5 Steps to Becoming a Trader

 

 

Step One: Unconscious Incompetence

This is the first step you take when starting to look into trading. You know that it is a good way of making money because you've heard so many things about it and heard of so many millionaires. Unfortunately, just like when you first desire to drive a car you think it will be easy - after all, how hard can it be? Price either moves up or down - what's the big secret to that then – let’s get cracking!

Unfortunately, just as when you first take your place in front of a steering wheel you find very quickly that you haven't got the first damn clue about what you're trying to do.

You take lots of trades and lots of risks. When you enter a trade, it turns against you, so you reverse and it turns again, and again, and again.

You may have initial success and that’s even worse because it tells your brain that this really is simple and you start to risk more money.

You try to turn around your losses by doubling up every time you trade. Sometimes you will get away with it but more often than not you will come away scathed and bruised. You are totally oblivious to your incompetence at trading.

Step Two - Conscious Incompetence

Step two is where you realize that there is more work involved in trading and that you might actually have to work a few things out. You consciously realize that you are an incompetent trader - you don't have the skills or the insight to turn a regular profit.

You now set about buying trading systems and e-books galore, read websites based everywhere from USA to the Ukraine and begin your search for the Holy Grail. During this time you will be a system nomad - you will flick from method to method day by day and week by week never sticking with one long enough to actually see if it does work. Every time you come

upon a new indicator you will be ecstatic that this is the one that will make all the difference.

You will test out automated systems, you will play with moving averages, Fibonacci lines, support & resistance, pivots, fractals, divergences, DMI, ADX, and a hundred other things all in the vein

hope that your 'magic system' starts today. You will also become a top and bottom picker, trying to find the exact point of reversal with your indicators and you will find yourself chasing losing trades and even adding to them because you are so sure you are right.

You will go into the live chat room and see other traders making profits and you want to know why it's not you - you will ask a million questions, some of which are so dumb that looking back you feel a bit silly. You will then reach the point where you think all the ones who say they are making profits are all liars - they can’t be making that amount because you've studied and you don't make that, you know as much as they do and they must be lying. But they're in there day after day and their account just grows whilst yours falls.

You will be like a teenager - the traders that make money will freely give you advice but, you're stubborn and think that you know best - you take no notice and overtrade your account even though everyone says you are mad to but you know better. You will consider following the calls that others make but even then it won’t work so you try paying for signals from someone else - they don't work for you either.

You might even approach a guru or someone on a chat board who promises to make you into a trader (usually for a fee of course). Whether the guru is good or not you won’t win because there is no replacement for screen time and you still think you know best.

This step can last ages and ages - in fact in reality talking with other traders as well as personal experience confirms that it can easily last well over a year and more nearer to three years.

This is also the step when you are most likely to give up through sheer frustration.

Around 60% of new traders quit in the first 3 months - they give up and this is good - think about it - if trading was easy we would all be millionaires. Another 20% keep going for a year and then in desperation take risks guaranteed to blow their account which of course it does.

What may surprise you is that of the remaining 20% all of them will last around 3 years and they will think they are safe in the water but even at 3 years only a further 5-10% will continue and go on to actually make money consistently.

By the way - these are real figures, not just some I’ve picked out of my head - so when you get to 3 years in the game don’t think it is plain sailing from there!

I’ve had many people argue with me about these timescales - funny enough none of them have been trading for more than 3 years - if you think you know better - then ask on a board for someone who's been trading 5 years and ask them how long it takes to become fully 100% proficient. Sure I guess there will be exceptions to the rule - but I haven’t met any yet.

Eventually you do begin to come out of this phase. You've probably committed more time and money than you ever thought you would, lost 2 or 3 loaded accounts and all but given up maybe 3 or 4 times but now it is in your blood. One day – in a split second moment you will enter stage 3.

Step 3 - The Eureka Moment

Towards the end of stage two you begin to realize that it's not the system that is making the difference. You realize that it is actually possible to make money with a simple moving average and nothing else IF you can get your head and money management right. You start to read books on the psychology of trading and identify with the characters portrayed in those books and finally comes the eureka moment.

