When are you doing it Right?

There’s something called the Line.

You feel it.

It’s abstract.

You have to be its master.

Then, you’re doing it right.

Controlled, the line won’t disturb your life.

It’ll very probably add to your life, in terms of wealth.

If you let it control you, everything is finished.

Goodbye.

Life. Wealth. Peace of mind.

It pays to master the line.

How do you feel the line?

By being invested, or in a trade.

How do you master the line?

By being invested or in a trade, again and again, again and again, and then some. Simultaneously, you’re nipping your bad behaviour in the bud, while the line is on.

You control your temper. You don’t lose it.

You develop patience with loved ones.

You learn how to position-size the line, while winning or losing.

You attenuate all kinds of disturbance.

You keep going on and on like this, till one fine day, the line’s presence becomes a part of your life. Line-switch being on doesn’t change you or alter your behaviour in any negative manner anymore.

That’s when you’re doing it right.

Effects?

Trade on = like when trade was not on.

Investment? You’re not thinking about it.

You sleep well.

Good family life… not disturbed by the presence of the line.

Yeah.

Line.

Master it.

Stop-Loss vs Hedge – what’s what and how?

Insurance.

Makes you sleep easy.

Simultaneously, you are able to take a calculated risk.

Risk?

Why should you take a risk?

No risk no gain.

It’s as simple as that.

You have to put something on the line to possibly gain something.

That’s what market activity is all about.

You’re doing this all the time.

Day in, day out.

You’ve become used to a steady and dynamic LINE. Your line doesn’t harm you anymore. It doesn’t disrupt your life.

Well done.

How did you achieve this?

By using stops and hedges.

What’s the difference?

The difference is technical, and then practical.

For some mindsets and positions, a stop is more suited.

When you don’t mind exposing your market-play, and want to close your terminal and do other stuff, use a stop.

You get up from your desk, engage in other activity, and have forgotten about your position, because now you don’t need to tend to its needs for 24 hours, for example.

Great.

Your position will either play out, or it won’t.

If it doesn’t, your stop will automatically throw you out of your position.

The level of the stop is digestible.

Next morning, you simply move on to a new trade.

Let’s say you don’t want to to expose your market play, or, in some cases, when you don’t need to expose your market play – how do you then insure yourself?

Hedge.

A hedge maintains general market neutrality.

It leaves windows open for what-if scenarios.

For example, the trade could make money, and then the hedge could make money.

Or, vice-versa. As in lose-lose. Sure, there are win-loss and loss-win scenarios too.

The starting point is somewhat neutral, and then there are permutations and combinations.

Some people prefer this kind of play.

They like the possibility of maximizing profit from the total position at a calculated higher risk.

Also fine.

Generally, the idea is for your main position to make money and your hedge to lose money.

It might or might not play out like that.

Some like this uncertainty and know how to benefit from it.

A stop is sure-shot and straight-forward. It is low-risk as long as it is digestible.

Hedges open you to the risks of a meta-game. Play becomes more interesting, consuming, and possibly, more profitable, for experienced hedgers.

In my opinion, a hedge is slightly higher in risk than a stop.

However, both entities lower overall risk.

Currency pair forex trades are typically taken with a stop. However, they can be hedged too.

Market-neutral option-trades are typically taken using hedges.

Step into a trade with either or, for peace of mind and career longevity.

Cheers.

🙂

Action Oblique Inaction Upon Field-Proof

You.

Field.

In.

No theorizing.

Just get into the field.

Act upon field-proof.

Or, don’t act…

… upon field-proof.

That’s just about it.

There’s a time for theory.

It’s to tune your mind.

Learn the ropes.

Baby-steps.

Away from the field.

So you’re yet safe.

Fine.

That stage gets over.

The onus is on you.

Real world is different.

It’s not like theory.

If it were, everyone following theory would be a billionaire.

Today’s professors don’t even put their own money on the line.

If you don’t get a feel for the LINE, your paper-knowledge has no value whatsoever.

On the field, LINE is big. Very big. You have to handle the line well. Otherwise, your money’s gone.

So, gauge the field.

What proof are you observing?

Is it compelling you to act?

Yes?

Act. Forgot about everything else.

