Friday, 26 August 2011

Kicking the Habit

Last week, I came to realise that my strategy does have one flaw - it relies a lot on the favourite (or at least one player) playing to a good standard at some point during the match. And that is why last week in Cincinnati, I struggled to get wins. The top players almost all struggled to find any decent form. Even the finalists (Sharapova, Murray, Jankovic, Djokovic) were well below par for long periods. The general quality of tennis made games very hard to read and opportunities were thin on the ground. As this was the only tournament on this week, there was no escaping these problems.

What ended with a couple of hundred pounds-worth of losses, would've undoubtedly been closer to a couple of thousand if it had happened earlier this year. Cincinnati couldn't have come at a better time because I was more focused than usual on making sure my patience and discipline were good. In the year and a half that I've been trading, I have never had a week where the matches were so bad across the board. So it's highly unlikely to happen again for a while. But at least I'm now aware that it CAN happen and will be better prepared for it next time.

The other great thing to come out of last week, was that I had to red-up at the 25% mark so many times that I actually got used to doing it. I didn't have any full-stake losses and even though there were occasions where I made bad errors, I still took the loss. I had written previously that I felt I needed to take hits in order to make it more of a habit and I believe I've now done that.

And there's even better to come out of this week. My confidence took a huge hammering from Cincinnati and I have been fighting a tough mental battle every day. I have never had to work so hard to reign my thoughts in. Each day I have felt anxious and I began to doubt my system for the first time since March. It's been thoroughly exhausting, trying to stay focused and do the right things but just as I'd expected, the wins returned and trading got back to normal. It was a huge relief. The FPD Plan is really bearing fruit now. I have not had any focus issues at all, I have redded up at 25% every single time I've needed to and my patience is improving as each day I do something which shows I am finally not rushing the process so much. I'm even taking all Friday off to enjoy myself, which is unheard of! The mistakes are still there but they are less frequent and not as large. I've always said this would not clear up over-night. I'm like a smoker who is battling to kick the old bad habit into touch, trying to suppress those cravings. But that defensive mindset is starting to take hold and the air I'm breathing is getting slightly less smoky each day.

I now go into the final grand slam of the year with a lot of confidence, despite the fact that it really is make or break time for me. A bad week would probably spell the end for my trading. And to be perfectly honest, if I can't produce a decent week now, in the biggest event of the year, after all the work I've put in to change myself, I may have to just admit that it is never going to happen............

Monday, 22 August 2011

Trading Timeline

And so a hideous week comes to an end. 11 wins and 31 losses. Normally, I'm used to that figure being the other way around! Even during most losing weeks, I still tend to have more wins than losses. Four of those losses were monumental fuck-ups that should never have happened. They were Dodig v Monfils (where I bet based on an injury and not what was actually happening), Lisicki v Peer (staked too high then let the trade run out of control), Zheng v Jankovic (Let a massive green slip back to a big red) and Federer v Berdych (a straight bet).

Without those 4 losses I would almost be breaking even. So it's given me a bit of a lift to know that in such a bad week, I wasn't far from escaping unscathed. I thought it would also help to do a timeline of my progress as a tennis trader, in order to show how much I'd improved and give me some positivity:

February - March 2010

Finally gave up on the football and started paying attention to the Tradeshark Tennis Strategies I'd bought the previous summer! After a good start on tiny stakes, I started to get excited - tennis was the sport for me!

April - July

Learnt the market and the sport, trading and watching religiously every day. Started upping-stakes substantially (way too soon) and those wins started turning to losses. Decided to concentrate on WTA only, as struggled with ATP.

August - October 2010

Started tinkering with the Tradeshark strategies in order to try and make them more suitable for my own personality. This showed real promise during the US hardcourt series, as I started to make larger greens. This was the birth of the strategy I still use today. However, my discipline continued to let me down.

November 2010

Realised I just wasn't getting anywhere and needed to make drastic changes. I read 'Trading in the Zone' and 'The Way of the Turtle' and this gave me a new lease of life. I suddenly realised where I was going wrong - I needed to concentrate more on ME and my mindset.

December 2010

Prepared a new strategy for ATP, bought a better laptop, started taking supplements to aid with concentration and generally started approaching trading more professionally.

January 2011

New professionalism improved my trading and focus 10-fold. The ATP strategy immediately started producing results and my greens were getting bigger and more frequent. However, my mindset still let me down and a couple of bad losses would wipe out all my hard work.

February 2011

Started this blog! But results plummeted almost immediately and I slipped into The Gambler's Cycle of endless chasing.

March 2011

Hit rock-bottom as my funds dwindled to almost zero. My anxiety was so high that I couldn't trade properly and made mistakes almost every game. Almost ditched my strategy. Have rarely been as low in my entire life.

April - May 2011

Lowered my stakes and instantly saw results improve. The clay court season saw my trading reach new levels of consistency, as I tweaked my strategy here and there. Finally, I got it to something I was 100% confident with. Also found my anger issues had significantly improved, I stopped chasing on football and overall, was much better psychologically.

June - July 2011

Got complacent, took my eye off the ball. Lost focus and couldn't get it back. Slowly leaked money without even realising, as I lost all passion for trading. Records showed that if I had prevented all my full-stake losses by redding-up at 25% of stake, I'd have saved £3000 over past 3 months.

