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Almost Skilled (YM)

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Almost Skilled (YM)

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  #11 (permalink)
Posts: 41 since Mar 2011
Thanks: 11 given, 31 received

Journal restart


I did setup this Journal in March 2013. I made few posts, but soon after I landed an office job. I left without explanation, and this journal was unattended for 2.5 years now.
I left my work this year in February, and I'm taking trades since March. Looking back I think it was good to take that job. Firstly I tasted what it is to be an office rat, made some contacts, and earned some money that help to keep me calm this difficult beginner's days. But truth be told I wanted to be trader since I was 14. So taking another stab at it.

Reason why I'm restarting the Journal is that during the downswings, reading journals of some other trades helped me to put things into perspective. We all repeat the same mistakes, experience the same exuberance. It helps to know that I'm not the only one in the trenches. If I ever become successful trader, and this journal will help some other trader as motivation in his journey, mission accomplished.

I hope I'll stick around for longer than last time. Human is creature of habit, so building habit to attend journal can take few weeks. I'll do my best

Journal was also renamed from "Damaged goods" to "Almost skilled"

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  #12 (permalink)
Posts: 41 since Mar 2011
Thanks: 11 given, 31 received

I never cancelled my broker's account, and I was regularly paying for Sierra Chart. So even during the time of my office job days, I was working on trading. Spending good 20h per week on average working with backtest and so on. Trading evolves and there were some slight changes.

Instrument and platform
YM and Sierra Chart, nothing changed

Trading style
Breakouts from SR level, or trendline, but whole process is more layered now, will be explained later.
Targets around 25t, SL 8-10t
No change

Charts and Indicators
I cleaned up my charts a little bit. Background is black now (probably the main difference)
Uisng 250 vol bars

My main tools
SR levels charted from composite (months to years) of volume profile. Marking low and high volume areas, and adjusting them slighly based on price action in last days, so it closer matches real SR levels.
EMA 34

Secondary tools (means that I look at them if something is in question, but they are not the signal)
ADX (been considering to remove it for few months now)
ATR (actually was removed for a long time. Volatility judged by eye based on size of bars. Showed up again on 24-26th of Aug, when I was comparing volatility of those days to previous periods, keeping him there for now)
Cum Delta, and DeltaMomentum
Mid of range

Charts can seem little bit overcrowded. My eyes are used to it, and can filter what is important at the moment. But I do make mistakes, sometimes in stress of trading we experience tunnel vision.

To summarize, very little changed. Instrument, platform, style (breakouts), and most of the tools are the same. Top down approach was refined, but the main idea of it is the same.

Some improvement in this area. This Journal was formerly named "Damaged goods". The name reflected the fact, that in my first attempt to trade I lost 15% of the account very fast, and it burned me. I had huge problems to open trades. At the moment of this post I have 93 live trades, being somewhere around BE (after fees). I do have habit of taking at least one trade a day. I still have some issues, overprotecting my profits, under trading, not letting winners run, but I see light at the end of the tunnel. I'm improving, and I see real possibility for this career path. The name of the Journal is now Almost Skilled

Please see my results in USD, after fees

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  #13 (permalink)
Posts: 41 since Mar 2011
Thanks: 11 given, 31 received

Well moving into a new place, and parents visiting kept me busy over the weekend and Monday. Quick recap of week, before I move into this new week. Wanted to write first about current state and performance, but was not enough time.

Very simple post, just to review last week

Monday 7th of Sep - Bank Holiday

Tuesday - 2 loosing trade, really bad trades, brain dead kinda type. I was looking for breakout, but really bad thinking process

Wednesday - Market opening on the edge of short term balancing range. Tested this level H from 28th of August, but reversed. Entry on break of trendline, also breaking SR level. Target matched to L of previous swing down, 30t.

Thursday - big range ON, extended slighly below previous day L. Before opening slightly climbing upwards. Trendline coming from this L of ON and move upwards. ON breaking together with break of SR line. Very similar trade to previous day trade.

