Mark Weinstein – High-Percentage Trader (Market Wizards)

How do you explain your ability to win such a high percentage of the time?

Because I have a real fear of the markets. I have found that the greatest traders are the ones who are most afraid of the markets. My fear of the markets has forced me to hone my timing with great precision. When I am trading properly, it is like a pool player running racks. If my gut feel of market conditions is not right, I don’t trade. My timing is a combination of experience and my nervous system. If my nervous system tells me to get out of the position, it is because the market action triggers something in my knowledge and experience that I have seen before.

I also don’t lose much on my trades, because I wait for the exact right moment. Most people will not wait for the environment to tip itself off. They will walk into the forest when it is still dark, while I wait until it gets light. Although the cheetah is the fastest animal in the world and can catch any animal on the plains, it will wait until it is absolutely sure it can catch its prey. It may hide in the bush for a week, waiting for just the right moment. It will wait for a baby antelope, and not just any baby antelope, but preferably one that is also sick or lame. Only then, when there is no chance it can lose its prey, does it attack. That, to me, is the epitome of professional trading.

When I trade at home, I often watch the sparrows in my garden. When I feed them bread, they take just a little piece at a time and fly away. They keep on flying back and forth, taking small bits of bread. They may have to make a hundred stabs at a piece of bread to get what a pigeon gets at one time, but that is why a pigeon is a pigeon. You will never be able to shoot a sparrow, it is just too fast. That is the way I day trade. For example, there are times during the day when I am sure that the S&P is going up, but I don’t try to pick the bottom, and I am out before it tops. I just take the mid-range where the momentum is greatest. That, to me, is trading like a sparrow eats.

Am I paraphrasing you correctly? The cheetah is your analogy for position trading and the sparrow is your analogy for day trading. The common denominator is that both animals wait for can’t-lose circumstances.


What are the trading rules you live by?

  1. Always do your homework.
  2. Don’t be arrogant. When you get arrogant, you forsake risk control. The best traders are the most humble.
  3. Understand your limitations. Everyone has limitations—even the best traders.
  4. Be your own person. Think against the herd, as they must lose in time. the herd, as they must lose in time. Don’t trade until an opportunity presents itself. Knowing when to stay out of the markets is as important as knowing when to be in them.
  5. Your strategy has to be flexible enough to change when the environment changes. The mistake most people make is they keep the same strategy all the time. They say, “Damn, the market didn’t behave the way I thought it would.” Why should it? Life and the markets just don’t work that way.
  6. Don’t get too complacent once you have made profits. The toughest thing in the world is holding on to profits. That is because once you have attained a goal, you then set a second goal that is usually the same as the first one: to make more money. Consequently, for many people, attainment of that second goal is not as rewarding. They may begin to question what they really want from trading and trigger a self-destruct process in which they wind up losing.

Any final advice you have for the beginning trader?

You have to learn how to lose; it is more important than learning how to win. If you think you are always going to be a winner, when you lose, you will develop feelings of hostility and end up blaming the market instead of trying to learn why you lost.

Limit losses quickly. To paraphrase from Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, most traders hold on to their losses too long because they hope the loss will not get larger. They take profits too soon, because they fear the profit will diminish. Instead, traders should fear a larger loss and hope for a larger profit.

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