August 2011

After a break, got my focus back but bad habits had returned over the last couple of months and needed attending to. Started my FPD Plan to try and sort this out. A good start but...............

September 2011

Make or break time..........

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Attack to Defense

I've mentioned several times, the parallels between the mindset required for trading and for sport. Watching the Jelena Jankovic game today, I stumbled across another one. She is a player who made her name as a counter-puncher; someone who primarily played defensive tennis. When she made world number one a few years back, she did so having never won a grand slam. This made her start to think that she needed to be more attack-minded in order to clinch a major title, so tried to change her game. The problem with that is, you are not just changing a style of play, you are changing an entire mindset, one that has been ingrained since childhood.

Counter-punchers generally don't like going for big winners and forcing the play because it means they will make more mistakes as they play percentages less. Jankovic has clearly struggled to find the form that made her the best in the world, partly because she hasn't been able to transition smoothly to a more attacking mindset. You can see that in her play, she reverts to type when the heat is on and that's a purely instinctive reaction.

Andy Murray is another player who has struggled to do this. The difference for him, is that he actually tends to play BETTER, when he attacks more. The big question is, why doesn't he do it more often? It's simply that he's not as comfortable playing that way. He has a defensive mindset first and foremost.

On the flip-side, you have Sabine Lisicki, a player who has an all-out attacking mindset. This means that she doesn't have much of a middle game, doesn't play percentages or try to work points by rallying much. As anyone who saw her diabolical display on Monday will testify, it means on a bad day, when the winners aren't coming off, she produces countless unforced errors. She was a set and 0-5 down against Peer when she suddenly decided to change, go against her usual mindset and start to reign her game in. She started deliberately trying to keep the ball in play, stop going for winners off every ball and it resulted in her leveling up at 5-5. That's what she needs to do more of in order to crack the top 10 and challenge for slams but to do it consistently involves a huge change in mentality.

And I guess I'm attempting to do the same; change my mindset from one of always trying to win money, always trying to get into matches quickly and make quick profit, to one of not losing money, taking my time, holding back more. I'm trying to go from an attacking to a defensive mindset.

Caroline Wozniacki is another who is currently trying to adjust, in the same way Jankovic did. There's no way she'll win a slam unless she does. And there are success stories. Petra Kvitova went from around 60 in the world to Wimbledon champion in the space of a year and that is largely down to her reigning her game in so as to cut out the UEs. Francesca Schiavone was a defensive player who had never been near the top 10 in over 10 years as a pro. She decides to become more aggressive in her play and ends up French Open winner!

Jankovic tried to change it all over-night and has failed. What I'm doing now is going to take time, it can't be forced because it's so ingrained. I have to be positive about the past week because despite the losses, I am making progress and it IS going to happen. And when it does, it will mean that I've made it as a consistent, successful trader, just as it will almost certainly mean a grand slam title for Caroline Wozniacki.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Conspiracy Continues

Once again, events seemed to conspire against me, as they have done almost all week. This is easily the worst spell I've had with regards total all-red matches in a week. 4 more today and just one win. Only this time, I lost my full stake for the first time. I'd struggled each day to keep my discipline amidst all the horrendous luck and had taken 25% losses each and every time. But today, I just couldn't take it anymore.

I started with a win in the Sharapova game but the Murray, Nadal and Petkovic games did not fall my way, despite doing everything correctly. I was so pissed off at Nadia Petrova's inexplicably poor game, which came out of nowhere after several brilliant ones, that I could feel the frustration reach tipping point. I lost all discipline in the following game, used a terrible entry point and let it run till I had to take a 25% loss yet again. And that was it. The volcano erupted and I piled in on Roger Federer right then and there, with no intention of ever trading the match properly. I'm sure you're aware he lost, with a pitiful performance, to Berdych.

I'm not sure I can take much more of this. Right now, I could happily end this trading lark and never look back. I haven't got the patience required for this and I'm not sure that I ever will have. Even though I've waited longer and been more disciplined than I have in months, eventually, I always seem to snap and give up. I know things will turn soon but it might be too late by then. I'm not sure I can take much more of a battering to my ego. Gonna rest from the blogging for a while and see if I can get my head together for one last try. I'm writing this in the immediate aftermath of the Federer game, so maybe I'll feel better later. At the moment, I doubt it.

Cincinatti Sun-burn

Today was one of the most infuriating days trading that I have ever experienced. No matter what I did, whether good or bad, it wouldn't come off. I lost almost every single trade I placed, ending the day with 5 losses and 1 win, giving me just 5 wins and 16 losses over the last 3 days. Once again, things transpired in matches that don't happen that often, such as David Ferrer throwing away a game from 40-0 up. Three or four times a week at most, I'm used to that sort of thing happening but this week it's gone into double figures easily.

I'm sure it has something to do with the Cincinnati weather. The level of tennis in almost every match I've watched this week has been dreadful, with some of the lowest quality tennis I've ever seen from both men and women. Even the big players like Nadal, Tsonga, Wozniacki, Ferrer, Kvitova have played appallingly at times, whilst games such as Petkovic v Gajdosova and Simon v Ferrer have been the worst I've witnessed all year. I'm certain it must be the ferocious heat and humidity that is lowering the standards. Players seem to be really struggling and it is affecting my strategy. Apart from Wednesday, I really haven't traded that badly. The usual blip here and there but normally, my win-loss ratio would be 2 or 3 to 1, whilst this week it's almost 3-1 AGAINST! Even during my losing weeks, I still normally have more wins than losses, it's just that a couple of large losses wipe out all the wins. It's just an unusual week I guess.

