Trading rules

I believe self imposed trading rule-sets and methodology are very much personality dependent and that there is no generic one size fits all. Trying to emulate someone else is often just smashing a square peg into a round hole.

While I hate definitions, in this case it is likely important as it ‘frames’ the rule-set.

I started out as a scalp* trader on 1 minute chart (which in retrospect is quite a masochistic enterprise). I have never really with great enthusiasm ventured near the longer time frames. I had this puritan belief that scalping was the only path for me and having survived (although maybe not always thrived) here I was loathed to stray from what I knew (that the violence of the shorter time frames can become a comfort zone is quite weird)  


*literally it was the word ‘scalp’ that appealed to me. With an inflated sense of self, a (not always metaphorical) tomahawk in hand, this trading ideology was going to be my tactic come hell or high water. (of course this meant I got trapped in my own head which stunted my development something fierce and for a really long time I wasn’t able to see the forest for the trees) 

I consider myself more of a (well rounded) trader now, in so far as these sorts of wordy explanations matter. My intention is always to scalp… but will now find myself  being able to ease more comfortably into transitioning between time-frames and my trades now vary from the infinitesimally short to (occasionally) several hours in duration (in the classic ‘day-trader sense I close out all my positions before the end of the day). 

My workspace is still very boring. I only have two screens (and I only really use one). I’m inclined to believe that on the shorter time frames oscillators are… mostly a waste of time. For indexes I will use a range of exponential moving averages and will at least peruse the pivot points for the day. At the bottom of the screen I have the MACD (with the default (12, 26, 9) settings and RSI (default 14). All of which I routinely ignore when making decisions. For forex… I use bollinger bands, a 200MA and Stochastics.

I don’t have a lot of rules. Probably because I have an incredibly short attention span and more than three seems like a lot to remember. This is what works for me…

1. ‘Stick to the fucken plan…’

It’s a quote from Grand Theft Auto V… that I saw on a Day Trading subreddit once. I realize quoting Grand Theft Auto as your #1 trading rule… probably leaves much to be desired… but I don’t think I can phrase it any more succinctly than this and I often have to say this out loud to myself whenever I start mousing over the buy/sell button.

For me at least this is meant to curb MY most dangerous and insidious tendency, the boredom trade. It’s easy to say ‘Don’t pick at it’… but… you know how it goes… sometimes its choppy out there and good support and resistance levels are hard to find. While I hating quoting Warren Buffet or Charlie Munger…

The big money is not made in the buying and selling… but in the waiting – Charlie Munger

In any event. Waiting for your stars to align is likely one of those things that you have to experience viscerally before you really start to believe. ‘Stick to the fucken plan’ also flows into rule #2 which is…


Actually no… while I wish I could make this work… and likely quite a good rule in CQC… my trading rule #2 is actually…

2. Quit while you’re ahead (or getting head)

The two most problematic psychological states (for me anyway) are greed and hope. Neither is desirable. In order to counter this I tend to take profits relatively quick. The reverse is also true, if I feel a trade is starting to go against me I prefer to just cut my losses instead of getting stopped out a little while down the road… go find another candle to trade.

I have a daily number that I like to trade towards. (that how-do-you-eat-an-elephant idiom)

When I’ve made my target I’ll often ease up a bit, zero out my stop-loss (when it seems reasonable) and let the trade run a bit longer than I often would… But really, in my experience, it often feels like I should have probably just taken the profit. *shrug* Personal preference.

Taking profits also helps me deal with my ego. (which brings us to rule #3)

3. Leave your ego at the door.

I try not to discuss my trades. This theoretically keeps my ego in check. This is also one of the hardest rules to follow, because, well, day trading is quite lonely. And I am also naturally competitive. But as soon as your start to compare yourself or brag about what a hotshot trader you are is when things start to get murky. Also no one really cares about what you do (at best they are humouring you and at worst they secretly want you to fail)

Good trade, bad trades… they’re done and in the past. I see no benefit in reliving your glory trades through embellished narrative. Or indeed, on the converse, beating yourself up about trades that went ‘bad’ on you (unless of course you didn’t follow your ruleset in which case you probably should be chastising yourself). Treat each day as a fresh start. You are not the continuation of yesterday. This is also part of the reason why I close out my positions at the end of the day, a clean break or maybe compartmentalisation. Whatever it is, I find I’m better going in every morning fresh and having to get a feel for things anew.