Is it compelling you to sit still?

Yes?

Don’t act. Sit still. Forget about everything else.

Carve your own dazzling destiny.

🙂

And…How Much Connection Time Exactly?

Well, somebody’s got to ask these questions…

Don’t see very many around me doing so, so I just thought what the heck, let it be me…

This one’s not for all you test-tube jocks in the lab, you know…

Answer’s not about the math really; it’s more about feeling, again…

Nevertheless, this is a very important question.

Answer it wrongly for yourself, and market-play will wreck your life – all avenues of your life, that is. 

And, answer it correctly for yourself – lo and behold, you’ll actually start enjoying your market activity.

The human being ultimately excels in anything he or she enjoys doing. 

This means that if you answer this question correctly, your market activity will yield you profits. 

Told you. This question is important. Answer it.

Let me tell you how I’ve answered it for myself. 

Before that, please understand, that my answer doesn’t have to apply to you.

However, for those who don’t know where to begin while trying to answer the question, it’s a start.

I detest giving Mrs. Market too much power. This was my clue initially, and I built up on this fact. 

Initially, Mrs. M used to take over my life. She used to govern my emotions. It started to rub off on my family. I knew I had to draw a line. 

I started to trade lightly – amounts which my mind could ignore. Then, I did one more thing. 

I started to connect minimally. The was the key step, and it swung the emotional tussle in my favour. Mrs. M’s days of emotional control were over. 

What does minimal connection mean?

You only connect when you have to. Period. 

When you don’t have to connect, you just don’t.

I’ll tell you when all I connect to Mrs. M.

Order-feed – 0 to once a day. Very rarely twice for this in one day. 

Connection for me is having my trading terminal on, and seeing live price-feeds face to face. 

My market research is all offline, so that’s not a connection for me. 

Squaring-off a position – again 0 to once a day. Very rarely twice a day.

Watching the live price-feed – 0 to once a day, and only if if I’m unclear about the buying-pressure versus selling pressure ratio.

That’s it. 

When I don’t identify a potential trade in my offline research, I don’t connect at all. 

When do I connect next?

Whenever I’ve identified the next trade, or a squaring-off situation, all offline. 

There can be two or even three day stretches when I just don’t connect. 

I use options, because they allow me this kind of play for Indian equities. 

Why am I stressing upon the value of minimal connection? 

Connection means exposure to the “Line”. You’ve met the Line before. If not, look up the link on the left (“The Line”). 

Connection to the Line taxes your system, because market forces interfere with your bio-chem. 

Keeping the connection minimal keeps you healthy, and you can go out and do other stuff in life, which rounds you off and refreshes you for your next market-play. 

Keeping the connection minimal detaches you from Mrs. M. You are able to detach at will. This lets you focus on your family when your family members require your attention. 

Keeping the connection minimal makes the task of swallowing your small losses smoother. 

Lastly, keeping the connection minimal helps you let your profits run. 

So, how does one define minimal?

Do the math, and come out with rules for your minimal connectivity, like the ones I’ve come out with above, for myself. 

After that, while sticking to your rules for minimal connectivity, only connect to Mrs. M when you feel the burning desire to do so, like for example upon the identification of a sizzling hot trade, or for the order-feed of a trigger exit after a profit-run or something like that. 

Yeah, you minimise even after your rules.

That’s your minimal connection.  

Emotion in the Marketplace – Enemy or Ally?

Either or…

… choice is yours baby.

I’m not going to pretend we don’t have emotions.

We do.

We need to make these work for us.

Everyone feels exhilaration upon winning.

We’re down after a loss. 

Before you enter the marketplace again, dump all this somewhere …

… which, btw, is the most difficult thing in the world.

Didn’t anyone tell you that? What about your professor in financial college? Oh, I forgot, he or she never had his or her own money on the line, so he or she didn’t know this one. 

Arghhhhhhhhhhh@#$%^!

Don’t learn anything about finance from anyone who doesn’t have his or her own money on the line, and that too regularly on the line (((financial theory is worth mud unless it is realistic, applicable, and ultimately…profitable). 

So, what is this “line”? [More about “The Line” here – https://magicalbull.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/the-line/ ].

