25 August 2012

Trading Rules

No platitudes here, speculating is very dangerous business. It is not about winning or losing, it is about surviving the lows and the highs. If you don't survive, you can't win.
It's all about survival
The first requirement of survival is that you must have a premise to speculate upon. Rumours, tips, full moons and feelings are not a premise. A premise suggests there is an underlying truth to what you are taking action upon. A short-term trader's premise may be different from a long- term player's but they both need to have proven logic and tools.
Most investors and traders spend more time figuring out which laptop to buy than they do before plunking down tens of thousands of dollars on a snap decision, or one based upon totally fallacious reasoning.
There is some rhyme and reason to how, why and when markets move - not enough - but it is there. The problem is that there are more techniques that don't work, than there are techniques that do. I suggest you spend an immense and inordinate amount of time and effort learning these critical elements before entering the foray of financial frolics.
So, even if you have money management under control, have a valid system, approach or premise to act upon - you still need control of yourself.
Ultimately this is an emotional game - always has been, always will be
Anytime money is involved - your money - blood boils, sweaty hands prevail, and mental processes are short-circuited by illogical emotions. Just when most traders buy, they should have sold! Or, fear, a major emotion, scares them away from a great trade/investment. Or, their bet is way too big. The money management decision becomes an emotional one, not one of logic.
Greed prevails - proving you are more motivated by greed than fear and understanding the difference
The mere fact you are a speculator means you have less fear than a 'normal' person does. You are more motivated by making money. Other people are more motivated by not losing.
Greed is the trader's Achilles' heel. Greed will keep hopes alive, encourage you to hold on to losing trades and nail down winners too soon. Hope is your worst enemy because it causes you to dream of great profits, to enter an unreal world. Trust me, the world of speculating is very real, people lose all they have, marriages are broken up, families tossed asunder by either enormous gains or losses.
My approach to this is to not take any of it very seriously; the winnings may be fleeting, always pursued by the taxman, lawyers and nefarious investment schemes.
How you handle greed is different than I do, so I cannot give an absolute maxim here, but I can tell you this, you must get it in control or you will not survive.
Fear inhibits risk taking - just when you should take risk
Fear causes you to not do what you should do. You frighten yourself out of trades that are winners in deference to trades that lose or go nowhere. Succinctly stated, greed causes you to do what we should not do; fear causes us to not do what we should do.
Fear, psychologists say, causes you to freeze up. Traders act like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. They can see the car - a losing trade, coming at them - at 120 miles per hour - but they fail to take the action they should.
Worse yet, they take a pass on the winning trades. Why, I do not know. But I do know this: the more frightened I am of taking a trade the greater the probabilities are it will be a winning trade. Most investors scare themselves out of greatness.
Money management is the creation of wealth
Sure, you can make money as a trader or investor, have a good time, and get some great stories to tell. But, the extrapolation of profits will not come as much from your trading and investing skills as how you manage your money.
I'm probably best known for winning the Robbins World Cup Trading Championship, turning $10,000 into $1,100,000 in 12 months. That was real money, real trades, and real time performance. For years people have asked for my trades to figure out how I did it.
I gladly oblige them, they will learn little there - what created the gargantuan gain was not great trading ability nearly as much as the very aggressive form of money management I used. The approach was to buy more contracts when I had more equity in my account, cut back when I had less. That's what made the cool million smackers - not some great trading skill.
Ten years later my 16-year-old daughter won the same trading contest taking $10,000 to $110,000 (The second best performance in the 20- year history of the championship). Did she have any trading secret, any magical chart, line, and formula? No. She simply followed a decent system of trading, backed with a superior form of money management.
Big money does not make big bets; it wins big on small bets
You have probably read the stories of what I call the swashbuckler traders, like Jesse Livermore, John 'bet a millions' Gates, Niederhoffer, Frankie Joe and the like. They all ultimately made big bets and lost big time.
Smart money never bets big. Why should it? You can win big on small bets, see #5 above, but eventually if you bet big you will lose - and you will lose big.
It's like Russian roulette. You may well spin the chamber holding the bullet many times and never lose. But spin it often enough and there can be only one result: death. If you make big bets you are destined to be a big loser. Plunging is a loser's game; it can only set you up for failure.
I never bet big (I used to - been there and done that and trust me, it is no way to live). I bet a small per cent of my account, bankroll if you will. That way I have controlled loss. There can be no survival without damage control.
I believe the trade I'm in right now will be a loser
This is my most powerful belief and asset as a trader. Most would be wannabes are certain they will make a killing on their next trade. These folks have been to some 'Pump 'em up, plastic coat their lives' motivational meeting where they were told to think positive thoughts. They took lessons in affirming their future would be great. They believe their next trade will be a winner.
Not me! I believe at the bottom of my core it will be a loser. I ask you this question - who will have their stops in and take right action, me or the fellow pumped up on an irrational belief he's figured out the market? Who will plunge, the positive affirmer or me?
If you have not figured that one out - I'll tell you; I will succeed simply because I am under no delusion that I will win. Accordingly, my action will be that of an impeccable warrior. I will protect myself in all fashion, at all times - I will not become run away with hope and unreality.

