Notes for Chat with Traders, Episode 98

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Episode 98 ... Peter To (80:04)

  • 2004 started playing online poker, 15 years old
  • Inspired by Chris Moneymaker winning WSOP in 2003
  • Wasn't athletic, all intellectual power, poker a good fit
  • Deceived Mom to fund his PayPal account to fund poker account
  • Started with $20 and lost it all, devastated
  • Second $20 he tried to make it work playing 10 cent blinds
  • Did hand analysis on 2+2 forums
  • He was playing tight, but too passively, not getting enough money into the pot
  • First became profitable limit player, then profitable no-limit player
  • Turned $20 into $20,000 over two and a half years
  • No innate talent for poker 
  • Never plays poker anymore, edge is too small now
  • Lives in New York City, comes from Southern California
  • Poker has advanced so much, so sophisticated today, very hard to win now
  • "Game Theory Optimal" -- everyone knows the correct line now, everyone knows the math
  • Poker has become an efficient market now [smart comment, he's right]
  • Lost the passion for poker ... no fun chasing bad players online [even worse to do it offline when face to face]
  • Variance in poker also very high
  • Knew nothing about the stock market until college
  • Best friend talked about trading and investing, interest piqued
  • Natural transition from poker to trading
  • Got interested in 2008 2009, Great Financial Crisis
  • Started out as a gold bug, feared hyperinflation
  • Bought physical gold coins with his $20K, paid 8% spread [I'm chuckling, but it's good to be suckered at first, I believe]
  • Still a big libertarian
  • He's able to debunk himself quickly, fortunately
  • Sold his gold coins for breakeven
  • Second stage he was a value investor -- read Ben Graham, Peter Lynch
  • Bought Apple, Wells Fargo, Baidu, Dow Chemical all at the lows during the crash
  • Realized he didn't have the patience to hold all this stuff
  • Turned $20K into $30K, got account over the pattern day trader rule
  • Third stage: day trader using technical analysis
  • Mom's friend taught him how to read charts and structure trades
  • Read a lot of blogs, sourced his learning from all over
  • Discovered the ARCA pre-market cross in OTC junk stocks
  • Stock closed at $1, offered in pre-market on ARCA at $0.85
  • Would pick off all those $0.85 offers pre-open then sell for $1 at the open
  • This happened from time to time over two years, a few times a month
  • OTC market making is manual ... quotes not honored ... shady stuff
  • Moved to NYC and started prop trading
  • Doesn't want to name prop firm
  • Had been trading every day for two years while in college
  • Started trading club in college
  • Good things and bad things about being in prop firm, but experience invaluable
  • Many prop firms are about "burn and churn" ... get a guy in, get commissions, until he blows up
  • Prop firms would "fine" people ... e.g., couldn't trade odd lots
  • Prop firms can offer capital to scale stategy, proprietary technology to enhance strategy
  • Started meeting seven-figure traders, their strategies not do-able on a retail platform, needed capital and technology of prop firm
  • Compares a good prop firm to a good farm team in baseball [nice analogy]
  • Read Glassdoor about every prop firm you're considering, lots of shady practices
  • Big red flag is if prop firm requires a deposit
  • Careful of groupthink in a prop firm, herd mentality, tunnel vision
  • There's lots of ways to make money trading, not just momentum
  • Wants to catch all-day runners
  • Unusual volume, unusual volatility, unusual attention being paid to it
  • Not intellectually deep, just using intraday chart, price and volume
  • Shorting parabolic microcap stocks, thesis is overextended junk will eventually collapse
  • Trick is timing the turn precisely, how to minimize damage when your timing is off
  • Takes years to hone this skill
  • Follow the order flow, can't just rely on your shorting-microcap-parabolics-play, they dry up
  • Chapter on Jimmy Balodimas in Schwager book made big impression on him
  • "Stepping in Front of Freight Trains" -- fight trend, add to losers, fades huge moves, gave self huge leeway, took quick profits, in short Jimmy did everything "wrong" based on conventional wisdom
  • Peter has developed "trading nihilism" -- process doesn't matter [another smart comment]
  • His firm bought the Flash Crash, risked the firm, risked everything, best day ever. Skill or luck? Was it wrong? 
  • No mathematical framework in trading that you have in poker
  • The market never repeats itself like a poker or blackjack hand does [yes, exactly]
  • Throwing the book out from time to time, not following your rules, it's all guts and intuition
  • Some people just have conviction, don't care about price action
  • He was consistently profitable at first, but made no money [just like "winning" with tight, passive poker play]
  • He's a very emotional person, but makes emotion work for him
  • Feels the fire and allows his greed to take over -- results in best or worst days
  • Fannie Mae his biggest loss ever, most popular blog post
  • Shorted AVXL, one of his best trades ever
  • When he loses money, he wants to sleep in the next day
  • When the wheels fall off, self-doubt creeps in, needs to take a break
  • Has had worries that he'll never trade again
  • October 2016 the worst month in an otherwise good year
  • Can't get out in these microcap stocks, you get stuck, 1x loss become 3x loss
  • Built muscle memory for trading certain stocks, which betrayed him when trading OTC stocks
  • Lived in NYC for four years, 26 yo now
  • Used to keep detailed journal, made detailed plans, did detailed trading reviews -- now he's relaxed, doesn't do any of this, just wings it [sounds familiar]
  • Try less hard, take the pressure off yourself
  • Trading is not easy, markets constantly changing
  • Thoughts on trading BitCoin: insane volume and volatility, psychology same as crazy stocks
  • Exchange security is everything, you get hacked and lose everything, you're just not safe
  • Multiple exchanges with multiple rules, none of them have good infrastructure and security and no oversight, don't get involved with this, way too risky
  • peterkto.blogspot.com
  • Twitter: @peterkto

Notes for Chat with Traders, Episode 101

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Episode 101 ... Siam Kidd (113:27)

