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Applying Poker Strategies to Trading The Markets

Aug 17, 2007
As a professional no-limit holdem poker player prior to my trading career, I find that both professions share many similarities. Poker and trading are both a game of probabilities. Individual psychological makeup is also important to control emotions during times of tilt and euphoria.

In poker, a player can choose the stake he is willing to play. In the futures markets the stakes are chosen by the size of the trade. However, one of the biggest differences I found is as follows:

1. In poker, you are automatically offered the option to play a hand that you are dealt. For example, in no-limit holdem this can be a Q10, KK, 10J, 2-7, etc....

Each starting hand begins with a probability. For example, pocket 9's has a 52.4% favorite against an AK suited. The odds of getting dealt a pocket pair are 5.88%.

2. In trading, you are not automatically dealt starting hands. Starting hands in poker equals setups in trading. In order to hold a pocket pair, you must find a trading setup.

Each setup has its own set of probabilities. A setup that offers a 80% winning probability should be ranked higher than a setup that offers a 50% winning probability. The more setups a trader has the more ammunition or hands he has to play with. If a trader only trades moving average crosses, this is like playing only a KQ in poker. In poker, waiting for pocket AA's will slowly drain your capital with blinds and is definitely not the way to get rich. However, a poker player who is flexible to play a variety of hands with a variety of styles is the better player.

A trader needs to have different entry/exit and risk parameters for each setup. If one of your setups involves moving average crosses, make sure you apply different entry/exit and risk parameters from a scalping setup.

I like to consider my trading freestyle. I am very flexible with the different setups I have. Trading requires creativity. Novice traders apply too much science into trading and not enough art.

Trading should be compared to a game of limit holdem. No trade is worth all your chips so do not hold a no-limit mentality. When in doubt, stay flat. As long as you play the right hands and control your losses, a trader should come out ahead.

Good luck and best of trading.
About the Author
James Lee is a full-time day trader specializing in the mini-sized Dow futures. His core trading strategy is based on pivot point clusters and Market Profile. Find out how to identify high probability trading opportunities at http://www.traderslaboratory.com.
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