The line is an invisible connection between the vicissitudes of the marketplace and our emotional centres in the brain. 

The line gets activated once one is in a trade, or once one has initiated an investment. 

Once the line has been activated, we need to deal with its effects upon our systems. For optimal efficiency, we need to nullify the effects of the line on our systems. After that, we enter the marketplace again. 

So, acknowledge whatever emotion you are experiencing. Then deal with it. 

Dump the emotion of a loss in a safe place, to be nullified by a big future win. 

Dump the emotion of a big win in another safe place, lest it causes you to exit improperly and prematurely. 

How does one nullify this particular emotion? 

You see, your next activity in the marketplace can make you blow up, if there is any remnant hubris from a previous big win. 

You close your eyes, tell yourself that under no circumstances are you going to suffer the humiliation of blowing up, you centre, focus, you identify the next trade, and then you just take the next trade, as if nothing has happened. 

You have to work yourself around your own emotions. In the marketplace, emotions are your allies only if and when they are properly dealt with before the next market activity. 

Otherwise, they become your enemy. 

Loss can lead to depression and ultimate exit from the marketplace. One needs to understand and accept the concept of taking small losses. Why small? Why not small? You can define your loss. You can cut it when it’s small. Once one has understood and accepted the idea of taking small losses, these won’t bother you any more. That’s how you set yourself up to win big. Big wins, unless dealt with properly, lead to hubris, which can cause one to blow up permanently. We work ourselves around the negative potential of big wins through visualisation. 

Once you’ve sorted out the emotional angle…well, just take the next trade. Don’t wait. Just take it. 

Happy Third Birthday, Magic Bull!

Hey,

We turn three.

You know it, and I know it…

… that this year’s been a slow going.

Sometimes, life is slow.

Such junctures are great times to recuperate and consolidate.

Inaction is big in the markets.

Very few know how to be inactive – and stay sane.

Those who do – well – they make big bucks when it’s time for action.

That’s only if they haven’t gotten rusty and lazy by then.

Yeah, inaction is an art.

In the markets, it is at least equal in importance to – action.

So, for the most part of the year that’s gone by, my market activity’s been practically zilch.

It’s not that I’ve been sitting and twiddling my thumbs. No! For heaven’s sake! Of course I’ve been doing other stuff.

Inaction in the markets must be coupled with action elsewhere, if one plans to stay sane, that is.

Also, inaction in the markets leads to preservation of capital. That, what you made during active times, remains safe, pickled and intact.

Then, when there’s opportunity, you’ve got your whole arsenal to cash in with.

While changing gears, don’t jump out of your seat with your saliva drooling, though.

Have some rules in place for opportunistic action.

I have some basic rules for myself at such junctures. I don’t put more than 10% of my networth on the line, while pursuing an idea. This rule applies for me while changing gears too, more than ever. Also, I don’t pursue more than two ideas at any given point of time. Most of the time, I’m not pursuing any idea, till an idea appears, refuses to break down, and just sticks.

Safe.

Simple.

Comfortable.

Ideal circumstances…

… to hit the sweet-spot…

… when it’s time for action.

Wishing you happiness, safety and profits in whatever market activity you pursue,

Yours sincerely, and just there for you, period,

Magic Bull.

Happy Second Birthday, Magic Bull !!

Seasons change. So do people, moods, feelings, relationships and market scenarios.

A stream of words is a very powerful tool to understand and tackle such change.

Birthdays will go by, and, hopefully, words will keep flowing. When something flows naturally, stopping it leads to disease. Trapped words turn septic inside the container holding them.

Well, we covered lots of ground, didn’t we? This year saw us transform from being a money-management blog to becoming a commentary on applied finance. The gloom and doom of Eurozone didn’t beat us down. Helicopter Ben and the Fed were left alone to their idiosyncrasies. The focus turned to gold. Was it just a hedge, and nothing but a hedge? Could it replace the dollar as a universal currency? Recently, its glitter started to actually disturb us, and we spoke about exit strategies. We also became wary of the long party in the debt market, and how it was making us lazy enough to miss the next equity move. Equity, with its human capital behind it, still remained the number one long-term wealth preserver cum generator for us. After all, this asset class fought inflation on auto-pilot, through its human capital.

