Trading Psychology

[March 2012]

So, another big meeting is over! although this year it has really left a distinct mark on me. It’s left me asking myself literally hundreds of questions, of which I don’t mind as I’ve said before trading has done a lot for me as far as self enlightenment and ‘soul searching’ goes..


Today it really hit me smack in the face full-on which was rather strange. After a reaction, a brief conversation and a long chat with a family member who’s well into psychology its left my head well and truly pickled. I’ll try to explain…

So today, Saturday the 17th March. The day after the Cheltenham gold cup, a day where trading is not expected to produce much fruit for its labour. Mainly because a lack of mug money, punters cash has been pouring into the markets all week. Which means, the day after its likely to be traders battling against each other with the bots in the mix as well.

However, I believe Cheltenham has had a rather positive effect on my mental state and attitude towards what im doing. Yesterday was another clean sheet… no great surprise as I only traded the highly liquid races with a degree of discipline, although today it reached around 1600 hrs and I was pretty bored with what I was doing. I felt pretty hungry and was quite simply fed up of ladders! With a long weeks trading I stopped to look at my profit and loss sheet….. again I had a clean sheet. I hadn’t even realised until I looked, what’s more I had made almost the same as Thursday the day before the gold cup… WTF would probably be an understatement? that’s not normal for me.

The worst thing I found when I realised myself doing it was it was almost as if psychologically I was saying to myself, them results look like a pro’s … quite dismissive of the fact they were actually my produce for the day?!

After speaking to another trader briefly I got the feeling they knew what I was on about from past experience. I have taken care to ponder on their wise words. Thanks if you read the blog.

Basically they said I shouldn’t be looking at my results race by race day by day, more month by month if anything. The reasoning I can see behind this is probably because one I do that a lot and two it’s probably actually counter productive, and now I quite believe it.

The more I think about it, im still getting wound up if I have a £10 – £20 loss, or if its higher than that im almost treating it like a train wreck?! (I mean mentally obviously).

It then really hinders my results for the day or sometimes longer, they advised I treat it like a game with numbers rather than money which is interesting.

So what’s the problem?

Well I’ve been at the level or at least capable of the level im at now trading for a long time, and yeah sure it’s not bad but everyone want’s more right? Well I do anyway..

It’s left me thinking; if I don’t actually believe im capable of some the results I’d like to achieve, how the hell am I going to get there? I mean if I keep putting in the same ingredients, why am I expecting a different cake?

After all im sure all the big trading names that float about in cyberspace don’t use the stakes I am to get the results they are. To up my game I need to up my stakes for one, but the main thing for me is I need to be able to accept that losses happen irrespective of size, also sure the big guns dont batter an eyelid when they lose £20.

I mean in the grand picture its sod all, and I cant expect to keep winning £20 if I don’t put myself in the place where I could lose such amounts. The main thing though is I need to start believing in myself properly….. I mean I have a job and the word ‘pro’ may be a little too suggestive but are my results not on the way there?? Feel free to vote on the poll, top left (now closed), it would be good to hear how others view such a statement. I think im definitely self-limiting.

Okay so all that aside, I called up the closest I have to a therapist at the mo to discuss how im feeling about this and how it’s limiting me etc… to cut a long conversation short they reminded me about my risky behaviour in just about every aspect of life and how one of the most famous psychologists ever said that sort of behaviour and in particular gambling is linked to psychological self harming (avoiding success in a sense) and low esteem… not sure, but can relate to that a little.

The main thing that came up was when you think about it its pretty much right, when I lose it confirms how I feel in the sense that im not successful enough and winds me up. I can get frustrated and snappy where as when I win consistently or to a respectable level I tend to have the ‘that was luck’ attitude, which is not good either. Anything beyond £15, £20 I tend to feel like that, not much of a wonder it doesn’t happen many times a day is it?

So having a bout of nice results has helped me a little I think, but I need to explore this understanding within myself. And cement this idea that im actually worthy of more than £20 in a race. Also not to be scared of using the stakes that could potentially allow me to profit more (I don’t mean all the time, just when its right)

After-all when people see these greens of £50 or more you don’t really think these people are only using £100 a pop?

Furthermore the most important thing is going to be able to accept loosing some cash without the feeling of suppressed self-esteem and frustration… again the highly profitable’s profit/loss sheets you see would show they aren’t particularly worried when they lose 20, 40 or even 50 quid. An invaluable quality in my opinion as I often wreck a days trade after a ‘blip’.

Please feel free to comment if you have a opinion on all this should you agree or not, im interested (go easy though!).

Related Article: Horse Racing Strategies For Betfair

6 thoughts on “Trading Psychology

  1. Hi Caan, I voted on your poll ‘none of the above’ – let me explain! A ‘pro’ is someone who gets paid as an expert in a specialised field. So if you are living off your trading profit, then you are a professional in the field of trading because you have an expertise in this field. You would of course be in profit over the long term (not short term). What the long term is, is open to debate but I would say a minimum 2 consistent years – 1 year can be a fluke but 2 and you’ve surely got something.

