Dealing from a Position of Weakness 

When you’re losing… 

… you downsize your position. 

Why? 

To save your corpus. 

You lower the risk. 

Is risk quantifiable? 

You bet. 

Risk is no abstract entity without a body. 

In a trade, your risk is defined by your stop to stack-size ratio and the size of your one position. 

When you’re losing, you either lower the magnitude of your stop, or lower the quantity of your one position. 

Till when?

Till your corpus crosses par and then some. 

At par, you trade normal. 

Normal stop. 

Normal quantity. 

What is normal? 

Depends on you. 

What is normal for you? 

That’s what goes. 

Why the caution when below par? 

Lots works against you at this time. 

Sheer math for example. Downsizing sets this right. 

Emotions. 

Whoever’s got a remedy for those is king already. 

You. 

Your body-chemistry is affected. You’re sluggish. More prone to error. Nobody’s got a remedy for you, except you. Wait for your body to heal before trying out that perfect cover-drive, or what have you. 

Winning or losing in the markets depends a lot upon psychology, chronology, systems, strategy, application and adaptation of style. 

I like to call this “getting one’s meta-game together”. 

Let’s go people. 

Let’s get our meta-games together. 

Then we can scale it up. 

🙂 

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Can I Really Really Really Do Without Fundamentals?

I like to trade without a bias. 

Lack of bias means freedom… 

… freedom to think independently…

… not falling prey to another person’s opinion…

… which then allows you to listen to your system…

… trade identification…

…setup demarcation…

…trigger-entry…

…trade triggered…

…trade management…

… trigger-exit…

… exited.

That’s it, move on to the next trade. 

News gives me a bias. 

No news. 

You know what else gives me a bias?

Fundamentals. 

I don’t wish to look at fundamentals. 

If my eyes are seeing a setup in the EuroDollar, I would like to take it without the nagging thought of “what will happen if Scotland says NO or YES”.

I don’t want to care about inflation numbers, or job figures, or industrial output or what have you. 

I mean…can I just …do it?

Meaning, can I just do away with fundamentals, and focus on technicals only, which is my area of specialization?

Sometimes, I get a little unsure. 

I start looking around. 

How are others doing it? The experts, that is. 

My uncertainty gets fanned a little more, when I see experts not really ignoring fundamentals, even though they might be specialized in technicals. Hmmmm. I’m still not happy looking into fundamentals. I mean, why should I take time-out from my strong suit, and devote it to my very weak suit?

No, I decide. I’m really not going to look at fundamentals. 

What’s the worst that could happen?

Let me just see if the worst that could happen is bearable.

Ok…I ID a trade…demarcate a setup…and the trade goes against me because of the announcement of some number in the afternoon. People looking at fundamentals would have waited for the announcement of the number and then traded. Fine. 

In the world of trading, it is always good to have the worst-case scenario unwrapped and right before your eyes to see what it really means. 

You know, I can take this. 

Would you like to know why?

Firstly, I would like you to understand that we are looking at large sample-sizes here. Any sensible reasoning would only apply to large sample-sizes. 

Over the long run, and over many, many trades, Mrs.Market will go either way after an announcement of a fundamental number with a chance of roughly 50:50. 

If this is true, it is very good news for me, good enough to just kick fundamentals out of the equation. 

At times, the market reacts as per the crowd’s anticipation. 

At other times, it reacts in the opposite fashion. 

I assume that the ratio of the above two directions taken by Mrs. Market over a very large sample-size would be 50:50.

I think my assumption is correct. I don’t want to go through the labour of proving it mathematically. 

Ok, let’s assume that my assumption is correct. I then kick fundamentals, and go about my work while relying on my strong-suit, i.e. technicals. This trajectory will very probably have a happy ending. 

Now let’s assume that my assumption is wrong. 

What saves my day?

Technicals. 

Technicals very often give setups that factor in crowd behaviour and crowd anticipation of market direction. 

Technical setups get one into the build-up to an announcement. 

More often than not, one is already in the trade, in the correct direction, enjoying the build-up to an announcement without even knowing that the announcement is coming, if one is not following fundamentals. 