That said, I did make some silly errors today that made things much worse than they needed to be. My goal today was simply to remain patient and wait for very clear opportunities only. And so I waited. And waited. And waited. For 3 whole hours, I waited patiently, monitoring 4 or 5 games but declining to get involved in any. That's an unusually long period for me. But my patience finally snapped during the final set of Nadal v Verdasco. I shouldn't have played the 3rd set as the swings were always going to be huge. I was caught out and stung for 20%. Another couple of hours passed and again, I waited. And waited. And waited. I watched the painful debacle that was Simon v Ferrer for over 2 hours. I finally found an entry point and it was looking great until Ferrer threw away those 3 game points. I was furious and let the trade slip out of control, ending up with a 15% loss.

For the late night session, I didn't have to wait long for an opening on Jankovic v Schiavone but JJ managed to lose 4 games in a row, turning my green position into a hideous red one. I could not believe my luck, it was so typical of the unbelievable number of outrageous turnarounds that have hit me this week. Only Gael Monfils (of all people!) remained solid enough for long enough for me to capitalise and give me my only win of the day on the final trade.

I've worked so hard to get my focus, patience and discipline right this week and I have actually improved massively in all areas. But I have nothing to show for it, profit-wise. Any other week this year and I would have been in substantial profit. But I've never known a week like this in all the time I've been trading. I suppose I should just shrug it off as an unusual anomaly that probably won't happen again all season. And I can guarantee you, I would have been facing enormous losses if this had been any week in the past. As it is, I can recoup all my losses with two good day's trading, which isn't bad considering the loss ratio. But right now, I feel sick to my stomach.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Train Crash

The Japanese Bullet-Train well and truly came to a tragic halt today. Just when I thought I was on the way out, I get pulled back in. It all started with the very first game, Monfils v Dodig. Monfils was injured after just a couple of points but decided to carry on playing, even though he could barely run at all. I piled in on Dodig and then just prayed that Monfils wouldn't retire until the end of the set, to give me a large green. But if anything, it was the Frenchman who reacted better following his time-out. Dodig wasn't at the races, didn't make Monfils run around to aggravate the injury and only drop-shotted him once or twice. He didn't seem to know how to play the situation and his overall game suffered, whilst Monfils seemed to concentrate better. I should've reacted to the warning signs then and there but as I have done on numerous occasions in the past, I held onto my position against the injured player.

Long-time readers might remember when I did this in the Querrey v Robredo and Tipsarevic v Del Potro games earlier this year. Robredo and Del Potro were injured and fatigued, respectively, yet still won their matches because they focused their game more, whilst their opponents capitulated. I lost a full stake on both games because I couldn't believe that anyone could be so brain-dead to lose against a clearly hampered opponent.

At least this time, I redded-up at the 25% mark but the fact I was disciplined at that point didn't help my overall mindset - I was absolutely disgusted with myself. It was the angriest I've been for months and I couldn't control it. Steam must've been coming out of my ears and I felt like smashing something to smithereens. This red-mist phase continued into the next two games, which I stupidly decided to trade at the same time. I ended up red on both games, as my focus wasn't good enough split between the two. The one which really cost me was Murray v Nalbandian, where my entry points were rushed and badly planned. I was seething as I saw the minus 25% figure approaching and wasn't far off just letting the entire trade ride. But I must be getting used to taking the hit now and came out of the trade - so at least there is something positive to come out of today.

It didn't stop there though. I was £65 green on Jankovic v Zheng but didn't take the money, which would have remedied a large chunk of the day's losses. I stayed in for more, trying to recoup the lot and ended up losing it all. At that point, I was close to losing the plot. I suffered 4 more losses, with just one win and ended the day close to tears. None of the losses were large but all of the trades were done with that key ingredient missing - patience.

It seems that my focus and discipline (redding-up), are much improved since I started the FPD Plan, but I always knew that the P was going to be the hardest to change and today really showed that. To let one mistake affect me like that STILL, after all this time, is very worrying. I just couldn't let the Monfils game go and the Jankovic game doubled the frustration. Two green positions which turned red. Had I taken the green on both games, I would've ended the day in profit.

Anyway, it's another harsh lesson learnt and the rule for games involving injuries has to change. From now on, I need to get out of the trade when the injured player is still playing reasonably well. It's just not worth the risk. I'm devastated right now. Tomorrow is gonna be a hard day to lift myself for.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Japanese Bullet-Train

Another interesting day for the FPD Plan. I started with a nice win on Li v Safarova but then went on a run of 5 losses in a row. Now that sounds pretty bad but in actual fact, I'm quite proud of how it all turned out. Only one of those games came close to the 25% loss limit. But best of all, as I look at my record notes, there are NO blue highlighter pen marks i.e. I did not make any mistakes. This once again proves what I've been saying for many months; if I use the correct entry points, I don't get angry and lose discipline, so I also use the correct exit points and have no problem accepting a red.