Friday - preoccupied, + symbol rollover and 9/11 anniversary

Summary - One trade a day mostly accomplished. 2 really bad trades, 2 ok trades (satisfied)

Areas to improve - increase number of trades

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  #14 (permalink)
Posts: 41 since Mar 2011
Thanks: 11 given, 31 received

Before I continue with daily/weekly reports, I want to address more my trading style, methods, situation so far, and what targets do I have in next months.

Principles - how I see market, my frame of perception that I use to work with market. This is only my opinion, what helps me sleep at night.

1) Market moves in range, rotating from one side to another. Sometimes from SR to SR level, sometimes in direction within trend channel borders. Sometimes crosses over border into another range. Entry on the edge of range "should" be more successful than in the middle of range, where the move is more chaotic. Market is an auction, searching and testing. It does not know whether it is priced at correct price, only way to find out is to move and test level above or below, and wait for the response.

2) Part of the market move is chaos, part is pattern. Maybe pareto rule 80/20. What it means that I do not bother trying to explain or understand most of the action. In addition to that I'm trying to avoid to trade in moments where I have not a slightest idea what is it trying to do.

3) Another similar application of this view is idea that any given trade is affected by luck and skill. Sometimes there is a washout pullback far beyond what I considered a good SL placement. Sometimes you don't get filled and you miss an opportunity, sometimes you get slippage. There are factors I can't control. My job is pick up the situation where skill factor dominates over luck factor. An example of such approach is to avoid to trade in volatile whipsaw market.

4) One thing I can control is my down side, my stop loss. Stop loss plays a dominant decision point whether I should take the trade. I do have a pain threshold, so I do not take trades where proper SL would be too big. I do not chase market, and rather look to enter on pullback, where I can place SL behind EMA or SR level, or last swing + few ticks. I look for entry where my stop loss is small but still sufficient. Sometimes I do not get filled, as market does not make a pullback that far, or I miss an opportunity, but it is part of my style and I'm ok with it.

5) In trading you have small losses, small winners, breakeven, you should never have big losses, and you need big winners to pay for it all. (do not remember who is author) Not letting your trades to reach targets, will bankrupt you eventually.

6) Psychology. I'm the greatest obstacle on my way to the success. It is your "lizard brain" that takes over, and you shoot yourself in the leg. Fear, greed, anger. Making sure that you are focused, and have your emotions in check is very important.

Trading process

1) I do start 1.5 hour before market opening. Checking up on any reports coming in, Asia/Europe, any news. I live in Central Europe, so main trading hours for me are. 15:30-22:15. My core work hours are 14:00 to 18:00 (usually finished earlier, if trades taken are at satisfactory level)
2) I do consider the big picture, market in view of several days up to weeks. Using volume profile composite, and daily bars
3) Take look at current consolidating range, or current move. Short term composite. Controlling price, unfair H and unfair L, SR levels, Gaps, anything that can contain the move, or act as SR and start for breakout. Also studying moves can provide information whether market is finished with the move, or will continue further (daily view)

- This part should provide ideas of dominant direction during the day, how big volume, volatility, confidence, and range I should expect. I identify important SR levels. Not every day I can gather idea what might happen, but sometimes it works out. More or less it gives answer to question what is market trying to do, who is in control (buyer/seller), and whether I can expect response from other side.

4) 250vol chart - perceived volatility at this level also gives information how confident is the market in the move in any given direction. More confident usually means less volatility. On this level then I look for signal. While top view of what market is trying to do is discretionary and is thinking process, signals themselves are statistically backtested and clearly defined.
5) I use Access database as main journal. All screens and comments, news, homework preparation, theories, trades, how I feel (psychology), and comments about days
6) I did find that taking a look at the charts and trades next day, after taking a good night sleep, puts them into different perspective. You are a blank slide, without emotions, and can judge better. This is what I do in the morning, and this is time I will try to update forum Journal.

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  #15 (permalink)
Posts: 41 since Mar 2011
Thanks: 11 given, 31 received

During my trading I encountered 2 big problems.