This eureka moment causes a new connection to be made in your brain. You suddenly realize that neither you, nor anyone else can accurately predict what the market will do in the next ten seconds, never mind the next 20 minutes. Because of this revelation you stop taking any notice of what anyone thinks - what this news item will do, and what that event will do to the markets.

You become an individual with your own method of trading. You start to work just one system that you mold to your own way of trading, you're starting to get happy and you define your risk threshold.

You start to take every trade that your 'edge' shows has a good probability of winning with. When the trade turns bad you don't get angry or even because you know in your head that as you couldn't possibly predict it isn't your fault - as soon as you realize that the trade is bad

you close it. The next trade or the one after it or the one after that will have higher odds of success because you know your system works. You stop looking at trading results from a trade-to-trade perspective and start to look at weekly figures knowing that one bad trade does not a poor system make.

You have realized in an instant that the trading game is about one thing - consistency of your 'edge' and your discipline to take all the trades no matter what as you know the probabilities stack in your favor.


You learn about proper money management and leverage - risk of account etc. - and this time it actually soaks in and you think back to those who advised the same thing a year ago with a smile. You weren't ready then but you are now. The eureka moment came the moment that you truly accepted that you cannot predict the market.

Step 4 - Conscious Competence

You are making trades whenever your system tells you to. You take losses just as easily as you take wins. You now let your winners run to their conclusion fully accepting the risk and knowing that your system makes more money than it loses and when you're on a loser you close it swiftly with little pain to your account.

You are now at a point where at a minimum you break even - day in day out. You will have weeks where you make big money and other weeks where you lose big money – but overall you are breaking even and not losing money anymore. You are now conscious of the fact that you are making calls that are generally good and you are getting respect from other traders as you chat the day away. You still have to work at it and think about your trades but as this continues you begin to make more money than you lose consistently.

You will start the day on a big win, take a big loss and have no feelings that you've given those profits back because you know that it will come back again. You will slowly begin to make consistent profits week in and week out.

Step Five - Unconscious Competence

Now we’re cooking - just like driving a car, every day you get in your seat and trade. You do everything now on an unconscious level. You are running on autopilot. You start to pick the really big trades and getting big profits in a day doesn’t make you any more excited that getting none. You see the newbies in the forum shouting 'go market go' as if they are urging on a horse to win in the grand national and you see yourself - but many years ago now. This is trading utopia - you have mastered your emotions and you are now a trader with a rapidly growing account.

You're a star in the trading chat room and people listen to what you say. You recognize yourself in their questions from about two years ago. You pass on your advice but you know most of it is futile because they're teenagers - some of them will get to where you are - some will do it fast and others will be slower - literally dozens and dozens will never get past stage two, but a few will.

Trading is no longer exciting - in fact it's probably boring you to pieces - like everything in life when you get good at it or do it for your job - it gets boring - you're doing your job and that's that.

Finally you grow out of the chat rooms and find a few choice people who you converse with about the markets without being influenced at all. All the time you are honing your methods to extract the maximum profit from the market without increasing risk.

Your method of trading doesn’t change - it just gets better - you now have what women call 'intuition.' You can now say with your head held high "I'm a trader" but to be honest you don’t even bother telling anyone - it's a job like any other.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this journey into a traders mind and that hopefully you’ve identified with some points in here.

Remember that only 5% will actually make it - but the reason for that isn’t ability, its staying power and the ability to change your perceptions and paradigms as new information comes available.

The losers are those who wanted to 'get rich quick' but approached the market and within 6 months put on a pair of blinkers so they couldn’t see the obvious - a kind of "this is the way I see it and that’s that" scenario - refusing to assimilate new information that changes that perception.

I’m happy to tell you that the reason I started trading was because of the 'get rich quick' mindset. Just that now

I see it as 'get rich slow.’ If you’re thinking about giving up I have one piece of advice for you.

Ask yourself the question "How many years would you go to college if you knew for a fact that there was a million dollars a year job at the end of it?”


