Friday, 18 February 2011

Controlling the Demons

It has been exactly one year since I first started tennis trading, my first tournament being the WTA Dubai. Have I improved that much since then? In almost every respect, yes. My knowledge of tennis and the markets is as you'd expect, much stronger and I have honed my strategy to something I'm now very comfortable with. But I would have to say that my discipline is worse. When I started out I used tiny stakes and followed my strategy very closely simply because I didn't know what I was doing and was scared of getting it wrong.

I actually started very well and got too confident too soon. It wasn't long before I started making mistakes, edging away from the strategy and losing discipline as the gambler's mentality took over. As I've mentioned before, I had been betting on football for years and had dozens of ingrained bad habits. These eventually took over but because my knowledge of tennis and the markets was getting better, I just assumed that it wouldn't matter - the more I learnt, the better I would get and I wouldn't make the same mistakes. This is the wrong attitude. You have to sort out the mindset or it won't matter how much you know or how good your strategy is.

Eventually, I realised this and knew that I had to change. At the end of last year I gave my trading a thorough analysis, following some reading up on financial trading and the mentality required. I studied every bet I made in minute detail and came to the following conclusions:

1. My strategy was fine and would be profitable consistently if I stuck to it.

2. I didn't stick to it because I was being too impatient or losing concentration.

3. I was making silly mistakes sometimes because I was not treating trading professionally enough.

So I bought a new laptop with a better processor, started analysing every trade, started taking supplements to boost concentration, energy and mental sharpness (Korean Ginseng tea and Omega 3 Fish Oil) - these all worked. But they don't stop me making rash emotional decisions in the moment of the trade.

This week, I've come to a realisation - I cannot trust myself. In the heat of the moment, I cannot control my emotions enough to do the right thing every time. I have considered this for many months but never really done enough to try and rectify this. Today, that all changes. So here is what I plan to do to rectify this:

1. Go through a checklist of things to make sure my mindset is right before I start. I will basically be asking myself whether I'm in the right frame of mind to trade i.e. am I tired, hungry, comfortable, focused, prepared etc. If I don't tick all the boxes, I don't trade.

2. Talk through every match. Speak to myself about exactly what is happening and how that relates to my strategy. This helps to keep me focused and rationalise the situation.

3. Use breathing techniques when I start to feel frustrated or angry. These help to calm me and suppress the 'red mist' phase.

4. Stretch and drink regularly. Keeping hydrated and exercising helps to keep the body comfortable and mind focused.

5. Don't fixate on the money. I find I make many mistakes because I am more worried about the amount I'm making rather than just getting the win and building consistency.

6. Red out at minus £50 EVERY time. Accept the loss and move on.

7. Move away from the PC after a loss. Go for a walk, listen to music, lift some weights and get rid of the frustration before trading again.

8. Only post on the blog at the end of the day!!!

It's all about replacing old bad gambling habits with new good trader's habits - it won't happen over-night. Let's see how it goes............

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