(More copy of “life, as seen by a poker player” posts into this blog)

Years ago I was considering doing an MBA.

Along with grades from undergraduate studies, recommendations and relevant work experience, the other thing that MBA programs consider for admission is the score on the Graduate Management Admissions Test, or GMAT. This is the equivalent of the MCAT for med school or LSAT for law school.

Image by PerfectoInsecto

Back when I did the test, the lowest acceptable GMAT score that I saw was 550. Most universities require 600, and the highest minimum score for admission was 650. I scored 720. Relative to the other test takers, I was in the 95th percentile for quantitative, 99th percentile for qualitative, and in the 99th percentile overall, implying that most of those that scored higher than me in the quantitative did poorer than I did in the qualitative. Scoring must have changed over the years, because if I look at scoring now the averages seem quite high relative to when I took the test. For example, INSEAD, which sought my application back then, now apparently claims an average score of 705, or almost my score, so unless the scoring has shifted, that doesn’t make much sense. Or maybe they’ve never accepted anyone who didn’t score in the 90th percentile.

Years later I discovered later that I scored high enough on the GMAT to gain admission to MENSA, but after investigating the organization I decided that joining a group where people seemed to sit around doing word jumble puzzles didn’t seem my style.

Anyway, at various points I’ve considered offering tutoring for people planning to take the GMAT exam because I did well and because I think that I used a good approach to preparing for the exam. As I remember the test, essentially the GMAT tested two things; high school level math skills, and reading and comprehension skills. And it tests for speed on both. You do do half hour sections, and you cannot go back to previous sections once you’ve finished a section. There are 7 half hour sections to write, over a four hour period. Endurance, speed, accuracy.

My exam preparation involved buying two books with tests from previous years and doing one 1/2 hour test at a time at first, later building up and doing longer test sessions. After each session I would score my results. And the crucial aspect, I would then categorize my mistakes into 1) carelessness, either misreading the question or misreading the answer options, 2) speed errors; ran out of time to do the question properly, 3) unable to answer given the restraints. The last ones were ones that I for whatever reason I couldn’t get my head around, or would have taken me too much time to work out properly. Those ones all I could to was to learn to recognize them before I used up too much time and mark them to come back and finish, if I had extra time.

As I took more practice tests, I focused on eliminating the careless errors, with some background awareness of the speed errors/constraint. Over time I got both of those down to a minimum, and then even found myself with time available before the 1/2 hour ran out for dealing with the difficult ones.

With that kind of preparation for the exam material and the structure I didn’t feel pressured and did fairly well.



Two things come out of this for me with regards to poker:

  1. I should be fast and accurate with math skills.
  2. I can draw from my preparation for the exam to improve my poker play by using similar analysis of results

Unfortunately, 1. does not seem to be the case anymore. Since the advent of computers, I never add, multiply, subtract or divide anything in my head anymore. (And no, calculators and computers are not allowed when taking the GMAT exam). My math skills have gone down the tube and I don’t seem to be interested in redeveloping them. When faced with pot odds calculations, I tend to do eyeball estimates if it’s at all complicated, rather than make any effort to work out the correct ratios.

The second I apply sometimes, more when I was first starting out. But we can probably all spend more time reviewing our hand histories than we do. In the heat of the moment for example, I often tend to put players on a narrower range of hands than I should, seeing what hands I’m behind and missing the ones that I’m ahead of that might also explain his move. In the other direction, when I started out I often missed seeing straight draws that filled on the turn or river, though that ability tends to come with time and especially if you play Omaha.