  • "Sitting in my Tesla"
  • "I love Elon Musk"
  • 0-60 in 2.8 seconds, he says
  • British
  • 30 years old now, stone broke at age 25
  • Was pilot in Air Force, station commander can earn 80-90K GBP after 20 years in, realized he had to get out
  • Joined Air Force at age 18
  • Had been trading for seven years (since 18), first four years of trading a horror story
  • "Billy Big Balls Syndrome" -- he'd go on a streak, get overconfident
  • Online gambling and trading the only ways he could figure how to make "easy" money
  • Martingale strategy using online roulette, thought he had cracked the system [funny]
  • Revenge gambled his maxed-out Virgin credit card on online roulette, lost it all
  • Moved on to trading where he "did considerably worse" [he has a sense of humor]
  • Opened 2,000 GBP account, lost it within one day
  • Blew his 2,000 GBP Air Force income every month for four years, all off one minute chart  
  • Girlfriend was supportive of his leaving the Air Force, trusted him to dig himself out [she must be an angel]
  • Left Air Force with no safety net, ten grand in savings, started trading full time
  • Made 30% per month for the first few months, then lost half his capital in one month
  • Shopping in Lidl, could choose cheese or mayo, couldn't have both, rock bottom
  • Got 16K admin role at some staffing company, had to pay the bills, completely demoralizing
  • Still trading his 2,000 account, went back to the drawing board
  • Risk management finally clicked after year seven, went back to the daily charts
  • "Triple R" ... risk reward ratio must be 1 to 3 and preferably 1 to 8
  • Van Tharp book a huge help
  • Wish he had had a mentor who knew what he/she was doing, something more than just googling for answers
  • Made every mistake he could: strategy hopping, buying black boxes, scalping, day trading
  • No good or bad forms of trading, all about risk management
  • New traders should never day trade
  • "Boring trading is good trading"
  • Second guessing yourself with every new five minute candlestick
  • Making more decisions than you need to when intraday trading
  • Be super selective, don't take many trades
  • Only 100K traders in the UK, 95% of them losing money hand over fist
  • Smart traders know how retail traders think and take advantage of them
  • Stop running is rampant among pro traders and institutions, they seek out the retail orders
  • Scouring the internet for "systems" ... that's a real rat race
  • Markets only trend 15% of the time, chop the rest
  • Trades currencies now, looks at 20 different pairs
  • He's flat almost all the time, small wins, small losses, and a very occasional huge win
  • Tries to catch reversals, so he gets stopped out a lot
  • He will put orders out into space at "support or resistance" and hopes to get hit
  • Get the best Triple R from this kind of entry 
  • His win rate is 32%
  • Didn't want to stare at charts all day long
  • Max risk for him is 0.25% per trade
  • When trade goes in his favor, he scales in, adds .75% and then between .25% and .50%
  • Thought Trump would win and markets would tumble, he didn't anticipate rebound and rally
  • He looks for "coiling" ... volatility drops dramatically, range contracts ... "market compression"
  • Places "fishing nets" above and below
  • Gets shorts in during stop runs above [and I presume longs in during stop runs below]
  • "It's just a numbers game."  All about managing risk-reward
  • Catch a thousand+ pip trade once or twice is year, you're set
  • Has a lot of physical gold and silver as a hedge
  • Make things mechanical, don't scare yourself out
  • Uses two moving averages to manage his stop losses (8 EMA 21 EMA), keeps it simple
  • Uses round numbers and .50 levels, trails below 8 EMA and these levels
  • 21 EMA gives you enough space to catch the trends
  • Spends less than five minutes a day trading, adjusting stop losses using 21 EMA
  • You can do 10,000 hours of chart time and "still be shit at it" ... will take a lot longer time than that if you're not focused
  • Read everything that Van Tharp has ever written
  • People quit trading because it just takes too much time to do (screen time)
  • Uses three screens
  • If he has to think about it longer than three seconds, he won't take the trade
  • Once you're back from holiday, trade very small until you get your market sense back
  • Business is the best "asset class" there is ... best risk/reward there is
  • Has a stake in 15 different businesses now (says he's down to seven now)
  • You need a lot of capital to make money trading ... making 30% on a 10 grand account, even every month, doesn't mean anything
  • You don't want to be rich through compounding because you'll be too old to enjoy it
  • If you run a business, get out of the weeds (don't get bogged down in the details)
  • His first two or three businesses failed miserably
  • Bought silver in bulk, made under 20 grand profit on 1.4MM in turnover ... horrible time-adjusted return
  • Took M&A course for 7,000 GBP in Mallorca ... shockingly it wasn't a scam
  • "All business owners are mugs." 
  • BIMBO ... buy in management buy out
  • Has a very negative outlook on the world
  • HFT now seeping into the currency markets, already licked the equity markets
  • Don't try to make money trading unless you already have a large amount of money to trade
  • Never think trading will get you out of the financial hole you're in
  • Get your trading record audited so it's "proper legit" ... then easier to raise capital
  • Find 3,000 people who pay you seven quid a month regularly (with a product or service), then sell it for 2MM 
  • "Never deliver shit"
  • Dollar shave club dot com a great example
  • Passionate views on schooling system, did a TedX Talk on topic
  • Kids being killed mentally by schools
  • Work 40 hours a week for 40 years and get a pension at 40% of what you made
  • Kids now have "bugger-all skills"
  • Has five-month-old child, doesn't want creativity beaten out of him
  • Wants to create just one school that adopts his philosophy
  • Wants kids playing with robotics, 3D printing, augmented reality from Day One
  • He's not a fan of trigonometry [I'm chuckling]
  • Long summer holidays from school all about the Harvest (not relevant anymore)
  • Will need 10MM quid to build his school, doesn't want any external funding
  • "I'm a simple bloke with average qualities from Norwich"
  • Sir Ken Robinson, big fan of him
  • He's not naturally a Big Thinker
  • Do Review Apply ... Air Force saying [reminds me of Netto]
  • Goal setting is silly, focus on your habits instead
  • Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill ... big fan of the book
  • Everyone thinks small, you should think big
  • You're swimming in an ocean of opportunity
  • Always think bigger, not "I have to buy a house," but "I have to buy a village"
  • Humans always adapt, always "up-skill"
  • But rate of technological change has increased so much, will create future shock for humans
  • Recommends the book, Abundance by Peter Diamandis
  • "Sorry for rambling on"
  • Says some nice things to Aaron in parting
  • Has YouTube videos
  • Twitter: @SiamKidd

Reasons Not To Use a Real-Time Market Scanner

Added on by C. Maoxian.