 

 

Japanese candlesticks

 

 

History

 

The Japanese began using technical analysis to trade rice in the 17th century. While this early version of technical analysis was different from the US version initiated by Charles Dow around 1900, many of the guiding principles were very similar:

•             The “what” (price action) is more important than the “why” (news, earnings, and so on).

•             All known information is reflected in the price.

•             Buyers and sellers move markets based on expectations and emotions (fear and greed).

•             Markets fluctuate.

•             The actual price may not reflect the underlying value.

According to Steve Nison, candlestick charting first appeared sometime after 1850. Much of the credit for candlestick development and charting goes to a legendary rice trader named Homma from the town of Sakata. It is likely that his original ideas were modified and refined over many years of trading eventually resulting in the system of candlestick charting that we use today.

Formation

In order to create a candlestick chart, you must have a data set that contains open, high, low and close values for each time period you want to display. The hollow or filled portion of the candlestick is called “the body” (also referred to as “the real body”). The long thin lines above and below the body represent the high/low range and are called “shadows” (also referred to as “wicks” and “tails”). The high is marked by the top of the upper shadow and the low by the bottom of the lower shadow. If the stock closes higher than its opening price, a hollow candlestick is drawn with the bottom of the body representing the opening price and the top of the body representing the closing price. If the stock closes lower than its opening price, a filled candlestick is drawn with the top of the body representing the opening price and the bottom of the body representing the closing price.

 Compared to traditional bar charts, many traders consider candlestick charts more visually appealing and easier to interpret. Each candlestick provides an easy-to-decipher picture of price action. Immediately a trader can compare the relationship between the open and close as well as the high and low. The relationship between the open and close is considered vital information and forms the essence of candlesticks. Hollow candlesticks, where the close is greater than the open, indicate buying pressure. Filled candlesticks, where the close is less than the open, indicate selling pressure.

 Long Versus Short Bodies

Generally speaking, the longer the body is, the more intense the buying or selling pressure. Conversely, short candlesticks indicate little price movement and represent consolidation.

 Long white candlesticks show strong buying pressure. The longer the white candlestick is, the further the close is above the open. This indicates that prices advanced significantly from open to close and buyers were aggressive. While long white candlesticks are generally bullish, much depends on their position within the broader technical picture. After extended declines, long white candlesticks can mark a potential turning point or support level. If buying gets too aggressive after a long advance, it can lead to excessive bullishness.

Long black candlesticks show strong selling pressure. The longer the black candlestick is, the further the close is below the open. This indicates that prices declined significantly from the open and sellers were aggressive. After a long advance, a long black candlestick can foreshadow a turning point or mark a future resistance level. After a long decline a long black candlestick can indicate panic or capitulation.

 Even more potent long candlesticks are the Marubozu brothers, Black and White. Marubozu do not have upper or lower shadows and the high and low are represented by the open or close. A White Marubozu forms when the open equals the low and the close equals the high. This indicates that buyers controlled the price action from the first trade to the last trade. Black Marubozu form when the open equals the high and the close equals the low. This indicates that sellers controlled the price action from the first trade to the last trade.

Long Versus Short Shadows

The upper and lower shadows on candlesticks can provide valuable information about the trading session. Upper shadows represent the session high and lower shadows the session low. Candlesticks with short shadows indicate that most of the trading action was confined near the open and close. Candlesticks with long shadows show that prices extended well past the open and close.

 Candlesticks with a long upper shadow and short lower shadow indicate that buyers dominated during the session, and bid prices higher. However, sellers later forced prices down from their highs, and the weak close created a long upper shadow. Conversely, candlesticks with long lower shadows and short upper shadows indicate that sellers dominated during the session and drove prices lower. However, buyers later resurfaced to bid prices higher by the end of the session and the strong close created a long lower shadow.

 Candlesticks with a long upper shadow, long lower shadow and small real body are called spinning tops. One long shadow represents a reversal of sorts; spinning tops represent indecision. The small real body (whether hollow or filled) shows little movement from open to close, and the shadows indicate that both bulls and bears were active during the session. Even though the session opened and closed with little change, prices moved significantly higher and lower in the meantime. Neither buyers nor sellers could gain the upper hand and the result was a standoff. After a long advance or long white candlestick, a spinning top indicates weakness among the bulls and a potential change or interruption in trend. After a long decline or long black candlestick, a spinning top indicates weakness among the bears and a potential change or interruption in trend.