Technicals can actually do this for you. I’ve seen them do it. I mean, the GBPUSD has been giving short setups during the entire 1000 pip run-down recently. To have availed such a setup, people haven’t needed to know that a referendum is coming. All they’ve needed to do is to take the trade once they see the setup. 

Actually, that’s it. I don’t need more.  

I don’t need to reason anymore with myself. Everything is here. 

I think I can let go of fundamentals safely.

Even this trajectory should have a happy ending.

Why work for less than 1:1?

It’s a funny world.

In this funny world, many people work for less than 1:1.

Many of these people don’t have a choice. Their circumstances are such.

Some do, and they still choose losing odds.

What are we talking about?

The reward : risk ratio.

In the marketplace, our risk needs to be defined by default.

If we’re not thinking about defining our risk pinpointedly before entering the marketplace, let’s just pack our bags and study music instead, or biochemistry, if you please, with no disrespect to either music or biochemistry.

Define your risk! Set a stop!

Nobody plays to lose, right?

Once the risk is understood, one starts looking at reward.

Reward potential must be at least equal to or greater than the defined risk. This statement, coupled with a large sample size and more than 50 trades moving your way out of every 100 is already a winning combination.

Anyone can pick 50:50. All you need is a coin-flip.

60:40 is definitely achievable with research.

You don’t need more to win big.

Now make the 1:1 work for you. In 40 out of  100 trades, you’re stopped out at – 1 (minus being for trade going against you, and 1 being your defined unit of risk). I know it’s difficult to do, but take the next trade with a smile. When a trade starts to run, don’t cut your profit at the  +1 level. Let your profit run.

At +1, lift your stop to 0. At +2 lift your stop to +1. So on, so forth.

Don’t exit manually.

Let the market throw you and your profit out.

That’s called a proper exit.

I had promised that I would be speaking about proper exits.

Well, there you have it.

Cheers!

How Does One Position-Size?

What is the singular most lucrative aspect of trading?

Any ideas?

Want a hint?

Ok, here’s the hint. It is also the safest aspect of trading.

Give up?

Here’s the answer. It’s called position-sizing. (The pioneer of position-sizing is Dr. Van K. Tharp, @ www.iitm.com, and I have learnt this concept through him).

Surprised? I would be surprised if you weren’t surprised.

Yeah, trade selection is important too, but other things are more important while trading.

For example, trade management is more important than trade selection. So is exit. Entry might be paramount to an investor, but to the trader, entry is run of the mill. It happens day in, day out. The trader … just enters a selected trade. There’s no deep thinking involved. The trader knows this. Crux issues are to follow. The trader is saving his or her energies for the crux issues.

So far, we’ve spoken about the chronology of a trade, i.e. entry – management – exit.

Before entry, you decide how much you want to trade with, and how much you want to risk. That’s the size of your position, or your position-size. Remember, for the concept of position-sizing to make any sense, your stop-loss percentage must remain constant from trade to trade. Only your traded value goes up or down.

What does the level of your traded value depend upon?

It depends upon HOW WELL YOU ARE DOING.

If you’re on a roll, your traded value for the next trade goes up. The increment is proportional to the profits you are sitting on. Since the stop is a constant percentage, the amount risked is also higher. Return is proportional to the amount at risk, and the long-term net return of such a trade will also be higher. All this means, that the more you make, the more you set yourself up to make even more…!

Take a coin. Flip it millions of times. There will be a stretch, where you’ll flip tails 5 times in a row, or six times in a row, or maybe even ten times in a row. The 50:50 trade called “coin flip” can well result in a series of back to back losses. You are an experienced trader. Your trade selection ratio could be 60 winning trades to 40 losing trades, or perhaps a little better, let’s say 65:35. Even a trade selection ratio of 65:35 will result in back to back losses. As a trader, you need to take large drawdowns in your stride, as long as you are confident, that in the long run,  your system is working. What’s working in your favour during the large drawdown?

Your position-size is.