This section from @tagrtrades recent blog post caught my eye:

I’m slowly trying to move from a scalper to a bigger picture trader. The biggest catalyst to this change was letting the subscription to my intraday scanning service lapse and focus on my pre selected watch list. Sure I miss trades, but I know the trigger points I’m looking for and don’t find myself shooting from the hip nearly as much as I have in the past. I’m also trying to look at charts outside of just the 1-5min timeframe I’ve done for years. Pulling back and getting a clear hourly view has helped me look for areas where I can target for more than just a few cents and get more % out of each trade.

I've had a few thoughts about the pitfalls of using a real-time market scanner:

  • Information Overload

Even when you really fine-tune your scanner, it's still spitting out dozens of things to look at every day. There's just too much to look at. I have what I consider to be an incredibly rigorous set of criteria that has to be met to qualify as an "Unusual Suspect," and still I get at least a dozen candidates every day (today I got 18). If you're looking at everything, you're looking at nothing. The human brain can only focus on a few things.

  • Pavlovian Response

Every time the scanner dings, you get excited and think about making a trade. If you're looking at an intraday time frame like the three minute chart, you're going to start overtrading. You'll be generating a lot of commissions and very little profit, if any.

  • Liquidity Issues

I use the scanner to find "Unusual Suspects" in real time. They are generally low float, micro-cap junk stocks that are on a tear, (or they are bigger stocks that have been hit with news, good or bad (earnings, FDA decisions, etc.)).

The trouble with the low float, micro-cap junk is that after the initial burst of activity, volume dries up and there's no way to exit your position in a graceful way, even if you're on the right side of the market. You get stuck. And I mean stuck at a profit. It isn't as simple as crossing the spread and getting out. If you have 10,000 shares of a dollar stock, or more likely tens of thousands of shares, you just can't exit without tipping your hand, and they'll move the market away from you fast. It's frustrating. 

  • Dependency Issues

It's possible that you may shape your whole trading strategy around the scanner and grow overly dependent on it. I like to think that everyone should strive to be able to trade profitably while still using an old 14" cracked laptop on a dial-up connection from the Australian Outback.

  • Unnecessary Expense

I've always thought that your broker should supply you with a first-rate market scanner, gratis. My broker, IB, does have a pretty good market scanner, but it's nothing like Trade-Ideas, not even in the same league. Schwab probably uses the old CyberTrader technology for their scanner, but I really don't know. Fido, Schwab, TD, IB, etc. should all license the Trade Ideas technology and offer it to their "pro" users for free.

I might think of some more things later and update the post, but that's it for now.

 

Impressions After Sending My Son To Nerd Camp

Added on by C. Maoxian.

My son is doing a three-week-long robotics camp this summer in Maryland, organized by Hopkins' Center for Talented Youth. I just sent him to the camp yesterday and wanted to record my impressions before I forget them.

I estimate that 90 out of 100 campers are ethnically Chinese. Another 5% are Indian ("subcontinent, not Injun," as my friend Carl likes to say) and 4% are Jewish. This leaves a sad and beleaguered 1% of WASP attendees. The lopsidedness was shocking.

It makes me suspect that the Center for Talented Youth isn't interested in identifying exceptionally smart kids from all backgrounds, but instead is filled with bright kids who happen to have pushy parents who are trying to get their little darlings an edge, at any cost. Anybody with money can sign their kids up for prep courses or get their kids tutors who can help them pass "above grade level" tests. I thought CTY was all about finding weirdly brilliant kids, untutored, of any race, from all over the country, and all kinds of different circumstances. Looking around the campus on drop-off day, I was wrong.

I think Chinese parents must see CTY as some kind of backdoor into the Ivy League, and they might be right that it is, for now. But the overwhelming number of ethnically Chinese kids in the program makes me think that Hopkins is going to have to start limiting them in some way, a quota system perhaps, not far in the future. Striking a balance is going to be a very tricky thing. 

Notes for Chat with Traders, Episode 102

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Episode 102 ... Eugene Soltes (86:41)