Concepts were big with us. There was the concept of Sprachgefühl, with which one could learn a new subject based on sheer feeling and instinct. The two central concepts that stood out this year were leverage and compounding. We saw the former’s ugly side. The latter was practically demonstrated using the curious case of Switzerland. There was the Ayurvedic concept of Satmya, which helps a trader get accustomed to loss. And yeah, we meet the line, our electrolytic connection to Mrs. Market. We bet our monsters, checked Ace-high, gauged when to go all-in against Mrs. Market, and when to move on to a higher table. Yeah, for us, poker concepts were sooo valid in the world of trading.

We didn’t like the Goldman attitude, and weren’t afraid to speak out. Nor did we mince any words about the paralytic political scenario in India, and about the things that made us go Uffff! We spoke to India Inc., making them aware, that the first step was theirs. We also recognized and reacted to A-grade tomfoolery in the cases of Air India and Kingfisher Airlines. Elsewhere, we tried to make the 99% see reason. Listening to the wisdom of the lull was fun, and also vital. What would it take for a nation to decouple? For a while, things became as Ponzi as it gets, causing us to build a very strong case against investing a single penny in the government sector, owing to its apathy, corruption and inefficiency. We were quite outspoken this year.

The Atkinsons were an uplifting family that we met. He was the ultimate market player. She was the ultimate home-maker. Her philanthropy stamped his legacy in caps. Our ubiquitous megalomaniac, Mr. Cool, kept sinking lower this year, whereas his broker, Mr. Ever-so-Clever, raked it in . Earlier, Mr. Cool’s friend and alter-ego, Mr. System Addict, had retired on his 7-figure winnings from the market. Talking of brokers, remember Miss Sax, the wheeling-dealing market criminal, who did Mr. Cool in? She’s still in prison for fraud. Our friend the frog that lived in a well taught us about the need for adaptability and perspective, but not before its head exploded upon seeing the magnitude of an ocean.

Our endeavors to understand Mrs. Market’s psychology and Mr. Risk’s point of view were constant and unfailing, during which we didn’t forget our common-sense at home. Also, we were very big on strategy. We learnt to be away from our desk, when Mrs. M was going nowhere. We then learnt to draw at Mrs. M, when she actually decided to go somewhere. Compulsion was taken out of our trading, and we dealt with distraction. Furthermore, we started to look out for game-changers. Scenarios were envisioned, regarding how we would avoid blowing up big, to live another day, for when cash would be king. Descriptions of our personal war in Cyberia outlined the safety standards we needed to meet. Because we believed in ourselves and understood that we were going to enhance our value to the planet, we continued our struggle on the road to greatness, despite any pain.

Yeah, writing was fun. Thanks for reading, and for interacting. Here’s wishing you lots of market success. May your investing and trading efforts be totally enjoyable and very, very lucrative! Looking forward to an exciting year ahead!

Cheers 🙂

Deductions – Aren’t They Making You Sick?

The human being likes it easy.

Well, most do.

That’s why, many of us like to give out our hard-earned savings to be managed by a third party.

We like to believe that our full energies are required for our mainstream profession. We don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty of managing our savings.

In fact, we want to know as little as possible about the way our savings are being managed by the third party.

The third party starts from where we left off, and takes it to the Goldman level. Believe me, today, a Goldman attitude is the norm. Wealth manangers are looking to make the maximum out of you. They talk more about ways to squeeze fees out of you than about ways to make your corpus grow.

Chew this, digest it, and when you’re ready, please say the magic words.

All right, all right, I’ll spell it out for you. The magic words are “Enough! Enough! I’ve had enough of fee deductions! I’m ready to manage my savings on my own!”

See, that was simple. Say it, and then do it.

Deductions are a pain. Many strike behind your back. You feel you didn’t know about them. Well, it was all in the fine-print. Did you bother to read the fine-print?

Who reads fine-prints? Wealth managers know the answer to this question. That’s why, all the nasty stuff is put in fine-print. The sugary stuff is saved for the pitch. When an investment is pitched to you, it sounds so sweet, that you feel like jumping into it. Careful. The people, who have prepared the pitch campaign, have spent many days deliberating over it. The person pitching the investment to you has spent long hours practising the pitch. No jumping please. Tell the pitcher to buzz off, and that you’ll call him or her back if and when you’re ready for the investment. Meanwhile, read the fine-print.