This was also a massive test for my patience and discipline because it is very rare that I have 5 losses in a row, particularly when I have followed the strategy properly. I cannot even remember the last time that happened. So I'm really pleased with the way I reacted to these set-backs. My entry points were faultless on each occasion but just when I needed that little bit of luck to give me a good green, the match turned the other way. Examples include Maria Kirilenko being 40-0 ahead and squandering all 3 break points. Peng and Dulko both throwing away 30-0 positions by losing 4 points in a row, within the same match. And Fabio Fognini, who only won 3 games against James Blake, deciding that one of those games where he actually got off his arse and managed to keep the ball in play, would be the one I needed him to lose to make a rather fat profit.

It was just one of those days where the market kept speeding like a Japanese bullet-train in the direction I predicted it would, only to suddenly and out of nowhere slam on the brakes and do a screeching u-turn in the opposite direction. In the past, this sort of bad luck would have seen my frustration levels well-up until they exploded in a mushroom-cloud of anger, with me probably losing all discipline and throwing my money on a straight bet. Not today! In fact, for the third day running, I elected to opt out of a game I could've traded, to sort out my focus. And for the second day running, when I returned, I traded beautifully and made profit on the Federer v Del Potro game, which meant I finished the day with £26 profit! Not bad for a 5 losses to 2 wins ratio!

I can really feel the difference in my trading since starting the FPD Plan and it is showing in my records. Out of my last 16 trades, only 4 have blue marks. That is a shift from approx. 50% of all games traded that had errors before I started the plan, to 25%. I've taken breaks and opted out of trading some games on each day so far and overall, I'm starting to feel a lot more relaxed, sharper and in control. The Japanese bullet-train didn't want to go to my destination today but overall, it's starting to speed quite nicely in the right direction.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Cincinnati Sins

First game of a new week and the big tournament in Cincinnati and what do I do? I let a trade run past the 25% red-up point. THE VERY FIRST GAME!! So how did that happen? My focus was fine, however, my patience was lacking. I basically went in with too large a stake, doubling up what I'd initially entered the market with. I felt that Sabine Lisicki was about to pummel Shahar Peer into the ground and was too quick to assume the 'inevitable'. Normally, at the price I entered at, I would only use half stakes but I bulldozed my way into the market, making it imperative that Lisicki trained to 1.01. That didn't happen! She promptly lost the set and then capitulated to 0-5 second set.

I saw the 25% red sitting there, waiting to be taken. I even had a minute or so to take it. But as usual, my subconscious wouldn't allow it and I reverted to type. I was livid with myself and switched to the Cetkovska v Medina game. I traded that game well and made a nice £44 in just a few minutes. It didn't really make me feel much better though. First game of the week and I'm already hundreds in deficit. That's always a crushing feeling because I always start the week with renewed enthusiasm that this is gonna be the week when it all falls into place. Less than an hour in and I'm already facing the fact that it's going to be yet another seven day struggle. However, fortune was smiling on me for once. I glanced at the score only to see that Lisicki had won 5 games in a row and it was now 5-5! I could now red up for that 25% loss, as if nothing had happened! All my sins had been absolved! Instead of being £200 down after one hour, I was now £6 down!

I followed this debacle with some nice trading on Bogomolov and then Goerges, plus a scratch trade on Nalbandian which was unlucky not to make profit too. But I then faced a second challenge. This time, I was determined not to mess up. I placed 3 trades on the Petkovic v Gajdosova game but all of them failed. When the 4th trade reversed on me, I took the 25% red and left the game. So there you go, I've taken my first 25% red since the FPD Plan started! Can't say it felt good, especially as it wiped out all my profit for the day but it was the right thing to do and that's all that matters.

Later on, I exercised good patience by not trading the Haas game because I could feel my focus wasn't right. Instead, I took a break and came back refreshed for Harrison v Chela, where I clocked a massive £89 green! So I ended the day with £100 profit. If I'd lost that Lisicki game, I would be -£50.

Today was a brilliant example of why I'm not quite able to push my trading from small profit to large profit. The difference between taking the 25% red and leaving the trade to run, was a whopping £150. And if I hadn't made that mistake in the first place and used correct staking, I'm almost certain I would have been able to make profit from that Lisicki game, as it fit my strategy perfectly. Factoring in that win, I would have ended the day at £175 profit. The Gajdosova game was traded correctly for the most part, so that loss would've remained roughly the same.

So you can see the way my trading has been going and also where it could and should be going. It really seems such a small margin between success and failure. In reality, that margin is quite big because the FP and D are nowhere near consistent enough yet. But there was a lot of promise today. My focus was superb, I opted out of games, I redded-up when required and accepted a 25% loss. It was just that one game that let me down. Le cochon D'Inde shall return for tomorrow's Cincinnati experiments!

Le Cochon D'Inde

Since I started the FPD Plan, it has been very interesting, at times startling, to observe my own behaviour whilst trading. I feel as though I am a scientist conducting experiments on a guinea-pig, except that I am also the guinea-pig! The more astute of you (or those who paid attention during French lessons!) will know that 'cochon d'inde' means 'guinea-pig'. It's one of the few words I remember from French class at school, as something about it always appealed to me. I never thought I would ever actually get to use it properly during my adult life but I've finally done it!