  • His book, Why They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal
  • [Is Soltes another spelling of Soltys? (a Polish Jewish name)]
  • Professor at Harvard Business School .. finance, accounting, eight years on faculty
  • Had aspirations to be a trader
  • Econ undergrad, Masters in statistics
  • Worked at UBS, exotic options
  • Got a PhD, Great Financial Crisis hit, went into academics
  • MSNBC show called "Lockup" inspired him
  • Wanted to hear from white collar criminals, not violent criminals
  • Wrote to former Enron and Tyco executives in jail
  • Wanted to understand their perspective
  • Steven Richards, Global Head of Sales of Computer Associates, wrote thoughtful letter in reply
  • "Subtle fraud" ... backdating contracts to prior quarter, eight CA execs went to prison
  • Understanding the psychology of fraud
  • 90%+ of people he wrote to, responded
  • "the challenging part of their lives" .. he means being imprisoned, Soltes big on euphemisms
  • Spent a lot of time with Bernie Madoff, mastermind of largest Ponzi scheme in history
  • Bernie came from nothing and built an innovative brokerage firm
  • Madoff former Nasdaq chairman, highly respected and admired, SEC frequently called him for advice
  • Madoff one of the first to purchase order flow
  • Allen Stanford was $5BB fraud, big but a fraction of Bernie's
  • Madoff knew many of his victims ... all close within the Jewish community
  • Madoff rationalization for the Ponzi scheme, kept doubling down on a "capital violation" -- what a nut
  • $50BB+ in money under management at Bernie's fund, over a decade of no activity, just Ponzi payouts
  • Said he was earning 8-12%, any redemption he met with fund inflows
  • Very few redemptions because the stated returns were so amazing
  • People begged Madoff to get into the fund
  • 2008 the jig was up, redemptions exceeded inflows
  • Any sophisticated investor could instantly see it was a fraud, the returns were completely unrealistic
  • A lot of people looked the other way, wanted to participate in fraud not realizing it was a Ponzi
  • All his false positions were in tiny, illiquid markets ... just made no sense given his size, obviously ridiculous to anyone who spent ten seconds with the numbers
  • Can buy Madoff bogus statements on eBay now
  • Bernie just made a "series of mistakes," a charming guy, very smart and clever
  • Regulators overlooked all the red flags
  • Feeder funds aggregated small investors' money, sent to Bernie
  • Suing investors who took money out of the fund to pay people whose money was left in the fund
  • 2006 SEC deposed him about front-running his brokerage business orders; he wasn't doing this
  • Was so inconceivable he was a fraud (highly respected), regulators didn't look hard enough at him
  • Bernie and sons decided to alert regulators in the end
  • First impression of Bernie: cordial, whip smart, great memory
  • Bernie is "distantly aware" of what he did wrong
  • Madoff unusually calm in prison, taking it in stride [because he's a sociopath]
  • Michael Rand, chief accounting officer, at Beazer Homes
  • Housing boom, housing bust
  • Cookie Jar Accounting ... not over-reporting earnings, but under-reporting earnings, "over-reserving"
  • Unusual case where Rand was *under-reporting* earnings during housing boom
  • Five years in prison for under-reporting earnings
  • Managing the Street's expectations
  • Shop around for estimates that work best for you
  • Pension assumptions also all over the map, underfund pensions to maintain earnings
  • Insider trading -- using confidential information to make trades
  • Capital One employees correlated their credit card database with company sales, e.g., Chipotle sales boom, made trades based on their analysis, caught and went to jail
  • Two credit card companies do sell their aggregated data to hedge funds
  • Satellite data of store parking lots, car counts -- valuable data
  • Private helicopters fly over oil reserve fields to make estimates -- valuable data
  • Expensive data sources give these insights ... info legitimately acquired
  • Challenge to identify victims of insider trading
  • McKinsey exec Rajat Gupta tipped another Raj info he learned at Goldman Sachs board meeting
  • Received "friendship" from Raj, "fuzzy" benefit, no money, still convicted
  • Perpetrators very distant from victims so they don't feel bad about it
  • Prison is nasty ... dirty, cold, and loud ... rich guys still suffer that
  • Every white collar criminal he interviewed in prison was not remorseful, only troubled by missing family events
  • Nav Singh Sarao, flashing and spoofing very common
  • Tom Hayes, LIBOR scandal ... individuals as scapegoats for institutional problems
  • www.eugenesoltes.com
  • Twitter: @eugenesoltes

Notes for Chat with Traders, Episode 103

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Episode 103 ... Dave Bergstrom (55:32)

  • Realized he didn't want to go to law school halfway through undergrad
  • Father worked for Del Monte foods
  • Thought he could get rich quick by trading
  • [Sounds like a southerner or Texan?]
  • Got into trading around, just after, Great Financial Crisis
  • Always been a hustler, used to sell counterfeit sports jerseys, saved some money
  • Dad gave him $2,000 
  • Loved to draw lines on charts when he started
  • Traded options using technical analysis when he started
  • Would make money then give it all back
  • Need to trade consistently to see if you're able to "escape randomness" 
  • Lives in Florida, works for HFT firm, initially a trading assistant, lucked out getting the job
  • Taught himself how to program in Excel at first
  • Looking for edges in the data
  • Learning process went on for years
  • Need to test everything, can't just say something is "bullish" or "bearish," can't be subjective
  • Read "Evidence-based Technical Analysis
  • Moved away from chart patterns, too tough to program and test
  • Technical analysis not concrete enough
  • To move from trading assistant to trader, he needed to know how to program
  • Learning to program the best trade he has ever made
  • Programming is a super power, find the data and test it instantly
  • Read textbooks, watched YouTube videos, used Coursera
  • C++ the language to learn
  • Talked to HFT firm's programmers all the time, lucky he could study on the job
  • First learn how to read in data and build a technical indicator from O,H,L,C data
  • Look at several different resources to help things click
  • Find people you can ask questions of when you get stuck
  • Aaron recommends "Stack Exchange" to find answers to questions; Dave uses it "daily"
  • First language you should learn is Python -- clean, simple language, lots of free libraries
  • Machine learning background preferred
  • "Fitness Function" -- run a search program for 2.5 profit factor, for example
  • Think of "edge" as positive expectation, "positive expectancy"
  • Doesn't want to give away "secret sauce"
  • Every rule in a strategy requires a minimum number of trades (hundreds) to test
  • Allow law of large numbers to play out, must flip the coin a thousand times
  • Split up in and out of sample data (default 35% out of sample)
  • Two things he likes to look at: volume and volatility
  • Three key points that turned his trading around, he had unrealistic expectations [other two?]
  • Learned about Monte Carlo simulations, recalculate the equity curve for each shuffle
  • Must create realistic expectations in the beginning
  • Where do you expect to be in the next 'n' trades? What's the distribution?
  • Simulate variable win rates, don't just stick with one
  • "Randomness happens"
  • Three laws that he trades by:
  1. Risk to reward must be asymmetric, prefers trend following to mean reversion
  2. All bets mean the same thing to your bottom line, bet sizing must be consistent for the math to play out
  3. Make the law of large numbers work for you, edge must play out over thousands of trades
  • Discretionary traders who size up on certain trades are doing themselves a disservice
  • Trading should be boring, never exciting
  • Why bet five times your usual size on the eighth coin flip?
  • Dangerous to get an existing idea to trade more by dropping to a lower time frame, for example
  • Transaction costs for retail accounts make it impossible for law of large numbers to work out
  • Latency aribtrage has a bad rap
  • Trading is tough, HFT a scapegoat (but he's biased)
  • HFT beneficial, they do nothing predatory
  • Heyday of HFT over, very difficult now, strategies exposed, people jump from shop to shop
  • Has software he will license to the public, trading strategy search 
  • www.buildalpha.com
  • Twitter: @Dburgh

A Song That Changed Me

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Reminded of this great Mazzy Star song while watching episode seven of Gypsy. God bless Hope Sandoval, an honest-to-god dream girl, and her backing band with slide guitarist. No live version so I'm forced to embed this.... 