The 22 Rules of Trading
We give you Master Trader Dennis Gartman's 22 Rules of Trading, many of which you can apply to all sorts of life situations, as well as the markets.
Every day, Dennis Gartman gets up at bout 2:30 AM and writes an information packed 4 page newsletter on the world markets, oil, currencies, commodities political happenings and much more. He is read by the major trading houses and traders all over the world, as they stumble bleary eyed into work, grabbing the Gartman Report to find out what happened as they slept and to get insight as to what the issues of the day will be, and suggestions on how to trade. Dennis puts his trades on public display and talks you through his logic. It is a most remarkable work, and I find it a key part of my struggle in trying to keep up with what is going on. I am always amazed when on the occasions I find myself in the office at an early hour to find Dennis' letter hit my inbox about 5:00 AM. His travel schedule makes mine look tame, and from wherever in the world he finds himself, he writes and sends his letter. And he still maintains a single digit handicap on the golf course.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, he publishes his "Rules of Trading," adding to them as wisdom increases. Here is today's list:
1. Never, under any circumstance add to a losing position.... ever! Nothing more need be said; to do otherwise will eventually and absolutely lead to ruin!
2. Trade like a mercenary guerrilla. We must fight on the winning side and be willing to change sides readily when one side has gained the upper hand.
3. Capital comes in two varieties: Mental and that which is in your pocket or account. Of the two types of capital, the mental is the more important and expensive of the two. Holding to losing positions costs measurable sums of actual capital, but it costs immeasurable sums of mental capital.
4. The objective is not to buy low and sell high, but to buy high and to sell higher. We can never know what price is "low." Nor can we know what price is "high." Always remember that sugar once fell from $1.25/lb to 2 cent/lb and seemed "cheap" many times along the way.
5. In bull markets we can only be long or neutral, and in bear markets we can only be short or neutral. That may seem self-evident; it is not, and it is a lesson learned too late by far too many.
6. "Markets can remain illogical longer than you or I can remain solvent," according to our good friend, Dr. A. Gary Shilling. Illogic often reigns and markets are enormously inefficient despite what the academics believe.
7. Sell markets that show the greatest weakness, and buy those that show the greatest strength. Metaphorically, when bearish, throw your rocks into the wettest paper sack, for they break most readily. In bull markets, we need to ride upon the strongest winds... they shall carry us higher than shall lesser ones.
8. Try to trade the first day of a gap, for gaps usually indicate violent new action. We have come to respect "gaps" in our nearly thirty years of watching markets; when they happen (especially in stocks) they are usually very important.
9. Trading runs in cycles: some good; most bad. Trade large and aggressively when trading well; trade small and modestly when trading poorly. In "good times,"even errors are profitable; in "bad times" even the most well researched trades go awry. This is the nature of trading; accept it.
10. To trade successfully, think like a fundamentalist; trade like a technician. It is imperative that we understand the fundamentals driving a trade, but also that we understand the market's technicals. When we do, then, and only then, can we or should we, trade.
11. Respect "outside reversals" after extended bull or bear runs. Reversal days on the charts signal the final exhaustion of the bullish or bearish forces that drove the market previously. Respect them, and respect even more "weekly" and "monthly," reversals.
12. Keep your technical systems simple. Complicated systems breed confusion; simplicity breeds elegance.
13. Respect and embrace the very normal 50-62% retracements that take prices back to major trends. If a trade is missed, wait patiently for the market to retrace. Far more often than not, retracements happen... just as we are about to give up hope that they shall not.
14. An understanding of mass psychology is often more important than an understanding of economics. Markets are driven by human beings making human errors and also making super-human insights.
15. Establish initial positions on strength in bull markets and on weakness in bear markets. The first "addition" should also be added on strength as the market shows the trend to be working. Henceforth, subsequent additions are to be added on retracements.
16. Bear markets are more violent than are bull markets and so also are their retracements.
17. Be patient with winning trades; be enormously impatient with losing trades. Remember it is quite possible to make large sums trading/investing if we are "right" only 30% of the time, as long as our losses are small and our profits are large.
18. The market is the sum total of the wisdom ... and the ignorance...of all of those who deal in it; and we dare not argue with the market's wisdom. If we learn nothing more than this we've learned much indeed.
19. Do more of that which is working and less of that which is not: If a market is strong, buy more; if a market is weak, sell more. New highs are to be bought; new lows sold.
20. The hard trade is the right trade: If it is easy to sell, don't; and if it is easy to buy, don't. Do the trade that is hard to do and that which the crowd finds objectionable. Peter Steidelmeyer taught us this twenty five years ago and it holds truer now than then.
21. There is never one cockroach! This is the "winning" new rule submitted by our friend, Tom Powell.
22. All rules are meant to be broken: The trick is knowing when... and how infrequently this rule may be invoked!


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