Friday, 21 September 2012

The Luck Factor

An excellent post on High Class Equine recently and one that's close to my heart. I've mentioned many times on Centre Court Trading that I don't believe in luck, at least, not in the sense that people or things can be labelled as lucky or unlucky. One of the reasons I believe this is because of a book called 'The Luck Factor', written by Richard Wiseman. This book is the subject of the aforementioned blog post and it's not an exaggeration to say it changed my life. I was given it by a friend close to a decade ago and was shocked to see my own life so closely replicated in the real-life anecdotes.

The HCE post explains things in greater detail but basically, 'The Luck Factor' shows how people who thought they were either lucky or unlucky in life, were in fact, neither. The 'lucky' people were just more positive, open, friendly and pro-active, which in turn, presented them with greater opportunities to succeed in life - which they grabbed gratefully. The 'unlucky' people, believed they didn't have a great life because nothing seemed to go right for them and as such, had given up - a self fulfilling prophecy. 'Unlucky' people are just negative towards life, which in turn, means they shut themselves off from other people and opportunities - sometimes deliberately, sometimes subconsciously.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was one of those 'unlucky' people for much of my life. After reading 'The Luck Factor', I changed my entire outlook on life and as such, began to do better in all areas; from work, to love, to finance. Now all this may sound obvious to many of you (the  basic ethos is pretty simple) but it wasn't to me, so I can assure you, there will be plenty of people out there who will gain a lot from this book. Sometimes, the answers are staring you in the face but you can't see the wood for the trees. Even those subjects in the book who were classed as lucky, often just assumed they had great lives because they were born lucky. It never occurs to them that they got what they want from life because of their own personality.

This relates to trading in two ways; your strategy and your overall view of trading. Strategy-wise, luck does come into things to a certain extent. For example, if a player you have backed suddenly picks up an injury and retires, leaving you no chance to hedge your position, that is bad luck. It was completely out of your hands.  However, if you have a solid strategy which you always adhere to, these things should in theory, even themselves out over time - retirements will also give you some profit for doing nothing!

Bad runs are often labelled as 'bad luck' by a trader. When I hit  a long run of reds, I have learnt not to view it as bad luck, just a spell of undesirable variance. Looking at it negatively can get you frustrated and lead to poor discipline. I just view it as a natural occurrence and that probability will eventually even things out by giving me a good run of greens. If that doesn't happen, then I know I need to perhaps analyse my strategy or execution again.

The problem is that it can be tough to know whether you are experiencing bad variance or you have a bad strategy or you are just not a good enough trader yet. To become a top trader, you must be able to tell the difference between these things. Some people ditch the strategy before giving enough time for variance to even out. Some have a great strategy but can't make it profitable due to poor discipline or inexperience. Some think that bad variance is the cause of their poor recent run but it may be their own inadequacies that they can't see or won't admit to. Only being honest with yourself will determine which is which.

Luck in trading is only a short term thing. Anyone can start their trading career well, just by placing a random set of bets which all come off. But long term, I believe there is no luck in trading. Variation is all that exists and if you are still losing after a reasonable period of time, then  you aren't unlucky - your strategy is no good or you are not good enough at executing it yet.

As for your overall view of trading, that is the same as your overall view of life. If you are positive and believe you can be successful and then go about being pro-active and working hard, even when the odds are against you (as they are in trading), then the probability of succeeding increases. Just as the best teams seem to get all the penalty decisions and 'lucky' late goals, it's more likely because they are the ones doing all the attacking, never giving up on the win. Blaming 'bad luck' will get you nowhere, there is no luck involved - it's just good maths.

Tamira Paszek:


  1. Excellent again. I agree with this wholeheartedly. Always been a believer that you make your own luck in this world. People moan when Man United get 100 penalties a season and Stoke get 0, but, as you say, it is because they have Valencia, Giggs, Young, Nani, Rooney, Welbeck, RVP etc. and they are obviously more likely to win penalties with their tricky pacy attacks. Sure, some will be dives or referee mistakes, but you have to get yourself in that position in the first place in order to force the ref to make a decision.


  2. Excellent post. Similarly the one at HCE too. The quote "luck doesn't change the laws of probability" seems so glaringly obvious and yet it is easy to forget.

    For a long time now I've tried to adopt a PMA (positive mental attitude) whenever possible and have been a big believer in making my own 'luck'. I think one of the reasons I was only ever a decent poker player rather than a good one was my inability to handle variance - sometimes I'd just 'feel (un)lucky'.

    As for retirements in tennis, they are an unfortunate occurrence. Due to my betting style when I first started years ago, back then retirements usually cost me money. It is usually the player losing who retires, from memory there were maybe 5 or 6 players who retired whilst winning last season out of a total close to 100. Since then my strategies have evolved and to be honest, as you say, they probably even themselves out. Even with the best will in the world though I find it hard not to feel slightly hard done by when a player retires and I have a nice big green!

  3. 'Luck = Preparation meeting Opportunity' so said some sage Greek many, many moons ago


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