Notes for Chat with Traders, Episode 104

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Episode 105 ... Alex AT09_Trader (58:11)

  • Recorded November 16, 2016 [date for context on shipping stocks discussion]
  • First saw DRYS when it went from $8 to $16
  • Did not have borrow on DRYS so didn't "get balls squeezed"
  • Low float stock with SSR (Short Sale Restriction), no selling pressure
  • Traded sympathy plays TOPS SINO
  • Forced to cover SINO (2.8MM float), could have blown out on that one alone
  • Garbage companies looking to raise money
  • Shorts get trapped, causes "float rotation"
  • Terrified to buy because fliers get halted
  • Lost $40K in EGLE, 35,000 shares with $7s average, could have lost a lot more if didn't get out
  • Dad came from Turkey to US in 1980s, entrepreneur at heart, hard worker
  • Dad made a lot of money in the electronics business
  • Dad put his money in the stock market, blue chips
  • 2008, Alex was 15 or 16, Dad's business fell apart, no more money
  • Sold car's wheels for $2000, put money in TD or eTrade account
  • Found a penny stock guru 
  • Lost all his money following guru
  • Got a job at Starbucks, tried stock market again with meager savings
  • Joined a new chatroom where he learned about shorting, "lightbulb went on"
  • Put money in offshore broker, 6x intraday leverage, avoid pattern day trader rule, prayed it wasn't a scam
  • Shorted VGGL from $4 to $3.50, felt euphoric
  • Shorting became everything to him
  • Blew up small account five or six times, shorting indiscriminately 
  • Shorting trash stocks worked, evolved to shorting sympathy plays
  • Sympathy plays you can find the borrow and it's cheaper
  • Thinks Pattern Day Trader rule is stupid
  • Girlfriend broke up with him, allowed him to save money, obsessed about market instead of her
  • 22 years old, been trading for three years (in Feb. 2017)
  • He's addicted to trading, on his mind 24-7, constantly planning his trades
  • Doesn't sleep much at night
  • Checks pre-market gappers
  • Closely watches pre-market movers
  • Writes down a plan for the day
  • Figures out support and resistance for each stock he plans to trade
  • Puts orders in above, hopes for spikes up at open [sounds risky]
  • By nature incredibly stubborn
  • Struggles to cut losses fast, would be a millionaire already if he didn't stubbornly hold losers 
  • Tried using stop losses, but always gets stopped out at the top
  • Now stops out half, and re-adds if it reverses
  • Never sets pre-determined amount he's willing to lose
  • Doesn't look at his P&L in real time
  • Loves taking risks in any situation
  • Adds to losers "where it makes sense"
  • Don't cloud your judgment by saying you suck, you're an idiot
  • Have to be able to re-enter quickly despite the loss you just took
  • Now with his big account, he can throw out feelers into parabolics and add on the way down
  • Grew $5000 account through consistent days, slowly but surely, showed up day after day
  • Now he tries to find perfect opportunities, tries not to trade every day
  • Some chat rooms have 1,000 person base ... whatever they buy, it instantly goes back down
  • Ideal set-up is sympathy play, trapped shorts, causes parabolic rise, when main play reverses, hit sympathy play as hard as he can (10,000-50,000 shares), hold for several days, or as long as possible
  • Toxic companies need to raise money
  • Bleeding doesn't stop in one day ... wait a few days, be patient for the "hard money"
  • After a day or two, people move on to the next stock du jour, forgotten stock sells down down down
  • Uses VWAP as his tell for reversal
  • Ebola and forklifts both gave good sympathy plays
  • Uses Twitter to pick up on what people are talking about
  • He's 99% short, 1% long
  • Sometimes he gets long when his short position doesn't work out, reverses himself, but that's rare
  • His friends have no idea how much money he makes
  • 22 years old is the time to take risks, no bills, no mortgage, lives with his Dad
  • Doesn't spend much money except for going out on the weekends
  • Doesn't want to show off
  • Open book about his numbers with any fellow trader because they'll understand
  • Bought foreclosure house to flip
  • Contractor nickel and dimed him, crooked guys, other annoyances, but not super difficult
  • Missed trading during the house renovation project
  • Low-float plays came back just after his house sale
  • Need a good, trustrworthy honest team to do real estate, can't get screwed at every turn
  • Learned you don't need nice kitchen appliances or countertops in a crappy neighborhood
  • Learned you can't go super-cheap on the bathrooms
  • Grow your small account by trading your single set-up consistently
  • Little things add up and it happens faster than you'd imagine
  • www.investorsunderground.com/AT09/
  • Twitter: AT09_Trader

Notes for Chat with Traders, Episode 105

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Episode 105 ... Brendan Poots (58:00)