This is when the pitcher takes out his last and most deadly weapon. “But Sir, deadline is till tomorrow noon,” is the sound of this time-weapon. Earlier failings have prepared you for this. You have learnt to ignore the time-bomb. You are going to take your own sweet time to decide. It’s your hard-earned money, and the least it deserves is thorough due diligence on your part.

Meanwhile, you’re reading the fine-print. You’re realizing that the game is stacked against you. There’s a monthly mortality / cover deduction in the insurance policy being pitched to you. Then there are administration charges to cover day to day expenses. Don’t forget fund management charges. Now, there’s probably even some adjustment for short-term capital gains tax. Also, there are upfront deductions on the first few premiums, pretty sizable ones. There’s a 3 to 5 year lock-in. Switching charges. Hey, where was all this in the pitch? And remember when they spoke about how you could take a loan against your policy. Did you hear anything about the huge loan disbursement fee, or whether or not service-tax and education cess charges would be passed on to you? And may heaven help you find solace if you surrender your policy prematurely. Premature surrender charges were conceived by the descendants of Shylock himself. Such surrender charges carve out chunks of flesh from your investment’s corpus.

For the company pitching the investment to you, accountability has been made very easy. All they have to do is to deduct all background charges from the daily NAV, and then publish the NAV after these deductions. You will be sent an yearly statement (if you don’t ask for a statement sooner), where stuff like mortality and cover charges will be shown in small-print. Take all this into account while calculating your returns on the investment, before wondering where a chunk of your profits went.

That’s a common scenario in unit-linked insurance policies. The market goes up so much, but your ULIP only yields you this much. Where did the rest go? To answer this question partly, look at the deductions.

The classic counter-argument (made by fund-managers) to above discrepancy is this. The market went up so much, fine, but the scrips in the mutual funds, to which the policy was linked, didn’t move up so much.

Maybe, maybe not. To find out, you’ll have to dig even deeper. Most of us don’t want so much hassle, and we resign ourselves to the dictates of the investment’s deduction policies.

Meanwhile, here’s an alternative. Learn. Study. One hour a day. Your savings deserve this from you. Every learning resource is available online, and most of what is available is free of cost. Make use of this unique opportunity. In a few years you’ll be savvy enough to manage your own funds. Thus, you’ll save yourself from the scourge of deductions.

Connect to market forces by playing with your own money, yourself. Learning solidifies in your system when you put your own money on the line. Play small for many years. Make all your mistakes in these years. Get mistakes out of the way. Learn from them. Don’t repeat them.

Soon, you’ll realize that you are ready to scale it up. Your system will sense that you have now gone beyond making big blunders, and will send you the appropriate signals telling you to scale up.

Welcome to the world of applied finance. May yours be a long and lucrative tenure.

Making the Grade

It’s your convocation. From now on, you’ll be a degree-holder.

Yippeeee!

Just pause for a second.

All your life, you’ll be introducing yourself as a master’s in this or a bachelor’s in that, or perhaps even as a Ph.D. in xyz.

Have you even once considered, that your respective field will continue to evolve, long after you stop studying it?

For example, one fine day, in a Chemistry lecture to class XII, I noticed that the stuff I’d learnt for my master’s degree exams was the very stuff I was now teaching these 17-18 year-olds. That was a big realization for me. It then dawned upon me, that I had to either keep moving with the developments in the subject, or I needed to change my profession. I moved on from Chemistry in 2004.

So, for heaven’s sake, a paper degree is not your ticket to your subject for life. Things, people, seasons, subject-matter, issues at hand – everything changes. Every decade or so, there’s a complete overhaul. To stay on top, and still feel like a degree-holder of your subject, you need to be with things as they move, through the whole decade.

Does your marriage give you a licence to stay married to that same person for life without working on the relationship day in, day out? No, right?

Your degree doesn’t make you a king-pin in your subject for life either, without the appropriate ground-work everyday. Let’s please digest this truth.