1) Fear of putting on trades. The Journal was originally started because I was seeking help with this. Taking office job, and time passed healed this wound significantly. I started to trade in April, and limiting myself to one trade a day in the beginning, let me slip back into pool slowly without any further shock. I do have a habit now. I do my homework before market opens, I put on trade. I do feel that I have problem to add more trades during the day at the moment. Especially after good winning trade. Having one loosing or BE trade does not stop me the way one good winning trade does. I have a tendency to protect the money too much. This need to be addressed in next few months.

2) Fear that trade will turn against me. Closing them too early. If you take a look at the graph March-Aug (realizing now that name of graph is wrong, should be April-Aug), you can see that it was 34th trade, where I for the first time let the market reach my target. This affects the results in a great way. Without big winners (principle #5) your equity curve will just slide down. I made some progress in this area. Currently I minimize Sierra Chart window when the trade is open. I do have sound notifications on target/SL reached, and also for connection lost. I do have a stop watch, and I check the graph every 30s in. I move SL if the read is there. If the SL is BE+, I do check the graph less often.
The problem here is that the moment I see price coming back in pullback, my lizard brain takes over, and fight or flight response kicks in. In open trade easiest response is to flatten all. Avoid looking at the trigger, the pullback itself. If you don't have the trigger, you can keep calm head. I do check graph time to time, as moving SL can improve results. It is easier also to keep calm head in SL moving decision when you get only short bursts of stress exposure, and time to rest in between.

- Trading since April, more or less in line with rule one trade a day. Number of trades should be increased
- I did run a SimTest in March. This test provided me with a performance benchmark.

I do have lower win rate on sample of 88 trades. It is also true that SimTest averaged 4 trades a day, while I average less than trade a day in real trades. Also psychology is under higher pressure. That can account for this miss, but it is still a concern to me. I do have on my to do list to run a backtest on August days I was away from pc, to recheck whether system works properly.
Lower profit factor is mostly caused by my inability to let the winners run. This was addressed, and is watched closely. I can't say I'm out of the woods, but improvements were made.

Tasks for next months (end of Dec):
- Recheck with backtest the win rate
- Increase amount of trades per day
- Make sure you let the winners run
- Be better in execution, avoiding mistakes (difficult to explain here, tracked in weekly trade reviews, notes, screens, it is a process check, long to describe, not a simple metric)
- As always, keep an eye on downside, trade SL, day SL
- Also be more disciplined in working hours.

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  #16 (permalink)
Posts: 41 since Mar 2011
Thanks: 11 given, 31 received

Week recap 14-18 Sep

Stressful week. Moving to new place, visit from parents. Parents were strictly against me leaving the job, and trying out trading. So I had to endure a ton of criticism. It is difficult to explain to people, that this endeavor requires some study time, and that sometimes fixing one mistake, or improving some metrics by few % can shift you from red to black. People lack ability to think in exponential, compounding world.

Monday -Preoccupied

Tuesday - I tried to trade, but with 3 nights of little sleep under my belt, and running on caffeine my head was not in the game. Missing signals, so I gave up.

Wednesday - Took one live trade.
Idea was, weak High previous day, strong SR above, ON H overlaps with this SR, small pullback to test previous day low volume area at 16473, is reasonable. Two swings up, with second swing lower H. Trendline coming from ON and first two swings down. Now, I could have taken entry on trendline break, or on break below previous swing L. But with this second entry I would need bigger SL, somewhere 16530. This SL would be little out of my comfort zone. So either entry, or SL sizing was wrong in this trade. I paid for it. Market pulled back to EMA, and moved further down, slowly, but it would hit my target

Thursday - FOMC day, decision was to be very careful, and avoid trading. I was watching market almost whole day, but pre FOMC it was dead (I did not trust breakout upwards) and after FOMC it was wild. A trade could have been taken hour before market closing, when it calmed down a little, but I was a chicken.