  • Family in Perth, but he's Irish
  • Bet size versus volume of bets taken per match very important (bet sizing)
  • English Premier League match has average pool of $10-$20MM , AFL (Australian Football League) only $300,000
  • Bet size must be proportional to pool, must focus on liquid sports 
  • There are only a few global sports betting exchanges
  • Advent of in-play sports betting, basically real-time now, not a binary outcome anymore
  • Win lose draw ... must consider the draws in many sports
  • Money comes in towards kickoff, odds tend to be farther off before then
  • "Having a bet" is an Irish tradition, "the joys of punting"
  • Studied chemical engineering in University
  • Played cricket in England, his sponsor was a bookmaker. he worked nights for him
  • Couldn't cut the mustard as a cricketer, switched to investment banking
  • 2006 got scholarship to Columbia U., got his MBA
  • Didn't want to be lackey at age 33 in investment banking [also true for me with an MBA at age 30 after dot com bust]
  • Plus no jobs after Great Financial Crisis
  • Understood BetFair, 2008-2009 started building his own sports betting business
  • Made money on his own with sports betting, built short track record
  • 2010 raised some money and started his "sports hedge fund"
  • Individuals now give him several hundred thousand dollars a pop to manage
  • Started out as a punter but quickly morphed into strategic betting
  • "Betting" "Gambling" "Investing in Sport"
  • Has offshore office in Gibraltar, AIFMD regulated
  • Australia-based fund, small fund, number of investors limited, investors must have $500K+
  • Everyone got hit in Global Financial Crisis, but sports betting uncorrelated, immune to crisis
  • Lot of smart people in financial world, tough to compete, esp. if you lack passion
  • He lacked motivation and passion for finance, but loved sports
  • He's obstinate and likes proving people wrong
  • He's good at compartmentalizing his loves, driven by numbers and opportunity, not emotionally invested in any one team
  • First investors were friends, but still had to capital-guarantee their investments 
  • Sports betting is no longer a binary outcome
  • Betfair, Matchbook
  • Bad month -1%, good month +4%, he has taken the volatility out of it
  • Cherry picks the trades he makes, only acts when he can capture big premium
  • 95-97% of his trades are hedged, will act in real time to offset bet
  • Typical trade lasts 15 or 20 minutes, by end of game he's long gone
  • Psychological aspect of taking your profit and running, plus the risk/reward ratio changes after first goal (for example)
  • Doesn't touch basketball (injuries throw off data)
  • Markets overreact to injured players, presents opportunity
  • European fund denominated in GBP
  • Need more than a smart statistician or mathematician, need one with an innate understanding of the sport
  • Need to understand momentum shifts in sports
  • AFL too small a market, just can't play it, liquidity isn't there, can't hedge, can't exit
  • His analysts don't trade and his traders don't analyze
  • American gamblers used to binary outcomes, don't get the hedging concept
  • Needs at least 25% premium (his price vs. market price) in marketplace for him to get interested, a.k.a., Ben Grossbaum's "margin of safety"
  • Trials trading strategies, builds database, backtests it against old results
  • Historical sports data is a commodity, easy to build a model
  • Real-time data you have to subscribe to
  • Ball possession used to be considered a useful statistic, not true anymore, just noise
  • People want to see volatility-adjusted returns, "number of negative months"
  • Match fixing, spot fixing still happens ... incentives not there at high levels of sport, just low levels
  • "Tennis players at low levels scratching around for a living"
  • Three things you need to know to get into sports betting: 
  1. there's always another race 
  2. bet what you know and understand
  3. if you want to make money, do it in a boring way, slow and steady
  • His typical bet size is very small -- single trade max 3% funds under management (bankroll), typically 1 to 1.5%
  • Hit singles, not home runs (which are hard to find)
  • www.priomha.com
  • Twitter: @priomha

Life Without Global Internet Unimaginable

Added on by C. Maoxian.
Beijing has ordered state-run telecommunications firms, which include China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, to bar people from using VPNs, services that skirt censorship restrictions by routing web traffic abroad

I lived in Beijing from May 2005 to July 2015. The main reason we left was the deadly air pollution, but a contributing factor, and not an insignificant one, was the tightening grip the State had on the Internet. I first began using a VPN in China after Twitter got blocked in June of 2009? (if memory serves). More and more sites got blocked over the following years making it essential to have a VPN, with Gmail being "the last straw" for the few remaining VPN holdouts when it got blocked in early 2015? (again if memory serves).

I cannot imagine living in China and not being able to access the global internet. I certainly wouldn't consider living there now, or even doing a semester of study abroad there, without unfettered access to the global internet (via a VPN). Maybe that's what Xi wants? 

Notes for Chat with Traders, Episode 106

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Episode 106 ... Turney Duff (76:04)