Anyway, I digress. As the scientist, I've noticed a lot more these past couple of days, how often the guinea-pig version of me automatically does things that it shouldn't be doing. I caught myself on a number of occasions reaching for the mouse-pad mid-game, in order to change tabs and start surfing the web. I didn't even have anything specific to look at most of the time, it was just a reflex action. It's just a horrible bad habit that has actually cost me money many times. I've listed 'internet ban' amongst my weekly goals dozens of times this year, yet after a few days, I just seem to forget and go back to the distractions of the world-wide web.

But although there are several bad-habits that I need to cut out, I have to remain positive and think about all the good new habits I've introduced and stuck with this year:

1. Regular stretching and exercise in between games.

2. Staying hydrated

3. Writing daily non-monetary goals

4. Keeping detailed written records of each trade

5. Bank management and proper stake sizes

Then there's all the bad habits that I have actually stopped doing altogether:

1. Chasing back losses on the football

2. Losing my temper and going berserk to the point of punching and kicking things

3. Trading multiple games at the same time

4. Trading more than 10 hours a day and not getting enough rest

5. Trading with more than my maximum stake (including piling in with the whole bank!)

None of these changes happened over-night but it shows that change is possible with hard work. There are a couple of things I want to introduce regularly which I have tried in the past but not stuck to. The total ban on surfing the net is one. A regular hypnosis session is another. I don't know why I never stuck to this because whenever I have one, I always feel great afterwards - bouncing with energy and positivity. But I had one yesterday and really felt the benefit. I made £170 from the four semi-finals and two finals - 5 wins and one that I didn't get involved in. F,P and D all first-class. So I will be adding a weekly hypnosis session to my trading diary.

Another thing I've struggled to stick to is talking through each game out-loud. I've been doing it a lot more lately and as always, it works wonders for my focus. Apart from that, I'm quite satisfied with the way things are heading. The weekend's trading was almost perfect, I felt fantastic and most importantly, the fear factor wasn't there. I am ready and prepared for that first mistake or that 25% red-up point and I 100% believe that I will deal with it calmly and efficiently. Let the experiments continue - vive le cochon d'inde!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Flicking the Switch

And so the first day of my FPD Plan comes to a close. Things started really well. I completely ignored the Stosur v Vinci game. No solid opportunity arose. FP and D all 100%. Wawrinka v Fish - all good. Waited patiently until set 2, placed a trade and won. Simples. Radwanska v Petkovic - spot on. An opening occured very early on and I was focused and alert enough to get straight on it and hold on for a win. Thought momentarily about going back in for more but patience won the day and I left, deciding I would take a break as I was starting to feel a little tired. Just need to sort out my focus and I'll be back in an hour for the Tsonga match................then came the brain freeze.

I actually said to myself 'Leave the Tipsarevic game and take a break'. But I just couldn't resist. It was already well into the first set. I only watched one game and then decided to pile in on Berdych, completely against my strategy. Focus gone = patience gone. Once Tipsarevic broke, it was a matter of time before discipline went too. I could've taken a 25% red at that point but of course, I didn't. I put more money on Berdych, he lost in straights and I lost the whole stake. So that game, in a nutshell, is exactly where I am going wrong. No F, no P and no D. Even though I knew not to trade that game, I still did it. There were no issues afterwards, I didn't chase at all. Made two scratch trades and didn't trade the other two. So good focus and good patience. But just a moment of madness, lasting no more than a few minutes, and I turned a profitable day into an unprofitable day.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I managed to fail on all three sections of the plan within one match on the first day! But this shows just how deeply ingrained all my bad habits are. Even though my mind is saying the right things at the right times, my body is not reacting. But out of the cinders of yet another poor day on the ladders, I think I may have found some answers.

Clearly, I need to flick a switch somewhere in my subconscious, that eliminates these ingrained bad habits that cause me to do things automatically. I'm so used to playing every game and trying to get a win from every match and hoping to turn around every bad situation, that it has become a reflex action that I can't stop. In order to flick that switch, I need to get used to doing the right things over and over again.

I realise now that that first hit is the most important one. Once I take that first 25% red, leave the game and then continue onwards, get a couple of wins under my belt, things won't feel so bad. Especially if taking that hit managed to save me 75%. If that happens, all of a sudden, I'm positive and relieved. I will then remember this for the next time and so will be more likely to take the 25% red again. The more it happens, the more I will become comfortable taking the hit until one day, it will just become second nature - I won't even think about whether to take it or not, I'll just do it.

What I'm saying is that the best thing that can happen to me now is that I HAVE to take a 25% red. The only way to overcome this issue is to face it head-on. If I now go on a fantastic run, where I don't need to red-up for a week, it's possible that I will never confront the problem and so when the time comes again, I will revert to my natural bad habits. So instead of fearing a red-out situation, I now need to embrace it and look forward to it. I need to test myself, I need to do it a few times and to see the impact it will have on my P&L.

The same applies to not trading every game - the more I opt out of games and switch off the PC, the more I will get used to it. Behind my attempts to trade every game, there is a fear that I might miss out on profit. I need to face that fear and gain satisfaction from the fact I'm not losing money by not trading. If I had opted out of the Tipsarevic game, I would have re-charged my batteries for an hour, not lost any money and not had a losing trade all day. That satisfaction would have been immeasurable for my confidence and the old habit of trading every game would be well on the way to being banished.