    However, often when people are labelled as a pro, they are just being called good at trading. You can be good at anything but unless you have some proof to back it up, it doesn’t make you a pro. If it’s not your job then you technically aren’t a pro, though with trading it’s slightly different from other jobs because many people do it as a hobby or second income and still make a lot of money. If they can prove they have consistent profit stretching back years, they can probably still be considered a pro, even if they don’t live off those profits (though of course, it would need to be more than a couple of quid profit!)

    Basically, if you can’t live off your profit, you are not a pro and if you haven’t be able to do this for at least a couple of years, you are not a pro.

    Qualities that a ‘pro’ trader definitely would have, are confidence in what they are doing, a proven track-record and very few unanswered questions about themselves, their strategy or their mindset. If you have no record of consistency, an unstable mental history when trading and constantly are looking for answers, you are a long way from being a pro. You might trade ‘like’ a pro from time to time but unless it’s consistent over years, it means nothing. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just means you have a lot more work to get where you want to be.

    My advice for you is you need to resolve these self esteem and anger/ frustration issues before you even think about upping stakes. You have to keep asking questions about why you do things and work on those issues beacuse they won’t just go away. It’s good that you recognise your issues though because most people don’t and they never improve.

  2. Hi Caan, good post and one I can relate to as I’m sure many others do. In terms of losses they are much easier to accept if they are in line with your bankroll. By that I mean if you lose £100 on a trade with only a £1k bank then that would have a greater impact on your psyche and your confidence than if you were trading with a £10k bank. That was my problem when I first started out. Trying to make £15-£20 per race with just a £1k bank. You can do it if you get on the right side of a move but it’s not a realistic amount to expect on every market and that’s where my problems began with overstaking and in turn the out of proportion losses to my bank. This led to self doubt and and all sorts of negative feelings and this carried on for a good while. It wasn’t until I realised that to make £15-£20 a race and to lose the same amount without it damaging my psychological state I needed a bank of £2500-£3k and even then those amounts weren’t guaranteed, they never are. But the knowledge that I could safely get in a position to win those amounts without the losses affecting me allowed me to trade without the shackles of knowing that I could always make it back in the next race without having to put my bank at risk of further excessive losses.

    I’ve probably gone on a bit there but basically providing you have a proven edge those amounts you are talking about will come as your bank grows. Then next problem is becoming complacent and not being satisfied with ‘only’ £15-£20 per race and wanting more. But that’s for another day.

    Take it easy and it’ll come.

    All the best.

  3. Thanks guys, some very insightful comments.. exactly what i needed.
    Sultan – yes you are right and as i thought maybe its the wrong label but i think you got the just of it.. these esteem issues etc you are completely right, its just a case of what comes first the chicken or the egg i think maybe?
    CC – Thanks for the posative comment, hadn’t really thought of it like that before but it makes sense, could be part of the frustration, oddly i think i’ve expereinced the satisfied and wanting more feeling alot already and can deal with that easier than the losses, will soon see 🙂 cheers for the input guys

    1. Excellent post Caan and good discussion, I’m really thankful you haven’t abandoned your blog and can come back here from time to time to write a really insightful exploration of where you’re at yourself. Thanks to the Sultan and Chris for “going on a bit” cos to a newbie trader like me this conversation hits exactly on the thoughts and feelings I have during a session, and yet haven’t chatted about enough to know how to express it,…. i remember a while back you did a post about knowing when you have an edge — along the lines of You just stop caring about it and keep doing what works, when it doesn’t hassle you and provides good results and you don’t have to stop and think about each trade , you are comfortable with what you’re doing,….

      BOth replies hit on the right point, its about doing what you do consistently, over and again and crucially “having as few unanswered questions about yourself” as possible…. in my newbie idealistic vision (having not reached there myself yet), i imagine that you only reach that point when you’ve had weeks and weeks and months of regularly consistent results when you eek out the most profit from the bank you’re using, without toying with big risks — as it seems (reading between the lines), that you still capable of leaving yourself in very risky positions that could break you,. I think balance is key , between expected reward and what you can risk,.. and the journey you’re on is finding how to develop that balance as you grow in confidence and self-assuredness in your moves.

      i know the “train-wreck” mentality (the pride sting from a red £25) all too well and until that’s dispelled, you’re always at risk of self-sabotage. keep going with it, your patient enough to get good at this me thinx, wish u the best ! 🙂

      thanks too, to The Sultan & Chris for sharing your valuable perspectives – Ron

  4. I know a few people who trade for a living but can’t imagine any of them would ever call themselves a ‘pro’.

    Only people who refer to pro traders are wannabe ‘pro’ traders or scammers 🙂

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