You see, as trade after trade goes against you, and your losses pile up, your position-size KEEPS GOING DOWN. Your stop percentage remains constant. This means, that the more you lose, the more you set yourself up to lose lesser and lesser, trade after trade. Yeah, position-sizing gives you the safety of losing less. Nevertheless, because of this safety assurance from your position-sizing strategy, you keep yourself in the market by just taking the next trade without too much deep thinking (and with no melancholy whatsoever), because your next trade could be the one decent trade that you are looking for. Yeah, your very next trade could cover all losses and then some. TAKE IT.

Now, two things can happen.

Firstly, if you keep losing, and hit your loss cut-off level for the month, well, then, you just stop trading for the rest of your month. You then spend the rest of the month reviewing your losses and your system. You tweak at whatever needs tweaking, and come back fresh and rested the following month. Position-sizing kept you in the market, ready to take the next opportunity to earn big. The auto-cut takes you out of the market for a while. That’s why, in my opinion, while position-size is still activated, it provides more safety, because it keeps you in the market to recover everything and then some, starting with your VERY NEXT trade. Having said that, auto-cut is auto-cut. It overrides position-sizing.

The second thing that can happen is that your losing streak ends before your month’s cut-off is reached. Yayyy, position-sizing is still activated! You’ve lost lesser and lesser on each losing trade as long as you were in the losing streak, and now that you are winning again, each win sets you up to win more in the trade that follows.

After many, many trades, just cast a glance at your trading corpus. It will boggle your mind!

Your position-sizing strategy has kept raising your corpus, because your system is 60:40+, and you win more than you lose. Ultimately, your corpus has become substantial. Its size exceeds your expectations BY FAR.

All thanks to position-sizing.

The Cat that Survives Curiosity

So, what are the Joneses upto?

Or the Smiths?

Naths?

You know something, who cares?

You’re trading, right?

Fine, then just mind your own business, and focus on your return.

I mean, people, let’s just go beyond poking our noses into others’ businesses.

Don’t we have our own businesses to take care of?

Isn’t that enough for us?

If not, and if we start poking around, seeing what kind of return XYZ has made, or for that matter how many winning trades ABC has pulled off, well, we are doing ourselves a great disservice.

For starters, we don’t seem to have much confidence in our own trading system, if we’re poking around like that.

You should be pulling off the winning trades, you.

And XYZ’s or ABC’s performances should have no meaning for you.

They are trading according to their system. Let them be. What’s good for them is not necessarily good for you.

You are trading according to your system. Period.

Not minding your own business can seriously affect even a successful system which has temporarily hit a string of losing trades.

Random losses in a row happen. A winning system can well yield ten losses in a row, for example. Improbable, but not impossible.

Ask a coin, which functons at 50:50. On average, you’re flipping heads and tails equally. Nevertheless, you could land heads (or tails) ten times in a row over many, many coin-flips. Part of the game. Accept it.

Since you have a system, you’re functioning well beyond 50:50, right?

Thus, chances of a large number of losses in a row are even lesser for you.

Tweak at your system if you feel it’s lost its market-edge.

To remind you, an edge starts occurring when one functions beyond 50:50.

After a while, one gets bored, and tells oneself, that from now on, one wants to function at 55:45 and beyond (for example), come what may.

One then tweaks at one’s system, and raises the bar.

Tweak at your system if you feel the urgent need to raise the bar.

Keep raising the bar to your comfort level.

Leave other people alone. Don’t bother with their systems. Focus on your own trading.

Be the cat that survives curiosity.

Moving on to a Higher Table

You’ve started to rake in regular profits on your poker table, or, if you will, on your regular trade-size.

Common-sense now tells you, that you need to scale it up a bit. After all, you’d still be risking the same percentage of your stack-size per trade. Simultaneously, if your win-ratio remains constant, you’d be allowing your stack to grow at a faster pace.

You move on to a higher table.

Welcome to the concept of position-sizing.

Those who position-size can evolve into huge winners in minimum time. Even though the idea of position-sizing is so central to trading, it is still one of the most under-discussed of topics. We need to thank Dr. Van Tharp for teaching this concept properly.

Think about it. When you win, your principal increases. On the next trade, you then put the same principal percentage at risk like you’ve always done. Because your new principal was more, it allowed you to buy more. Thus, you put yourself on the line to win more.