  • Wrote a book called "The Buy Side" in 2013
  • Consulted on the TV show, "Billions," tries to make dialogue and situations more authentic
  • "A Story of Spectacular Excess" the subtitle of his book
  • Grew up in small town in Maine, wood-stove heated house, in the 1980s
  • Three older sisters, simple way of life
  • Went to Ohio University, journalism major, 970 SATs
  • January 1994 moved to NYC, $1,400 in the bank
  • Thought he'd get a job at a magazine
  • Thought Goldman Sachs was a fancy department store
  • Had an uncle (Tucker) in the business, got him 10 job interviews 
  • Had one suit from Filene's Basement
  • Interview at Lehman, saw the trading floor, reminded him of a casino, it was intense, he was hooked
  • Got an offer at Morgan Stanley, PCS, Private Client Services, sales assistant job
  • Lots of admin bullshit, but learned a ton, loved his job, there for five years
  • Bulk of clients were high net worth individuals ($10MM-$100MM)
  • [Duff has a great smoker's voice, wonder how many packs he smokes a day? Newports, he says]
  • Got a call from Galleon Group because they needed a sales assistant, they knew him from Happy Hour
  • $300MM hedge fund in 1999
  • "Expect to be fired every day; it's a good day if you're not"
  • Low man on the totem pole
  • Insider trading was the norm in 1999
  • First year Galleon up triple digits
  • Wouldn't take the time to get to know any new analyst since most would leave within two weeks
  • Gary Rosenback head of trading desk, #2 behind Raj Rajaratnam
  • David Slaine, "dream informant" ... took down 30+ people in insider trading scandal
  • Raj was happy-go-lucky, but capable of extreme wrath
  • Raj would create rivalries between two like individuals in the firm
  • Raj arrested Oct. 16, 2009, sentenced in 2011
  • Appease the public after Wall Street bailout by taking down insider trading rings
  • Galleon's phones were tapped
  • Drugs and alcohol consumed his life, he was "all about the party"
  • One and half year's into Galleon, went from assistant to head trader
  • Later went to Argus
  • He was good at gathering information, making new relationships
  • Take emotion out, you become a better trader
  • First big trade -- shorting Sepracor (buying puts) on generic Prozac news
  • Made a million in 20 minutes in Sepracor
  • Analyst told him hospitals don't hire nurses anymore, it's all contract work through staffing companies
  • Bought a slew of staffing companies, then told handful of buddies about the trade
  • Lots of upgrades, made a ton of money, made sellside guy a hero (he was ahead of the Street)
  • Fellow buyside buddies also made out -- general good cheer all around
  • 2003, he's 33 years old, doing  $50-$60MM a year in commissions, sellside anxious for a share of it
  • Sellside had unlimited expense accounts, any restaurant, any bar, any sporting event, any film festival, any private jet travel
  • Scoring drugs or hookers together with a broker is a bonding experience
  • Spend $10K on the kid [him] a couple of nights, it's worth a million in commissions
  • Do entertaining off the books, no paper trail
  • Thought if he had one more steak dinner or martini, he'd explode
  • Would buy 200,000 SPYs from someone just to get out of going to dinner with them
  • Life of the party, a fun guy 
  • First time he did cocaine, he was thrilled (but sensed it could become a problem), felt that good
  • Drugs, sex, money, alcohol, power -- all mixed into a cocktail that's hard to refuse
  • Took two years before he was using cocaine weekly, then later it became daily
  • Cocaine mainly came from sellside, only had to pay $200-$300 a week out of pocket
  • Hookers once a week, $400-$2,000
  • Born in 1969
  • "Black hole of addiction"
  • Oct. 2006 feigned mugging by throwing self into puddle until bloody to miss work without getting fired
  • Made $1.9MM in his biggest year
  • Made $10MM over seven year period, mostly bonuses
  • "Jump ball" -- 15% of bonus pool up for grabs
  • Went from Golden Boy to forced into rehab
  • Hungover you don't "pick up as many lights" (answering calls)
  • Doing cocaine, you can't sleep, you can't stop
  • "New York, the city that never sleeps. Miami, the city that can't sleep" 
  • Can never match high of first line, feel fantastic for 15 minutes
  • Can never get feeling back later no matter how much you snort
  • Stored his coke in his sock drawer
  • Had a daughter with his girlfriend
  • Lives in middle of Long Island now, two miles from daughter, sees her daily
  • Pays $1,300 a month in rent, just getting by, trying to stay sober
  • Fatburger investment of $1MM a zero
  • Bought house at peak in 2007, $2.1MM put in $500K more, sold for $1.2MM
  • His old Manhattan apartment was 2,700 sqft, paid $9,300 a month in rent
  • Basically pissed away all his money, "living like an asshole for many years"
  • Made $22,000 a year at Morgan Stanley, thought if he made $50,000 all his problems solved
  • When he made $2MM a year, thought if he made $3MM all his problems solved
  • Money makes life easier, not happier
  • Look at your intentions versus your actions [sounds like rehab talk]
  • www.turneyduff.com
  • Twitter: @turneyduff

My First Successful Uber Drive

Added on by C. Maoxian.

As I mentioned before, I have begun to drive for Uber, sort of as an experiment in sociology and economics. I'm not sure how long this research project will last, but I'm willing to give it a few weeks or months of very part-time attention.

I turned on the driver app for the first time yesterday and accepted a request. When I arrived at the pick-up point, the kids said they had cancelled the Uber, but I said go ahead and get in since I was just learning the ropes. Uber charges people $5 for a cancellation, and the driver collects $3.84? of that (will have to check the exact number).

Today I turned on the app and accepted a request, which again got cancelled just as I arrived (and a cab pulled up) -- another $3.84. The next request I accepted, I messed up starting the journey on the app at the pick-up point, and totally botched that trip which resulted in *no* money, but it was a short jaunt and a small price to pay for figuring out how to operate the app in real time.

The third request I accepted, I worked the app correctly, and took some kids from the airport to a rental car office. The details from that trip are in the screenshot below ... it looks like you get around $1 a mile, which ain't great, certainly less than I expected ... I will have to collect a larger data sample before I can conclude that it doesn't make economic sense to drive for Uber. 

TV Shows Watched -- Gypsy

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Another Netflix Original Series. I love Naomi Watts, always have ... she's another super-talented Aussie actress. She's exactly my age (ok, two years older) and still looks great, usually ... I mean from some angles, in some lighting, she looks her age, but generally she looks good. 

She plays a shrink here ... a bored shrink, with a boring fake sociopath lawyer husband, and troubled elementary-school-aged daughter. They live in Westchester or Rockland county and commute into the City for work. Big house, fancy clothes, "upper middle class white people." Naomi pops anti-anxiety drugs and steals prescription pads from her doctor friends (she's a Ph.D., not an M.D., so not a real drug-dispensing shrink, more of a cognitive therapist). Her husband may or may not be diddling his secretary (he isn't of course, because he's boring).

She gets involved in her patients' lives in weird, inappropriate ways. She's a nutcase in short, you know, this is a "psychological thriller." Anyway, I don't know where this show is going, it's ten episodes long ... again, I would probably instantly drop it if it weren't for Naomi Watts, who is just *so good* (remember Mulholland Drive? Yes, Naomi Watts did that breakdown scene at the end, where you realize it's all a dream, which still sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it).

Look into my eyes.... 

Look into my eyes.... 

In episode two we learn that Naomi drives a Volvo SUV, masturbates, and can't pronounce "Rorschach," which makes me wonder about her psychoanalytic capabilities. She gets closer to the girl who has such power over one of her customers, er, clients. This is some kind of feminine power play thing I'm not terribly interested in... paid attention to the credits this time to learn that the show was "created and written by Lisa Rubin." Uh oh, a C.W. By thing. I'm not sure if I can keep my interest up for this ... I may be too much of a manly man to deal with this bullshit for much longer. 

Red filter, again

Red filter, again

In episode three we learn that they live in Fairfield county, CT, not downstate NY. Naomi pops some pills she stole from one of her Stepford wife (Soulcycle wife?) "friends," and plans a brilliant birthday party for her kid. But she has a blow-up with the same Stepford wife at the party, very embarrassing. Will lead to permanent ostracism, but Naomi sort of wants that. And there's Blythe Danner, playing Naomi's mother ... she's now the go-to actress for evil WASP moms in their 70s.