Doji

Doji are important candlesticks that provide information on their own and as components of in a number of important patterns. Doji form when a security's open and close are virtually equal. The length of the upper and lower shadows can vary and the resulting candlestick looks like a cross, inverted cross or plus sign. Alone, doji are neutral patterns. Any bullish or bearish bias is based on preceding price action and future confirmation. The word “Doji” refers to both the singular and plural form.

Ideally, but not necessarily, the open and close should be equal. While a doji with an equal open and close would be considered more robust, it is more important to capture the essence of the candlestick. Doji convey a sense of indecision or tug-of-war between buyers and sellers. Prices move above and below the opening level during the session, but close at or near the opening level. The result is a standoff. Neither bulls nor bears were able to gain control and a turning point could be developing.

 Different securities have different criteria for determining the robustness of a doji. A $20 stock could form a doji with a 1/8 point difference between open and close, while a $200 stock might form one with a 1 1/4 point difference. Determining the robustness of the doji will depend on the price, recent volatility, and previous candlesticks. Relative to previous candlesticks, the doji should have a very small body that appears as a thin line. Steven Nison notes that a doji that forms among other candlesticks with small real bodies would not be considered important. However, a doji that forms among candlesticks with long real bodies would be deemed significant.

Doji and Trend

The relevance of a doji depends on the preceding trend or preceding candlesticks. After an advance, or long white candlestick, a doji signals that the buying pressure is starting to weaken. After a decline, or long black candlestick, a doji signals that selling pressure is starting to diminish. Doji indicate that the forces of supply and demand are becoming more evenly matched and a change in trend may be near. Doji alone are not enough to mark a reversal and further confirmation may be warranted.

After an advance or long white candlestick, a doji signals that buying pressure may be diminishing and the uptrend could be nearing an end. Whereas a security can decline simply from a lack of buyers, continued buying pressure is required to sustain an uptrend. Therefore, a doji may be more significant after an uptrend or long white candlestick. Even after the doji forms, further downside is required for bearish confirmation. This may come as a gap down, long black candlestick, or decline below the long white candlestick's open. After a long white candlestick and doji, traders should be on the alert for a potential evening doji star.

After a decline or long black candlestick, a doji indicates that selling pressure may be diminishing and the downtrend could be nearing an end. Even though the bears are starting to lose control of the decline, further strength is required to confirm any reversal. Bullish confirmation could come from a gap up, long white candlestick or advance above the long black candlestick's open. After a long black candlestick and doji, traders should be on the alert for a potential morning doji star.

 Long-Legged Doji

Long-legged doji have long upper and lower shadows that are almost equal in length. These doji reflect a great amount of indecision in the market. Long-legged doji indicate that prices traded well above and below the session's opening level, but closed virtually even with the open. After a whole lot of yelling and screaming, the end result showed little change from the initial open.

Dragon Fly and Gravestone Doji

 Dragon Fly Doji

Dragon fly doji form when the open, high and close are equal and the low creates a long lower shadow. The resulting candlestick looks like a “T” with a long lower shadow and no upper shadow. Dragon fly doji indicate that sellers dominated trading and drove prices lower during the session. By the end of the session, buyers resurfaced and pushed prices back to the opening level and the session high.

The reversal implications of a dragon fly doji depend on previous price action and future confirmation. The long lower shadow provides evidence of buying pressure, but the low indicates that plenty of sellers still loom. After a long downtrend, long black candlestick, or at support, a dragon fly doji could signal a potential bullish reversal or bottom. After a long uptrend, long white candlestick or at resistance, the long lower shadow could foreshadow a potential bearish reversal or top. Bearish or bullish confirmation is required for both situations.

Gravestone Doji

Gravestone doji form when the open, low and close are equal and the high creates a long upper shadow. The resulting candlestick looks like an upside down “T” with a long upper shadow and no lower shadow. Gravestone doji indicate that buyers dominated trading and drove prices higher during the session. However, by the end of the session, sellers resurfaced and pushed prices back to the opening level and the session low.