Friday - one live trade, waited for it. Missed one double bottom. I was very sleepy this day. Probably stress wearing me down. I went for a run after trading, and there was a ton of energy, so the problem was more psychological than physical.
This trade was taken with idea, that market is trading in range, with top edge defined by opening level. Market moved from bottom in very strong move, reached this opening level, and reversed. Trendline break, break below SR. I made some sim trades during this day, none of them worked out. This affected me. There was hesitation in opening. During the trade, I minimized window only for a minute, then I started looking at it. Low volume area around 16328 scared me a little. Not having it minimized, is against my trading rules. Naturally fear kicked in, and I closed the trade. There were some warning signs. Firstly, taking look at it later, turned out that the move upwards had second leg up coming from this pullback. Could have been anticipated. Second, weak momentum. Midpoint and low volume area acting as support. What is important, currently my aim is to let the trades work out, so that was not achieved by this trade. But entry was good.

I want to talk little about SimTrading. During past months, when I did not feel like taking a trade, or signals were messy, I often took SimTrade. I think that was a mistake. Backtest or SimTrading should be deliberate exercise. That means testing specific strategy, signal, set of rules. I often took SimTrades to test my feelings about what market should do. I took them often in order to avoid real trades, or to avoid boredom. This can cause few problems along the way.

1) You train yourself to take untested signals, to trade on impulses
2) It trains you to avoid trading, as you have easy way out (switch to Sim)
3) As you take bad trades, it affects your perception of your system. Several bad SimTrades in line, and you can hesitate in real trades. You can feel that your system is not as good as you thought.

I feel both of these problems are starting to show in my trading. This week I took 24 SimTrades and 22 of them were losers. Majority of them outside of my rules. This in combination with more stressful week than usually, caused hesitation in real trading.

This is one of the reasons why I'm currently reworking/rewriting/reorganizing "playbook", looking over all rules, any detail I picked over last months. Also I plan on backtesting again, to reinforce correct habits.

Let's see what new week brings. Good luck all.

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  #17 (permalink)
Sydney, Australia
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: Sierra Chart, IRESS
Broker: IB, IQFeed
Trading: ES, SPI, ASX stocks, options
Posts: 399 since Jun 2015
Thanks: 169 given, 463 received

Have you tried keeping your job and trading after work?

When you don't have the ticking time bomb monkey on your back to succeed, everything becomes much easier and much faster.

You might find it'll take you 2 or 3 years of living hard before becoming successful without a regular pay check versus 1 or 2 years of much easier living.

There are a lot of perks to keeping your job before you quit for full time
- No time limit. This gives you more time to test and trust your system
- No make or break. Your wife/gf/kids/dog/cat/fish won't leave you and you won't be living on the streets if you don't succeed.
- Your parents won't think you're crazy. Your trading has to be in harmony with the people you love the most - if they don't approve or don't understand, it won't work - it will just be another source of stress
- Reduced psychology issues if blowing your account. Your stake will turn from "can't lose" to "can lose" and will get rid of your trigger issues.

Good luck

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  #18 (permalink)
Posts: 41 since Mar 2011
Thanks: 11 given, 31 received

PeakGrowth View Post
Have you tried keeping your job and trading after work?

Yes I did try it. For about one and half year, but work came first (responsibility to other people depending on quality of my work). Under such conditions there were some weeks when I was not able to open the charts. It was not sustained effort and I was not in a flow.

Regarding money, I have enough in bank account to last a year from now. Nothing fancy, but my life standard. I'm 28, no gf no wife. Being older, and having other commitments would make this endeavor much more difficult.
I thought about different possibilities, and came out with conviction, that I should give it at least a year of sustained fully focused effort. On the other hand, part time job is a possibility, as main US trading hours start for me 3:30pm. Right now I have 10000 things I would like to address in my trading. I would like to see some progress, before I would allocate some substantial time to part time job. And by progress I mean positive expectancy, maybe around 40trades a month, and more ease in execution, less mistakes.

And my parents are very conservative and risk averse, they would be against trading in any circumstance. I very differ in this from them.

Thank you for your post

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  #19 (permalink)
Posts: 41 since Mar 2011
Thanks: 11 given, 31 received

No trades. Mostly fear, little bit of confusion what is market doing

2 trades

1st trade +1t
Idea here was, opening with GAP down, before NY open it started to grind upwards in trending channel. Made a quick drop after initial chop, but rejected this direction. Back to opening level above SR and EMA. Manages to extend range upwards. If I had more confidence, I would took entry just above SR somewhere @16200. With this entry SL would be below SR, in safer spot. Instead of that, I took entry on upper side, when I saw momentum rising. I believed market will continue, and break above 16228 resistance, and close the GAP. Market did not move that far. I concluded that SR will hold up ( I see two moves into SR, and push back down). Exited with +1t.