So this now means that I will go into every game with a very different attitude. No longer will I be looking to avoid fearful situations, I will be expecting them and looking forward to the challenge of conquering them. Because that's the only way that switch is going to be flicked.

The FPD Plan

Focus, Patience, Discipline. The cornerstones of successful trading. Today, I've put together a new plan which I hope will push me through what I believe is the final stretch to success. All my note taking and analysis of the past couple of months has produced the same, clear results. But I've not been able to learn from this and apply it consistently to my trading. The following FPD Plan, aims to rectify this:


When I'm fully focused, concentrated and 'on it', I trade well. When I'm not, I don't. It's that simple. Retaining a high level of focus will be the easiest of the 3 'cornerstones' for me to achieve. I realise now that I just have to stop trading when I feel the first signs of lack of focus creep up on me. Whether it takes one hour or one day to sort myself out, have a rest, eat something or do another activity, it doesn't matter. I have to treat it as if I am SAVING money, rather than LOSING money.


This will be the hardest of the 3 cornerstones for me to deal with. I've mentioned many times on this blog that impatience is my biggest issue, personality-wise. It's not just a trading problem but a general life problem. I just don't have any patience for anything and it has set me back thousands of pounds and many months during my trading apprenticeship. It's the one issue that time and time again, crops up as the reason why I make mistakes. Basically, I jump in too early with trades, try to force wins when opportunities are not solid enough and play too many games.

This is down to a number of things - anxiety, boredom, over-enthusiasm, lack of focus. But even when I'm 100% focused, I still can be impatient. How do I become more patient? I must focus more on the discipline required to follow my entry points to the letter. When I use correct entry points, there is rarely an issue because I know that I will 99% of the time, use the correct exit point too. But when I use the wrong entry point and things go against me, that is when I get frustrated and start to leave the trade to run past a safe exit point. So the key here is to stay relaxed, don't expect to make money from every game and wait for clear opportunities that fit the strategy. Get the entry point right and the correct exit point will follow. I also think getting back to playing chess regularly (a game I love but rarely bother to take the time to play) and a return to some hypnosis sessions will benefit my patience skills.


Specifically this relates to redding-up at the 25% loss mark. As I've mentioned recently, if I had redded-up at this point in all the games I'd traded over the previous 3 months, I would have been £3000 better off. That tally has gone up even more this past 2 days. So why do I fail to do this and lose full stakes still? I think this issue would not even exist if I sorted out the first two cornerstones. When I'm focused, I hardly make any mistakes, therefore, the issue of redding-up is non-existent. I will ALWAYS red-up as long as I've done the right things. But when either the focus or the patience is missing, the discipline tends to go too. So if I take care of the F and the P, the D will follow.

However, I need to accept that there will be the odd occasion where I lose focus and patience. At the moment, I can't accept those mistakes and that is why I don't red up at 25%. Once that tally goes past the 25-30% loss mark, I tend to just let it ride all the way, so it's imperative that I do just end the trade and walk away. So my plan here is to accept that I'm probably going to make mistakes and when I do, to red-up at 25% and LEAVE THE GAME.

So in essence, all 3 cornerstones require me to make a mental change in some way.

1. Treat not trading a game as if I am saving money rather than losing it.

2. Learn that waiting for solid entry points will lead to actioning correct exit points.

3. Accept that I will occasionally make mistakes and shut down any trade before it reaches that point of no return (-25% of the stake).

95% of the time over this past 2 weeks, I have achieved these goals. It's just that final 5% that lets me down, that one or two trades per week that get out of control. As of today, all that changes.

Friday, 12 August 2011


That is exactly how I feel right now. I have nothing left to give. I'm completely shattered, soul destroyed and emotionally drained. I haven't been particularly angry, I haven't remonstrated loudly or seen the red mist. I'm just numb.

It all went horribly wrong today. All my good work from the past 2 weeks has been wiped out in one hour of complete madness. Just 2 matches where I lost focus and then lost my head. From the moment I woke up this morning, I was not myself. I think the past couple of weeks finally caught up with me; the travelling, the 2 days of lost sleep, the manic weekend and then the head-cold. I was amazed that I even managed to trade so well last week. But today, the fatigue finally got to me and I couldn't shake it off all day. My body was devoid of any energy and I knew that if I lay down, I would struggle to get back up again for a very long time. But I still went ahead and traded. That was my downfall. My focus wasn't there and as soon as I realised this, I should have stopped. But I battled on through the tiredness, somehow deciding to trade two games at once (something I never normally do) and ended up losing my full stake on both. A double whammy gut-punch that left my head spinning. I could've gotten out at various points for much smaller losses but for some reason, I kept going back in and just made things worse. I wasn't following my strategy at all for most of the time, I just wasn't thinking straight.

I remember the last time I traded whilst tired, very vividly. It was back in February I believe, and I lost around £600 on the one game, Safarova v Dokic. It wasn't far from being a lot worse though. I was knackered from running earlier in the day and could barely keep my eyes open. Once more, I simply haven't learnt from past experience. I'm starting to wonder whether I ever will. I'm just sick of doing so well for 90% of the time, only for that tiny 10% to ruin it all and put me back to square one. Obviously, it's almost always a focus issue and I now realise that I simply cannot ever trade if I feel my focus slipping. If that means taking the whole day off, so be it.