As with the dragon fly doji and other candlesticks, the reversal implications of gravestone doji depend on previous price action and future confirmation. Even though the long upper shadow indicates a failed rally, the intraday high provides evidence of some buying pressure. After a long downtrend, long black candlestick, or at support, focus turns to the evidence of buying pressure and a potential bullish reversal. After a long uptrend, long white candlestick or at resistance, focus turns to the failed rally and a potential bearish reversal. Bearish or bullish confirmation is required for both situations.

Before turning to the single and multiple candlestick patterns, there are a few general guidelines to cover.

Bulls Versus Bears

A candlestick depicts the battle between Bulls (buyers) and Bears (sellers) over a given period of time. An analogy to this battle can be made between two football teams, which we can also call the Bulls and the Bears. The bottom (intra-session low) of the candlestick represents a touchdown for the Bears and the top (intra-session high) a touchdown for the Bulls. The closer the close is to the high, the closer the Bulls are to a touchdown. The closer the close is to the low, the closer the Bears are to a touchdown. While there are many variations, I have narrowed the field to 6 types of games (or candlesticks):

 1.            Long white candlesticks indicate that the Bulls controlled the ball (trading) for most of the game.

2.            Long black candlesticks indicate that the Bears controlled the ball (trading) for most of the game.

3.            Small candlesticks indicate that neither team could move the ball and prices finished about where they started.

4.            A long lower shadow indicates that the Bears controlled the ball for part of the game, but lost control by the end and the Bulls made an impressive comeback.

5.            A long upper shadow indicates that the Bulls controlled the ball for part of the game, but lost control by the end and the Bears made an impressive comeback.

6.            A long upper and lower shadow indicates that the both the Bears and the Bulls had their moments during the game, but neither could put the other away, resulting in a standoff.

What Candlesticks Don't Tell You

Candlesticks do not reflect the sequence of events between the open and close, only the relationship between the open and the close. The high and the low are obvious and indisputable, but candlesticks (and bar charts) cannot tell us which came first.

With a long white candlestick, the assumption is that prices advanced most of the session. However, based on the high/low sequence, the session could have been more volatile. The example above depicts two possible high/low sequences that would form the same candlestick. The first sequence shows two small moves and one large move: a small decline off the open to form the low, a sharp advance to form the high, and a small decline to form the close. The second sequence shows three rather sharp moves: a sharp advance off the open to form the high, a sharp decline to form the low, and a sharp advance to form the close. The first sequence portrays strong, sustained buying pressure, and would be considered more bullish. The second sequence reflects more volatility and some selling pressure. These are just two examples, and there are hundreds of potential combinations that could result in the same candlestick. Candlesticks still offer valuable information on the relative positions of the open, high, low and close. However, the trading activity that forms a particular candlestick can vary.

Prior Trend

In his book, Candlestick Charting Explained, Greg Morris notes that for a pattern to qualify as a reversal pattern, there should be a prior trend to reverse. Bullish reversals require a preceding downtrend and bearish reversals require a prior uptrend. The direction of the trend can be determined using trend lines, moving averages, peak/trough analysis or other aspects of technical analysis. A downtrend might exist as long as the security was trading below its down trend line, below its previous reaction high or below a specific moving average. The length and duration will depend on individual preferences. However, because candlesticks are short-term in nature, it is usually best to consider the last 1-4 weeks of price action.

Candlestick Positioning

Star Position

A candlestick that gaps away from the previous candlestick is said to be in star position. The first candlestick usually has a large real body, but not always, and the second candlestick in star position has a small real body. Depending on the previous candlestick, the star position candlestick gaps up or down and appears isolated from previous price action. The two candlesticks can be any combination of white and black. Doji, hammers, shooting stars and spinning tops have small real bodies, and can form in the star position. Later we will examine 2- and 3-candlestick patterns that utilize the star position.