2nd trade +14t
Market tested SR at 16228 again, failed. Strong push down. Break of trendline, move below EMA. I took the scalp, with targeting 16198. Market was in chop, and I did not believe it will gather enough strength to extend range very far.


1st trade +18t
Declining from ON H. On opening it retested the first swing up but failed to move further, fall below SR level. Fast move, but reversal close to 16198. Pullback back up to 16228 SR, trendline and EMA, where I entered. Read was that market failed to extend range above previous day H, so it will move to opposite side. Entry could have been few ticks higher, I wouldn't have taken so much heat. Managed to stay in trade, mainly by minimizing the window. Went my way. Target was 18t which is my usual smaller target. There was a support level below, edge of value area from previous day, clear dip in volume profile.18t was good for this scenario.

2nd trade -7t
Still in theory that market will test bottom edge of previous day, as it failed to extend range above H of previous day. Initial range establishing move. Broke below SR 16198, returned back, and bounced back down from EMA and SR. Entry when momentum showed move down. Trade is by my rules. There was some hesitation in taking the trade. I account this to my tendency to protect profit from first winning trade. Trade went eventually against me.

Difficult day, 1 trade +1t

I missed initial move down and I failed to enter on pullback. I was not focused. Feeling under pressure, I was hunting for trade. Market reached SR, and I entered. Entry is not in line with my rules and experience. As I realized this, and I saw some resistance, I exited from this trade. Proper entry by my rules would be closer to EMA and trendline, that means on pullback. Breakout was eventually retested with pullback to 15950. Not satisfied with this trade.

1 trade -8t
Opening in no man's land, between two volume peaks on short term volume profile composite. Possible reaction from both buyer and seller, but also great chance of containment of action. After opening whipsaw, but clearly defined bottom edge at SR level. I place entry 3t below L. I can play several scenarios where trade would have work out, but main thing is that proper SL at 12-15t above 16293, that would be a proper SL placement for this scenario. That is on edge of my SL rules. I try to never go over 10t. So in such case correct decision would also be not to take a trade. Market went down, and even had a pullback where entry would have been possible.

3 decent trades in line with my rules I can be happy about. One good BE trade with proper management. One really bad trade with wrong mindset, and one trade where I can find an error in process.
Current #1 area to improve - letting trades run - good results
#2 - increase amount of trades - not good. Many of the moves happening later in day this week, where I lack experience in live or SIM trading, so avoiding them. But it has impact on your psychology seeing opportunities go by.

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  #20 (permalink)
Posts: 41 since Mar 2011
Thanks: 11 given, 31 received

There is one idea I would like to share this week regarding SIM trading. As I mentioned I often switch into SIM when I'm unsure what to do. Sometimes I'm just taking trades, with excuse that I want to test an idea. I already mentioned how such SIM trading can impact trader in previous posts. In this post I want to point out that just taking the trade to test idea is not enough. You have to review the trades. It is important to spot patterns, and it is easier to spot pattern when you look at 50 trades in 1 hour, and take notes, rather than take 50 trades in span of a month. You do not remember all of them, your memory of those trade is affected by your mind state when you took them. I did neglect this reviews. It was not so bad, I always review my live trades again and again. But I should have taken a look also on SIM trades more often. Usually when I reviewed them I always found out they are out of my rules, and in many cases I can't understand what was my reasoning why I took them.

I found one interesting piece of data

Table shows several days where my winning rate is very low, below 50%. Yet with managing my down side, limiting maximum loss, and letting winners run, I managed to end in profit. This picked up cherries show extreme cases, where even winning rate below 30% could have yielded decent per day profit (for 1 contract traded). Still it shows how important it is to let your winners run, and cut your losses. This is one of the reasons why I consider systems with good positive RRR superior.

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November 22, 2015

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