The worst-case scenario of whatever I’ve said above happens in the markets. It is a worst-case scenario, because you enter the markets with some finance degree, thinking that the degree has taught you to play the markets successfully. Nothing is further from the truth. Here, you have a piece of paper that gives you false confidence, and you see your balloon bursting after your first few live shots at Mrs. Market.

Financial education in colleges and universities lacks two basic factors. The thing is, these two factors are game-changers. Get them wrong, or don’t know much about them, and your game becomes a losing one.

What are these two factors?

Everything and everyone around us teaches us not to be losers. We are taught to shove our losses under the carpet.

Cut to reality: winning market-play is about losing. Losing, losing, losing, but losing small. To be successful in the markets, we need to learn how to lose small, day in day out. It’s not easy, because our entire system is geared up to win, every time.

Then, everything and everyone around us teaches us to seal that win and post it instantly on our resume, on facebook, on twitter. Modern society is about showing off as many wins as possible. Losers don’t get too many breaks.

Cut to reality: winning market-play is about winning big, very big, every now and then, amidst lots of small losses. That can’t happen if we immediately book a winner. We need to learn to nurture a winner, and to allow it to win big. Again, that’s not easy, because as soon as a winner appears, our natural instinct tells us to book it and post it. So bury your “win it-cut it-post it” attitude. Instead, win, let the winner win more, and more, and when you feel it’s enough, without getting greedy, cut it, and then keep quiet, bring your emotions back to ground zero, and move on to the next winning play.

The reason, that most teachers of finance in colleges and universities don’t know about these two factors, is that their own money is almost never on the line. They have almost never felt the forces of live markets through this “line”, day in, day out. The line one puts on is one’s connection to market forces. Only a regular connection to these forces teaches one about realistic, winning market-play.

One could argue that the case-studies examined in finance school are very real. Well, they are very real for those protagonists who actually went through the ups and downs of the case-study in real-life. They got the actual learning by being exposed to live market forces. You are merely studying the statistics and drawing (dead) inferences, devoid of first-hand emotions and market forces. Whatever learning you are being imparted, is, well, theoretical.

Theory doesn’t cut it in the markets. Theory doesn’t make the grade.

So, what makes the grade?

I consider a seven year stint at managing your own folio a basic entry requirement into bigger market-play. What happens during this time?

Each body cell gets attuned to real market forces, live. You get to know yourself. You build up an idea about your basic risk-profile. Your market-strategy takes shape. It is fine-tuned to YOU.

During this stint, money needs to be on the line, again and again, but the amounts in play need to be small, because you are going to make many, many mistakes.

And please, make whatever mistakes you need to make in this very period. Get them all out of your system. Make each mistake once, and never repeat it, for life. Point is, that after this stint, money levels in play are going to shoot up. Mistakes from this point onwards are going to prove costly, even devastating. The kinds, where one can’t stand up again. You don’t want to be in that situation.

Once you are comfortable managing your funds, and don’t get rattled by Mrs. Market’s constant action, her turnarounds, crashes etc. etc., your market decisions are such, that you start applying your knowledge of money-management successfully. You have now become a practitioner of applied finance.

Applied finance is advanced level market-play. To win at applied finance, your money-management basics need to be fully in place and rock-solid. You can define applied finance as Money Management 2.0.

Winning at applied finance is self-taught. You don’t need a degree for it. In my eyes, a degree here is in fact detrimental, because you then spend a long time unlearning a lot of university stuff during real market-play. You actually see for yourself, that most of what you learnt applies only in theory. The stuff that makes winners, where is that? Why wasn’t it taught? Well, you’ve got to go out there and learn it for yourself.

Let theory be where it belongs. Respect it, but leave it in its appropriate world. The world needs its theoreticians to make it go round, but you need to go beyond theory, to win big.

Put on your practical shoes when you put your good and real money on the line, and be ready for anything.

Let your mistakes teach you.

Keep making the grade, day in day out.

Long after society tells you that you’ve made it.

Only the Lonely

You are unique.

Are we still debating this?

No, right?

If we are, then sit yourself down.

Alone.

Reflect.

Please see how you are… unique, and that you are… unique.

Moving on, what does that mean for you?

Specifically, what does it mean for your market strategy?

A newbie starts off with very generalized market strategies.