What’s essential here is also to down-size your position when you are losing. Taken a few bad beats in a row? Move down to a lower table for a bit, man. Allow your stack to recuperate at this lower level and then some before moving back higher. With that, when you’re losing, you start to risk less. Crucial point.

Of the different methods available to you to position-size, here, we speak about increasing trade-size when a new trade starts.

The advantage you enjoy when you’re doing pure equity is that on each new trade, your position-size can pinpointedly be adjusted according to your stack-size. Scale-up, scale down, trade upon trade, as the situation demands. Beautiful.

Why does this work out so beautifully for you?

You see, your system gives you an edge. You are opening your positions on high-percentage winners only. Period. Simultaneously, you are cutting your losses at your pre-defined maximum. You are also allowing your winners to win more. And, you are taking your stops. Even if your system then gives you a 55:45 edge over Mrs. Market, you’re doing great. Over a large sample-size (many, many trades, or for that matter many, many poker hands), your stack will increase with a high level of probability. As it goes on increasing, you keep turning on the heat by increasing your position-size further and further.

What happens then? What do you see?

Something beautiful happens.

Your trading principal (what we’ve been calling stack-size all the time) starts to increase exponentially. Have you seen the progress of an exponential function as one travels from zero to the right on the x-axis (the x-axis here would stand for sample-size or the number of trades taken)? If not, check it out on the net.

A good system should give you a 60:40 market-edge. In the Zone, you’d probably trade at 70:30 or beyond. That’s 70 winning trades out of every 100 taken, and 30 losing ones. Imagine what that does to your trading principal over 1000 trades, if you adhere to position-sizing, let your winners ride and take your stop-losses.

The numbers will boggle your mind.

Go for it.

Burn-Out Notice

Information overload.

Short circuit in the brain.

Black-out.

You want to move your left hand, but the right one reacts.

Your body needs re-wiring, and rest.

This set of circumstances comes with the territory of trading. Often.

Imagine plugging into the complex matrix of erratic market play. That’s what happens when your trade gets triggered. Your poor nervous-system then deals with a lot of load, which doesn’t recede till well after the trade. Joy at profits, sorrow at losses, life is one big emotional pendulum. And this is just one trade. A sluggish trader might take one trade a week. The over-active one could trade many times in a single day.

What are we dealing with here?

Basically, the writing on the wall is quite clear. If you’re not able to regularly offset the damage to your system due to trading, you’re looking at early burn-out. As in, very early burn-out.

Your method of recuperation needs to bring your system back to its base-line, and then some. Your recuperation savings account needs to be in the black, as much as possible. That’ll ensure longevity in the trading arena.

What happens if you are drained, and the next trading opportunity comes? For me, the answer is crystal clear. Don’t take the trade. Rest. Recuperate. You would have played it wrong anyway. You were drained even before the trade, remember?

Sometimes, periods of recuperation can be long. At these times you need to stop comparing yourselves to other traders who find unlimited energy to keep trading, from God knows where. You are you. They are they. Who gave you the right to compare? Why are you judging others playing to a different plan with different energy and time-set parameters. If you really want to judge, then judge yourself. That’s it.

So, if a prolonged recuperative time-frame announces itself, respect it.

Your system will last longer in the game.

Trading is about sticking to the ground-rules, and then lasting. Your market-edge plays out only over a large number of trades taken over a long time-frame. Over the long run, your market-edge makes you show winning numbers, because the sample-size is big enough, and the time-frame under consideration is sufficient for many big-hitter trades to occur. Your big-hitter trades give a tremendous impetus to your numbers.

Even the best of edges can show a loss over a small sample-size (i.e. number of total trades taken in one’s trading career). It’s statistically very possible to suffer ten losses in a row, for example. You can call a coin-flip wrong ten times in a row. Possible. And that’s a 50:50 shot per flip. Your market-edge gives you a 60:40 shot, or maybe even a 70:30 shot. Still not good enough to not suffer a losing streak.

Winning streaks occur with time, and with supportive sample-sizes. Because of your edge, the winning streaks outnumber the losing streaks.

In the world of trading, if you want to win, you need to last.