Harami Position

A candlestick that forms within the real body of the previous candlestick is in Harami position. Harami means pregnant in Japanese and the second candlestick is nestled inside the first. The first candlestick usually has a large real body and the second a smaller real body than the first. The shadows (high/low) of the second candlestick do not have to be contained within the first, though it's preferable if they are. Doji and spinning tops have small real bodies, and can form in the harami position as well. Later we will examine candlestick patterns that utilize the harami position.

Long Shadow Reversals

There are two pairs of single candlestick reversal patterns made up of a small real body, one long shadow and one short or non-existent shadow. Generally, the long shadow should be at least twice the length of the real body, which can be either black or white. The location of the long shadow and preceding price action determine the classification.

The first pair, Hammer and Hanging Man, consists of identical candlesticks with small bodies and long lower shadows. The second pair, Shooting Star and Inverted Hammer, also contains identical candlesticks, except, in this case, they have small bodies and long upper shadows. Only preceding price action and further confirmation determine the bullish or bearish nature of these candlesticks. The Hammer and Inverted Hammer form after a decline and are bullish reversal patterns, while the Shooting Star and Hanging Man form after an advance and are bearish reversal patterns.

Hammer and Hanging Man

The Hammer and Hanging Man look exactly alike, but have different implications based on the preceding price action. Both have small real bodies (black or white), long lower shadows and short or non-existent upper shadows. As with most single and double candlestick formations, the Hammer and Hanging Man require confirmation before action.

The Hammer is a bullish reversal pattern that forms after a decline. In addition to a potential trend reversal, hammers can mark bottoms or support levels. After a decline, hammers signal a bullish revival. The low of the long lower shadow implies that sellers drove prices lower during the session. However, the strong finish indicates that buyers regained their footing to end the session on a strong note. While this may seem enough to act on, hammers require further bullish confirmation. The low of the hammer shows that plenty of sellers remain. Further buying pressure, and preferably on expanding volume, is needed before acting. Such confirmation could come from a gap up or long white candlestick. Hammers are similar to selling climaxes, and heavy volume can serve to reinforce the validity of the reversal.

The Hanging Man is a bearish reversal pattern that can also mark a top or resistance level. Forming after an advance, a Hanging Man signals that selling pressure is starting to increase. The low of the long lower shadow confirms that sellers pushed prices lower during the session. Even though the bulls regained their footing and drove prices higher by the finish, the appearance of selling pressure raises the yellow flag. As with the Hammer, a Hanging Man requires bearish confirmation before action. Such confirmation can come as a gap down or long black candlestick on heavy volume.

Inverted Hammer and Shooting Star

The Inverted Hammer and Shooting Star look exactly alike, but have different implications based on previous price action. Both candlesticks have small real bodies (black or white), long upper shadows and small or nonexistent lower shadows. These candlesticks mark potential trend reversals, but require confirmation before action.

The Shooting Star is a bearish reversal pattern that forms after an advance and in the star position, hence its name. A Shooting Star can mark a potential trend reversal or resistance level. The candlestick forms when prices gap higher on the open, advance during the session and close well off their highs. The resulting candlestick has a long upper shadow and small black or white body. After a large advance (the upper shadow), the ability of the bears to force prices down raises the yellow flag. To indicate a substantial reversal, the upper shadow should relatively long and at least 2 times the length of the body. Bearish confirmation is required after the Shooting Star and can take the form of a gap down or long black candlestick on heavy volume.

 The Inverted Hammer looks exactly like a Shooting Star, but forms after a decline or downtrend. Inverted Hammers represent a potential trend reversal or support levels. After a decline, the long upper shadow indicates buying pressure during the session. However, the bulls were not able to sustain this buying pressure and prices closed well off of their highs to create the long upper shadow. Because of this failure, bullish confirmation is required before action. An Inverted Hammer followed by a gap up or long white candlestick with heavy volume could act as bullish confirmation.