What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander types.

Ones that treat donkeys and horses alike, to literally translate from Hindi.

Slowly but surely, you realize that you don’t want donkey treatment anymore. Mrs. Market has kicked you around and converted you from a donkey into an intelligent market player.

An intelligent market player requires a fine-tuned, risk-profile specific strategy.

That’s where you either step in or you don’t.

Choice is, as they say, now yours.

Do you want to continue with generalized, text-book level donkey strategies, or do you want to spiral up to the level of exclusive strategy tailoring and fine-tuning.

People who approach the market as a secondary or tertiary activity don’t generally spiral up. Most of them are unhappy with their returns, but since they already have primary (and probably successful) professions going for themselves, they choose to remain where they are as far as the markets are concerned, and they don’t aspire to rise any higher.

You see, they don’t have the time to take this spiral plunge.

Now it’s decision time for you, buddy.

Do you wish to remain at the average donkey level all your life as far as the markets are concerned? If not, read on.

You need to spend some alone-time, as long as it takes.

Go over all your market activity till date.

Develop a feel for your risk-taking ability.

What bothers you? What do you like? What kind of a “line” are you capable of stomaching? For how long? How do you react to a loss? To a profit? Are you emotionally stable? Can you remain stable for long? How long? What gets you on tilt? Once you make a rule for yourself, are you able to follow it? Or, do you keep second-guessing yourself? What kind on income are you looking for from the markets? Have you learnt to sit on cash? Can you stay invested for long periods? Can you let your profits run? Do you respect your stop? Do you know what a stop is? Do you know how to manage a trade? Have you fully understood basic money-management? After what level of income do you start functioning smoothly?

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Ask yourself these and many more such questions.

Let the answers come from within.

Listen to those answers.

Understand who you are.

Then, devise a unique and fine-tuned market strategy for yourself.

Keep working on this strategy, fine-tuning it till it is in tandem with your unique self.

At that point, it will become a successful strategy, and will yield above-average results.

Being above-average in the markets is a winning scenario.

Going All-in Against Mrs. Market

Yeah, yeah, I’ve been there.

And it backfired.

Luckily, my stack-size in those days was small. That’s the good part. The shocking bit was, that back then, I had defined my stack-size as my networth. Biggest mistake I’ve made till date in my market-career, and I was very lucky to escape relatively unhurt.

Wait a minute, why is all this poker terminology being used here, to describe action in the world of applied finance?

Well, poker and market action have so much in common. Specifically, No-Limit Hold-’em is deeply related to Mrs. Market. We’re talking about the cash-game, not tournament poker. It’s as if Hold-’em is telling Mrs. Market (with due respect to Madonna):

i’ve got the moves baby
u got the motion
if we got together
we’d be causing a commotion

A no-limit hold-’em hand is like one trade. Playing 20-50 hands a day is excellent market practice. You’ve got thousands of games available to you online, round the clock, and most of these are with play money. Even though the “line” is missing here because of no money on the line, this is a no-cost avenue for trade practice, and it’s entertaining to boot.

Back to stack-size? What is stack-size, exactly?

Well, your stack size is the sum of all your chips on the table. You play the game with your stack, and on the basis of your stack-size. The first thing you need to do before there’s any market action is to define your stack-size.

A healthy stack-size is one that allows you to play your game in a tension-free manner. My definition, you ask? Well, I’d start the game with a stack-size that’s no more than 5% of my networth. Segregate this amount in an account which is separate from the rest of your networth, and trade from this segregated account. That’s the wiser version of me speaking. Don’t be like the stupid version of yours truly by defining your entire networth as your stack-size.

In this 5% scenario, you have 20 opportunities to reload. It’s not going to come to that, because even if a couple of your all-in bets go bust, you will eventually catch some big market moves if your technical research is sound and if you move all-in when chances of winning are high.