This show will appeal to women and homosexual men, but not so much straight guys. Beautiful bored Gen-X women, popping pills in posh suburbs, pursuing lesbian relationships with someone half their age, pining for their lost youth or looking for some excitement in middle age ... I'm not sure how interesting this really is. But Naomi Watts *is* very attractive and talented so I will soldier on.

Hubby still fit despite the chins

Hubby still fit despite the chins

On to episode four, I really don't know what's going on. Nice to see a Zippo lighter being given as a gift, and I was wrong about Naomi driving a Volvo; it's an Infiniti QX60. Oddly they obscured the front badge of it, I guess there are no freebies in Product Placement Land. The hot black (light black) secretary is starting to make a move on boring old married-to-Naomi guy... will he crack?  We also learn that Naomi has a degree from Johns Hopkins. Her weird meddling in her patients' lives seems less sinister in this episode ... it's more like unconventional problem solving now. Anyway, will I be able to get through eight or ten of these episodes?? Not sure.

Drawn in then kicked to the curb, but who will be doing the kicking?

Drawn in then kicked to the curb, but who will be doing the kicking?

On to episode five ... ok, this is basically a midlife crisis story, but instead of a middle-aged married man having a fling with a younger model, it's a middle-aged married woman having a fling with a younger model. Naomi sneaks off again and has dinner at this hippie-dippie commune place (where I wondered who's paying for the wine?) ... she decides there and then to go all-in on the young lass from Sussex. Hubby left at home with idiot football buddies and a sad bag of ancient weed. There was a really good shot of the Infiniti QX60's grille with the brand obscured ... nearly looked like a Chinese Chery!

Splitsville ... I mean personality

Splitsville ... I mean personality

Boring hubby tries to rekindle things with Naomi via a night of hot sex in a swank hotel in episode six. All I could think during the sex scene was, "don't pinch your fingers in the door! don't pinch your fingers in the door!" And of course since both these actors are approaching 50 years old, the scene was totally unrealistic.

Boring hubby is going to Texas for two nights (with hot secretary, so maybe he'll crack there), which gives Naomi a chance to plan something big with the lass from Sussex. Oh, I almost forgot, but the episode ends with Naomi having a panic attack. Blurred vision, rapid breathing, fear of death, the whole thing -- not fun. 

Naughty, naughty and twenty plus years her junior

Naughty, naughty and twenty plus years her junior

Episode seven ... I *loved* this episode, great, great stuff, and not least because of the music. Booze, pot, Blue Is The Warmest Color style sex, infidelity ... it just captured the mood and feelings really well, the pacing was great, I thought. Spoiler: Boring hubby did not crack and give in to the offer from his beautiful black secretary, which was truly dumb, er, heroic behavior. As I said, after the hippie dippie dinner, Naomi *knew* she was going to hook up with the lass from Sussex, there was no stopping her, no second thoughts.

Why they had the black secretary coming out of the other lawyer's room at the end of the episode, I don't know, I thought it was unnecessary, it just makes her out as a slut, which she isn't really, or wasn't ... it makes boring hubby's decision look like the obvious one in hindsight, and it shouldn't be ... he should be second guessing himself about that one into the grave.

Naomi should know that the pot the kids smoke today is nothing like the stuff from our youth (Louis CK has a very funny bit about this). 

Poor bastard looks tortured, doesn't he?

Poor bastard looks tortured, doesn't he?

Episode eight ... I waited quite a while after episode seven before watching it, since I didn't want to ruin the high of that episode ... and now I can't remember what happened, other than boring lawyer Dad's name is mud at the firm, everybody thinks he slept with his secretary even though he didn't. Also we learn that Naomi keeps an apartment in the City under her maiden name (Hart) and her alias "Diane." Her husband doesn't know about this place. Naomi lets her druggie girl patient stay there (see below). The druggie girl repays the favor by digging through all of Naomi's locked-up stuff and discovering some of her many secrets.

Good bones but strung out

Good bones but strung out

Episode nine ... The lass from Sussex posted the surreptitiously snapped photo of her kiss with Naomi on Instagram ... this news oddly doesn't freak out Naomi ... she knows Sam has a gun, but apparently isn't that worried that he'll go nuts ... Blythe Danner does a beautiful job playing WASP Mommy Dearest and reveals that it is she who pays for the upper west side apartment, and that Naomi never went to Stanford, while sticking the knife in in multiple other ways during their pleasant family meal. Writer Rubin no doubt sees WASP family life as incredibly tortured and twisted, which it is only some of the time; I can report from experience.

Weird scene with Boring Lawyer Dad and his beautiful secretary (see below)  ... "I care about you but nothing's gonna happen," what's that all about? Naomi is popping pills trying to hold everything together. The school shrink thinks their kid should be put on Ritalin or something (more Mercedes payments for him!), but Naomi, a PhD psychotherapist, isn't so quick to accept the prescription. The lass from Sussex takes the train out to Darien (we've narrowed it down to the town in Fairfield county now) to pout in Naomi's Infiniti QX60 with obscured badge ... a "Mom car." Next episode is the final episode ... no way they can wrap this all up, must have been angling for a multi-season deal from the start.

Not going to fall in love with her, he repeats to himself while beating off in the shower

Not going to fall in love with her, he repeats to himself while beating off in the shower

Episode 10, final episode of the season ... I've decided that Gypsy belongs in the "Slick but Dumb" file ... the production values are great, the acting is decent, wardrobe, make-up, lighting, sets -- all the technical details -- are very good but the story itself is DUMB or worse, BORING. 

Beautiful Naomi may be leading a sort of double life, and messing with her psychotherapy patients in weird ways, but who really cares? Episode seven was good, but one episode does not make a great season, and I certainly won't be watching the next one. 

I felt pretty weepy myself by episode ten, crying for the lost time

I felt pretty weepy myself by episode ten, crying for the lost time