When I look through all my notes and analyse every game, it all boils down to 3 very simple issues which you'll all be familiar with - focus, patience and discipline. When I'm focused, I rarely make mistakes. The biggest problem I face once I'm focused properly, is impatience. I still tend to try and force trades by jumping in too early. But even so, when I'm focused, I can normally rectify those errors. But when I'm not focused and I become impatient and make mistakes, I don't always rectify those errors. And that's the third major issue - I struggle to accept losses that occur due to daft errors and so I don't always red-out. I get frustrated and my discipline disappears. There's nothing new in that analysis, I've known all that for ages. So where do I go from here? Right now, I don't know and I don't care. I'm too numb to even think anymore.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Betdaq Jinx

The first two days of this week epitomised exactly where I am with my trading right now. Whilst Monday showed the potential that is there when everything comes together as it should do, Tuesday showed just why that potential is not being realised. The first day of Roger's Cup action could not have gone much better; 7 games traded, 5 wins, 1 loss and 1 scratch. £135 profit made it one of my best days of the year. I was brimming with optimism and pride. How quickly things can change.

On Tuesday, I decided to start trading on Betdaq. I mentioned how I'd switched half my bank from BetUnfair a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I managed to lose the entire 50% on The Daq in the space of a couple of days, such was my level of trading at the time. I hadn't been able to refill it till this week. So I fired up Betdaq Angel for the first time, to see if it would offer me more than Daqbot, which I'd used previously. What should happen on my very first trade? Didn't realise that the back and lay sides were reversed and accidentally layed Richard Gasquet! I quickly redded-up but there was no way of getting back into a winning position, as the Frenchman trained to 1.01 against Florian Mayer. The fact that this would have given me a nice solid green magnified my mistake and I was left in a seething mass of rage. I didn't know who to be angriest at - BetUnfair for making me move, Betdaq Angel for putting the back side to the left of their ladders or The Geek for not creating a Betdaq version of The Toy. In the end, I discarded all those options and just berated myself for not testing out Angel enough beforehand.

For those of you who have only ever used The Toy to trade with, I urge you to try out some of the other products out there, just to see how lucky you are to have The Toy for free. Little things that you take for granted, (such as being able to hover the cursur over prices to see potential profit, seeing prices flash as money gets taken, being able to slimline the ladder and move it around separately from the rest of the product) really become a pain the ass when they are not available on these inferior free API products. My trading just does not feel as intuitive or fluid without The Toy.

That said, I cannot blame my tools for the dreadful couple of hours of trading that followed. I traded 4 more games, losing 1 and scratching 2 but even the game I profited from was fortunate. I could easily have lost all 4 and I'm talking BIG losses too. I completely lost my head for the Murray v Anderson match and ended up with one of those banes of my life, the full-stake loss. I don't know what on earth I was thinking going anywhere near Andy Murray the way he was playing. Well actually, I do know what I was thinking - "stick it all on the scruffy Scot, he's bound to come back against the lanky fool that is Kevin Anderson and I'll more than make up for that Gasquet aberration". It was chasing, pure and simple, and over what? A 10% loss! But that in a nutshell, is my main problem - I cannot let daft mistakes lie. When I know that it was 100% avoidable, the loss gets right under my skin.

I was fuming now. The following 3 games were a mangled mess of straight bets and speculative trades done without any adherence to my rules, taking bad prices, short-cutting my entry points and ignoring exit points. I was fortunate that all 3 games turned back in my favour when it looked as though I might lose my entire stake. I called it a night knowing that I was lucky not to have my entire bank wiped out. And all this over one tiny error on Betdaq Angel.

I'm starting to think that Betdaq is jinxed for me, as unbelievably, I have NEVER won any money on any tennis trade I've placed at the purple place! So I'm rather ashamed to say that I'm only able to use BetUnfair now, as I still have a full bank there. I am refusing to post up any screenshots from there though, (as you may have noticed from the absence of P&Ls recently), as this somehow makes me feel better about having to use BetUnfair for all my activity right now! Anyway, back tomorrow, hopefully the red mist will have cleared by then.............

Monday, 8 August 2011

Physically Cold, Mentally Hot

I felt like shit this past week. But for a change, it has nothing to do with my trading. I've struggled with a cold that, had I had it 2 weeks ago, would've undoubtedly lead to even worse trading than I'd been experiencing. However, despite the fact that physically, I've not felt this bad all year, I traded better than I have done in the whole of 2011. In between the coughs and splutters, I've managed to somehow retain a high level of focus for the entire week and this has resulted in some of my highest profit and ROI for any week this year! There is no secret to this upswing in form. I haven't changed strategy or stakes or done anything drastically different. I am simply mentally refreshed following my break and as a result, I have approached each game with a renewed enthusiasm and stronger concentration.

Previously, I was easily distracted and I just couldn't muster the passion to be thorough. This week, I've been up for every game and so have spotted opportunities more often and during the trade, I've prepared myself properly for my exit points and stuck to them. Sounds so simple when I write it like that. And it is, I guess! That's all trading is essentially; choose safe and proper entry points and plan and execute your exit points.

