Integrated Reasoning scores).

If you scored poorly on the GMAT, don’t sweat it! The beauty of the GMAT is that you can take it every 30 days and most business schools only take into consideration your highest score. The only penalty to retaking it is the $250 registration fee and the time you spend preparing for and taking the exam. Some people take the GMAT on a monthly basis like clockwork just to try to “bink” a score a couple standard deviations above their expected score range.

Have any questions or GMAT study tips of your own? Please share in the comments section below.

Business School

Leaving Mexico

I’ve done a poor job of focusing on getting an entry on this blog the past couple of months. It’s been hard to focus much on poker since the WSOP and since I feel like this blog’s identity is entrenched as that of a “poker blog” it’s been pretty easy to neglect maintaining it.

It’s going to become necessary for me to change somewhat the identity behind this blog (if I am to maintain it at all) because I’m not sure if poker is any longer a significant-enough part of my life for there to be anything I have to write about it. In two days, I’m leaving Mexico one year after deciding to spend some time here and have no plans to return.

After the WSOP, I remained in the U.S. for several weeks spending time with various family and friends. It was a great experience. While I’ve met quite a few bright and entertaining young online poker players here in Mexico and have made other non-poker friends, my time here overall has been quite lonely. I think the biggest lesson I’ll take away from being here is the importance of family and friends. Spending as much time as I have in this transient location has taught me a lot about the importance of being surrounded by people you love.

I reached a point during my travels in the U.S. where I realized that I probably wouldn’t have even come back to Playa del Carmen had it not been for my dog (he was being watched by a great dog whisperer type guy while I was traveling). I’m just not serious enough about online poker for it alone to substantiate my presence here. I think if I put my mind to it and became really dedicated about being a tremendously successful player, I probably could do it. But I think to reach that level it requires complete dedication and an absolute ton of work. It was a mistake on my part to think I could have any tangible success at online poker without being completely dedicated to it full-time which I’m just not willing to do. There are other things I want to focus on.

One such thing for me right now is applying to business school. A few months ago, I decided to study for and take the GMAT (the business school standardized entrance exam) as sort of a “feeler” just to see where it would take me. The results ended up being life changing to be quite honest about it. I scored much, much higher than would have realistically thought I could have prior to beginning my studies (see: Dunning-Kruger effect).

My performance on the GMAT has made the notion of gaining entrance to one of the top MBA programs not unrealistic. Currently, I am focusing on submitting an application to Columbia which I have concluded to be my top choice. It’s a super-competitive program to gain admittance to, but it would be life-changing to get the chance to study and make connections at such a world-class institution so I have to at least try.

My plan in any event is to relocate to New York with my girlfriend in the coming months. Before that materializes, I’ll be spending time at my parents’ home in Indiana to continue focusing on the Internet marketing projects I’m working on as well as finalizing business school applications. I’m looking forward to the chance to spend some quality time with them.

I expect to be traveling a reasonable amount when I’m not staying at my parents’. In ten days, I’ll be in New York for a couple weeks to visit Columbia and meet with some current students to help gain a better understanding about the program and what I can expect to accomplish in my time there if I am fortunate enough to be admitted.

It’s both an exciting and scary time for me right now but I’m trying my best to enjoy the process and the uncertainty. There’s a Tony Robbins quote I like that says, “The quality of your life is directly related to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with.”

By de facto, I suppose this move signals what is more or less the end of my semi-professional poker career. In a perfect world with more sane regulations in the U.S., I would still certainly enjoy playing from time to time. I love the challenge behind the analytical and math skills needed to survive at poker. And having the chance to make some money playing a game you enjoy is never bad either. But having the ability to access online poker games isn’t worth living outside of the U.S. to me right now. The U.S. clearly has its fair share of problems but ultimately it’s my home and there’s no other place in the world I’d rather be.

I feel like I’ll probably always enjoy playing poker as a serious hobby when I have the time to dedicate to it. I still hope to make it out to the WSOP each summer and will welcome the opportunity to fire up a few online tables once again when regulation comes to the U.S. But in all likelihood my best days in poker are behind me. There will be no appearing on PartyPoker TV or popping up at final tables in various corners of the world. It’s hard to turn away from an activity I’ve invested a lot of time in trying to get good at, but “that’s life”. It has a way of going on.

Business School, Future Plans, Mexico, Online Poker, Playa del Carmen, Poker Commentary, Poker Community, Poker Refugee, Poker Travels