Wait patiently for a good hand. Then move. One doesn’t just move all-in upon seeing one’s hole-cards. If these are strong, like pocket aces, or picture pocket pairs, one bets out a decent amount to build up the pot. Similarly, if a promising trade appears, and the underlying scrip breaks past a crucial resistance, pick up a decent portion of the scrip. Next, wait for the flop (further market action) to give you more information. Have you made a set on the flop? Right, then bet more, another decent amount, but not enough to commit you fully to the pot. Then comes the turn. The scrip continues to move in your direction. You’ve made quads, and you’re holding the nuts. Now you can commit yourself fully to the pot and move all-in. Or, you can do so on the river, checking on the turn to disguise your hand and to allow others to catch up with your nuts somewhat, so that they are able to fire some more bets into the pot on the river. Your quads win you a big pot. You fired all-in when the scrip had shown its true colours, when winning percentages were high. You exhibited patience before pot-commitment. You allowed others to fire up the pot (scrip) further, and you deservedly caught a big market move. Just get the exit right, i.e. somewhere around the peak, and you’re looking at an ideal trade strategy already, from entry to trade management to exit.

Fold your weak hands. If something’s not working out, give it up cheaply. Ten small losses against a mega-win is enough to cover you and then some.

Often, a promising trade just doesn’t take off after you enter. The underlying might even start to move below your entry price after having been up substantially. You had great hole cards, but didn’t catch a piece of the flop, and now there are two over-cards staring at you from the flop. Give up your trade. Muck your hand.

At other times, you move all-in and the underlying scrip tanks big against you in a matter of hours. Before you can let your trade go, you’re already down big. You’ve suffered a bad beat, where the percentages to win were in your favour, but the turn-out of events still caused the trade to go against you. Happens. That’s poker.

Welcome to the world of trading. Pick yourself up. Dig out another stack from your networth. Don’t allow the bad beat to affect your future trades. If you are thinking about your bad beat, leave the table till you are fresh and can focus on the current trade at hand.

And then, give the current trade at hand the best you’ve got.

The Line

In the world of applied finance, you will meet the “line”.

Though the line is an abstract phenomenon, it is very real.

Whenever you connect to Mrs. Market, you do so through the line, which comes into existence (you guessed it) when you put your money “on the line”.

Please be aware of the capabilities of the line. If you allow it to, it grabs hold of the emotional switches of your brain. When the price of the scrip you’re trading plunges, the line can turn on your depression switch. As the loss multiplies, the line makes you go into freeze mode. On the other hand, it can also make you go on a spending spree with your notional profits, if your scrip is doing well. If you allow it to, the line then controls how you interact with your family and for that matter with everyone else.

Why give it so much power? Let’s keep the line in its boots. When you’re flying a kite with strong winds prevailing, and the kite plunges downwards and out of control towards some electricity wires, what do you do? Obvious answer, let the string go. Well, not so obvious when you’re holding the string (substitute string for “line” if you wish). You could try and save your kite, or for that matter, your trade, at the cost of being electrocuted, or, in trading jargon, burnt.

When you’re holding the line, common-sense often goes out the window. You start thinking emotionally. Our society doesn’t teach us to embrace failure. We are taught to win. Thus, we want to turn every trade into a winning trade. Big mistake. We are not able to let the line go while any loss is still bearable.

Wins come. The fact remains, that in applied finance, many transactions will be failures. You’ve won if you can then let your line go at a digestible failure level.

When a win does come along, again one is completely misled by the teachings of modern society. “Book your success now, put it on your resume”. An even bigger mistake in applied finance.

A winning trade needs to be allowed room to win some more. After struggling with failures, you’ve finally identified a winning horse. Aren’t you going to let it win more (races)? Aren’t you going to continue holding the line to let a multibagger emerge, instead of letting the line go while you’re showing a small profit which doesn’t even cover your failed trades?

The line is an enigma concerning the discernment of befitting moments for attachment and detachment.

We need to let it go when it threatens to burn us. Also, we need to hold on to it, contrary to any public opinion, that “XYZ can’t possibly go any higher”.

There’s no way we’re playing the line according to public opinion or society rules.

Also, there are times when it doesn’t make sense to get a line going, because the kite just doesn’t take off. At other times, you need to put out one line after another into the sky, because your kites start to soar, one after another.

In the world of applied finance, you need to put your money on the line. There’s no other way to connect to Mrs. Market.

The “when” is up to you, when to get it going, when to let it go, when to hold on, when to scale it up.

And at that level, trading becomes an art.