The evidence of my success is clear to see in my records. Before my holiday, my notes were littered with blue marker-pen, which is what I use to highlight errors I've made. Almost every single game had at least one error in the week leading up to my break. This week, around 50% of my traded games have blue marks. That's still a lot of mistakes but it just goes to show the potential that is there to make fantastic profit. Eradicate all those mistakes and who knows where it could lead. In fact, some of those games with blue marks, I still ended up with profit despite the mistake, showing that I was able to keep a clear head and turn things around with sensible trading.

In total, I have 19 wins and 9 losses and only two of those losses went past my 20% stop-loss limit. Unfortunately, both those occassions came over the weekend and really messed up my overall total but nonetheless, I'm satisfied with my profit. There was only one occasion where I let a trade get horribly out of control. It turned back in my favour, so the loss was smaller. But previously, that would happen at least once a day. This is the first week in over 2 months that I've not lost a full stake. The other really pleasing thing is that I have not traded many games. This time last year, I would've been trading the morning games from Kitzbuhel and gone right through the night doing the WTA from Carlsbad, probably well over 12 hours on the ladders. This week, I have only traded 6 evening games, as I just haven't needed to, such has been my success rate with the Kutzbuhel ATP.

So you can see the improvements are vast. The aim now is to simply keep it up! There's absolutely no chance of me ever getting over-confident or complacent again, so I just need to make sure I remain consistent. It's great to be back in the groove and enjoying tennis trading once more.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

6 Month Blog Review

It is now exactly 6 months since I started 'Centre Court Trading'. What a tumultuous ride it's been! After a solid start, I was soon struggling and making enormous errors. After a brief 'boom and bust' period, I found myself slipping deep into a well of anxiety. My bank shrivelled to almost zero and I truly felt as though it was all over for me, until I introduced bank management and was able to trade with greater freedom. After 3 months, I was brimming with excitement, as my trading hit new heights for consistency and ROI. But I started to get ahead of myself, took my eye off the ball, became complacent. I felt it was just a formality now, a matter of time until I was raking in the cash. My focus levels began to deteriorate and my concentration was so poor, I didn't even realise how often I was losing my full stake each week. When I saw that I wasn't improving as much as I'd hoped, I felt burnt-out and lost the passion for trading. Mistakes began to get worse and more frequent and eventually, I was back to where I was in 'The Dark Ages' of February and March.

That said, my trading has improved massively during this blog. I had huge anger and impatience issues at the beginning, which have steadily improved as I've gone along, particularly helped by hypnosis. I had pretty much no serious bank or risk management in place. This has now changed. There were too many little things that I didn't bother to safeguard against (Betunfair going down, player injuries etc) that I now have a plan for. I have tweaked my strategy so that it is much tighter on all surfaces, particularly grass and clay, which I had struggled to come to terms with. Most of all, I have seen big improvements in the psychological side of trading.

When you compare how I was during my first really bad spell (The Dark Ages) and my second spell over the last couple of months, the difference in my behaviour is drastically different. Before, I was constantly berating myself, punching walls, inflicting actual physical damage to my own body, screaming the house down in frustration. I just couldn't let any mistake go, no matter how small. My anxiety left me sleepless at night and literally trembling with fear every time I placed a trade. I even had pains along my left arm during some trades, as my heart-beat pounded out of my chest. Contrast that with June and July, where I never at any point felt any pain and always believed that it was only a matter of time before things would turn around. I always traded calmly and if I did get frustrated, it wouldn't normally last more than a game or two. The red mist phase could go on for days, previously.

But I really needed a break, some proper time-out to refresh and now that I'm back after a week off, I feel rejuvenated. I really let myself go at the festival I attended, not thinking about trading for even a second. Even despite the fact I didn't sleep for 48 hours over the weekend and have picked up a cold, my trading on Monday was noticeably of a far higher standard than at any point in the last 2 months. Every game, I was completely focused and felt great placing trades. I enjoyed tennis once again and this translated into good results. I'm not saying I didn't make mistakes. I realise that I have slipped back into some bad habits and these will take a little time to rid myself of, but I've always maintained that if my focus and passion is there, I will make money - it's just a matter of how much.

According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book 'Outliers', at least 10,000 hours of meaningful practice are required in order for anyone to successfully master anything. I'm at almost 5,000. This is based on trading every day, averaging 8 hours a day for 18 months (which is roughly what I have done). So I'm halfway through my apprenticeship! I reckon I could easily have cut that total in half though, if I'd started trading with no intention of making any profit to begin with. Most of my struggles have been because I have been too impatient and too desperate to make money quickly. This meant I wasn't able to learn at a steady pace, which made accepting losses even harder, so I just kept chasing and going round in circles. But whatever the case, it is encouraging to know that just because I'm not 'there' yet, it doesn't mean that I won't ever reach the promised land.

So 6 months down the blogging line and 5,000 hours into my apprenticeship, I am quite proud that I'm still around. I've seen dozens of blogs fall by the wayside and I almost went that way too. But I reckon I'll be around for at least another few months as we move into the final third of the tennis season and back to the hard courts. This time, with renewed vigour and vitality.