Blending Candlesticks

Candlestick patterns are made up of one or more candlesticks and can be blended together to form one candlestick. This blended candlestick captures the essence of the pattern and can be formed using the following:

•             The open of first candlestick

•             The close of the last candlestick

•             The high and low of the pattern

By using the open of the first candlestick, close of the second candlestick, and high/low of the pattern, a Bullish Engulfing Pattern or Piercing Pattern blends into a Hammer. The long lower shadow of the Hammer signals a potential bullish reversal. As with the Hammer, both the Bullish Engulfing Pattern and the Piercing Pattern require bullish confirmation.

Blending the candlesticks of a Bearish Engulfing Pattern or Dark Cloud Cover Pattern creates a Shooting Star. The long, upper shadow of the Shooting Star indicates a potential bearish reversal. As with the Shooting Star, Bearish Engulfing, and Dark Cloud Cover Patterns require bearish confirmation.

More than two candlesticks can be blended using the same guidelines: open from the first, close from the last and high/low of the pattern. Blending Three White Soldiers creates a long white candlestick and blending Three Black Crows creates a long black candlestick.

 


 

 

Trading is about probabilities not predictions

 

 

In my experience many of the people that start out learning to trade futures feel that there is a comparison between futures trading and casino gambling.  The definition of gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome. This “uncertain outcome” is the key phrase in gambling. Gambling also tends to have negative connotations and to be called an addiction or a habit and is generally not looked highly upon.

This is not the case with trading. Trading is a legitimate business and many people make a significant living trading futures. Futures are also a form of investing in the short term moves of commodities. In many ways there are similarities between trading and gambling, but one of the major differences is, a skilled futures trader will be taking the position of the house and not the gambler.  The skilled trader will always trade a system. He or she will faithfully follow the rules of the system. They will trade as a job and not let emotions change their methods.  Anyone that has spent any time in the casinos knows the house always wins in the end, because they follow the rules.

In finance, trading is described as an exchange of a security (stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, derivatives or any valuable financial instrument) for "cash". Both parties seek to derive value from the trade. Some traders think this makes trading is a zero sum game where someone has to lose in order for someone to win. On a macro scale this may be true, but this is not true for the professional futures traders.

For an example, as the trader assumes a new position on a futures instrument in the market, he or she may be relieving someone of their profitable position. At this point the trader may go on to make even more profits out of this futures instrument. This scenario may continue on and on for some time. At some point in trading a poorly executed trade may be made and loses may occur. Generally this happens when the market unexpectedly shifts directions and traders move out of positions so as not to expose themselves to even greater loses. This result can be, but is not always part of a trading system. Most trading systems will have an acceptable lose ratio. The unacceptable loses occur when inexperienced traders or traders not following a system exit early from the trades in losing positions.  These loses are mostly driven by emotions.

A quality trading system is based on statistic and probabilities.  An experienced trader will look for signals to enter and exit trades. These signals are tested and based on quantifiable information that has been compiled over a long period of time. These trading signals or indicators will have safeguards built in. These safeguards will be targets, stops and limits and rules surrounding every action the trader makes. A quality trading system will also have probabilities attached to the actions.

The trading systems rules will cover all scenarios and have contingencies built in for all unknowns.  These rules are composed of pre-determined targets and stop losses, timeframes and many other criteria. There will be variables in the trading system and they will be documented thoroughly and specific actions will be followed based on the variable.

If the trading system is performed accurately without mistakes there is an anticipated outcome or probability. This outcome will achieve profitable results consistently. Following the rules of a trading system is not gambling.

As a simplistic example of a system similar to what is used in trading, would be to take the coin flip game, heads or tails. The guaranteed outcome of this exercise is 50% heads and 50% tails. If a player chooses heads every single flip of the coin, what are the outcome probabilities? They can only be 50%, so if the player chooses heads every time it’s not gambling. The maximum target is always achieved.

So how does someone win at this game? The easiest way to win would be to adjust the payouts to one side of the coin and maintain the system as it becomes profitable.

Obviously trading systems are more complex and there are multiple facets to trading, including the system itself, the mechanical actions and requirements of the trader are equally important, and the inherent human nature to change the rules based on outside influences is one of the hardest parts to overcome.

As you can see from what has been written trading is about probabilities. If you stick with the system consistently by following all the rules, you will have consistent results. Remember, trading should not be gambling.