A note about information consumption

While not a rule… I believe traders and market analysis peeps are… for the most part… (how do I put this delicately) motherfuckers. I don’t think any other industry peddles so much bullshit. I very rarely follow the news cycle (sometimes I’ll go have a look, post event, to see what caused the market to tank)… and I’m inclined to lump Technical analysis (with a skeptical raised eyebrow) into the same category as homeopathy and chiropractics. Ie. I don’t believe it works. (you can likely make a case for the placebo effect of technical analysis… but really I don’t have the energy or enthusiasm for this). I will occasionally draw in a support or resistance level to help me visualise where people are lining up to buy and sell… and this one time I tried to draw one of those triangle thingies… but really its mostly because everyone else thinks these things matter… that I guess some times they do matter. Maybe some familiarity wouldn’t go amiss.

Be super wary of anyone offering to teach you how to trade or any form of subscription service. Anyone who needs to subsidise their trading income by running a website or service… I’m weary… and my spidey sense tells me there is (usually) something else at play here. Either they are placating some form psychological need (like ego) or this is their side hustle.. which makes me wonder about their ability to generate trading income. Same goes for people posting trading stuff on You-tube. 99% of it is dangerous bullshit (and potentially evil)… I think you’re much better off with a free demo-account and trying to figure it out on your own.


Monopoly car


This a series of posts I’m doing for my kids. In case I die (ie. Go Darke) and am not around to to teach them (personal) finance when the time comes. Its mostly stuff I wish someone had taught me when I was sixteen. You can find more posts like this… 



6 thoughts on “Trading rules

  1. Joey
    Bollinger Bands: are you using tick data? Minutely data? I assume this is still all very short term? Is it automated? Through Interactive Brokers? Are you using this indicator for trend trading or counter trend trading?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I used to actively use Bollinger bands to decide on entries and exits it was on a one minute chart. Interactive brokers and… usually, trend trading.

      These days the Bollinger Bands on my chart are mostly just there because I feel my charts look weird without them.

      Now I usually look at MACD/RSI and volume for entries. But if my positions start hitting the outer bands… I think about exiting the trade.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So not automated? You sit om front of the laptop and manually put on the trades? BTW have you done any backtesting on minutely data? I confess I have not. Always meant to. And might look at automation. I have always been an investor but always mean to look at shorter term stuff. Was also thinking of downloading open source Python code for crypto arb…. But….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I… (sadly) do spend the majority of my day desk bound and staring at a screen. I do kinda enjoy it though. The only back-testing I do (in all honesty) is the £ amount in my trading account. As long as thats going up… I feel I’m doing okay.

        I must say, the automated systems and algo’s are MUCH smarter and more efficient than I am… *shrug* I am however incredibly stubborn about being in-control… so I don’t think I can necessarily change.

        My friend trades Crypto very successfully. He’s a programmer. I think theres something about cyrpto that appeals to coders. Ha ha. I… don’t really understand it. I mean I look at it sometimes… but really index trading is my thing and I’m loathed to venture off and try something else where I have to start at the bottom of the knowledge ladder again.


      3. I believe that arbing is possible with cryotos at the moment because there are such a bewildering number of currrencies and exchanges. Buy one currency cheaper on one exchange, sell for more om another. Anyway I must take a look at it. Quantopian is a good place to backtest on minute data. I will take a look this week. Depends whether the trends are strong enougj to defeat costs and the whipsaw trades. Anyway…. I’ll point you in the direction of my research on Quantopian when I have done it. I’ll probably look at the emini for the S&P and thr etf SPY

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Always happy to read something new and interesting. I won’t guarantee that I’ll understand it… (if fact I probably won’t) But I make up my intellectual deficiencies with enthusiasm 😀


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