Wednesday, 30 March 2011

In the Groove

Quiet day yesterday, just played 2 games and the first produced my largest win since I re-started with lower stakes and proper bank management. Almost a full week with profit every day now and I'm starting to feel back in the groove I had at the start of the year.

Thought I would try an interesting experiment today. I want to see how my pre-match views fare against my in-play reading. Today's games:

Nadal v Berdych

Nadal is far too low to back but I do expect him to win. No prizes for that insight! The question is, would I lay him pre-match? There's some value in my opinion. Rafa hasn't been at his brilliant best all year. Worth a shot against a big server.

Simon v Federer

The Frenchman has come from a set down in his last 2 games and was 2 sets down the last time he played Federer and pushed him all the way at the Aussie Open. I know one thing for certain - I wouldn't back Federer at under 1.2. Simon does start slowly whilst Fed tends to start quickly, so it is difficult to lay from the off. Anything could happen here!

Sharapova v Petkovic

Sharapova has struggled against Peng, Wozniacki and Dulgheru lately and that's because they are top defenders. Petkovic always prefers to attack and you can't outhit Sharapova on current form. I know she beat her in Australia this year but Maria has upped her game since then. Jankovic should have beaten Andrea yesterday but the UEs from her were very uncharacteristic, she missed a load of sitters. Petkovic looked jaded and I don't think that marathon match will have helped. There are concerns over Maria's ankle apparently - even more reason not to get involved pre-match! But for this experiment only, I'm saying Sharapova should win this, I think it's a game too far for the German. I'd back her, she's a great price but there should be a few breaks in this, as her serve remains dodgy as hell. Won't be an easy ride.

Zvonareva v Azarenka

Vera seems to have a first-class tournament mentality these days. It seems as though she saves her best for the latter stages. She hasn't blown anyone away in Miami and has looked subdued but she always does enough and plays the big points superbly. I think she'll up her game today - she'll have to. Azarenka was brilliant last night, thoroughly demolished Clijsters. She had an answer for everything Kim threw at her and I was very surprised as she had been very erratic on serve all week. Can she produce that again today? I doubt it. Vera is a different match up anyway and will be much more consistent than Clijsters, especially on serve. I would take Vera pre-match.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Fish-ed Off

Another terrible start to the day and another one that could and should have been avoided. I was so sure that Del Potro would win today that I took up too early a position on the Argentine against Mardy Fish, who was anything but Pish today. I cut the trade short, unlike the Peng game yesterday and saved myself a chunk. I was doing this sort of thing a lot during my really poor stage of a couple of weeks ago and I must cut it out sharpish. My best skills are in reading games in-play and to do that, I need to sit back and remain patient. That was very difficult today because it was intensely frustrating. Due to rain delays, re-scheduled matches and pure unlucky timing, there were a lot of matches on at the same times, so I was unable to follow many of the games that I wanted to.

I ended up getting stuck in the Petkovic v Jankovic game for about 3 hours and came away from it with nothing. It was a draining experience, especially as the game so fraught with errors by the players. After that finished, there was nothing suitable left to play, as Nadal and Djokovic stream-trained to 1.01, apart from Tipsarevic v Simon, which miraculously presented me with a (relatively) huge win and pushed my winning streak to 5 days by £2! It certainly put some shine into an otherwise dour day.

I thought I'd take time today to write a bit about my strategy. I know it is something I've kept largely under-wraps but I've come to the assumption that actually, it won't make any difference who knows about it. Firstly, it is not proving to be consistently successful! Secondly, there is nothing new or ground-breaking about it. And Thirdly, it's not something that anyone can just copy anyway.

Basically, I follow games in-play and place trades based on what I see. I prefer to do this rather than do anything pre-match because there is less guess-work involved. If you are playing what you see, you are less likely to start the match in a tricky position that you have to work your way out of. And with tennis, you just never know what is going to happen. Take the Peng game yesterday or Del Potro today. Not many would have picked them to lose their matches and I don't think anyone would dare to after-time and say they thought they would lose in STRAIGHT sets! Of course, most traders will have a contingency plan to work their way out of red situations when things don't start as they had planned but I prefer not to put myself in that situation from the off. My strength lies in reading a game and seeing what is likely to happen, either in the short or the long term. When I have a clear picture, I use one of several strategies to get involved, which include scalping, swing-trading, backing on serve, laying at low odds or laying the server. The key thing with all of these though, is the entry points. They are based on probabilities and playing percentages, I don't just come in on any point. So that's really all as clear as mud!

Basically, I don't use any one system and I don't repeat any one strategy over and over, regardless of who is playing. All my trades are based on my knowledge of the players and reading of the game in-play. I nearly always aim to get at least one break of serve and once I have it, I very rarely stay in the game for more profit. I do have different entry and exit points for the men and women but you might be surprised at how similar the overall strategy is for both. I know many traders just stick to one or the other. I used to be useless at ATP but I now do just as well with that as I do with WTA, though I still prefer the women. The men can pull back break points much easier than the women and you tend to get more streaks and momentum swings with WTA and this is what I look for when I'm trading.

Anyway, another day ends and whilst I'm a bit fish-ed off, I'm sure the rest of Miami will produce enough for me to get my teeth into.

Peng-ed Off

Today could have very easily gone down a dark, dingy, inescapable tunnel to oblivion. I couldn't have started any worse. A £50 loss on Peng v Dulgheru is the equivalent of one of my old horror shows when I was using large stakes. What made it so irritating was not so much the amount lost but the way it was thrown away. Firstly, I placed a pre-match bet. As you may be aware by now, this is rule numero uno of Sultan Strategy - NEVER EVER TAKE A PRE-MATCH POSITION. So why did I do it? It was an accumulation of factors regarding our lovely Chinese friend, Shaui. I have bitten my tongue for weeks now, trying hard not to just outright back The Pengu, who is one of the hottest players on the tour this year. Game after game, tournament after tournament has passed by as she has performed time and time again, pushing closely and occassionally beating the very best. Each time, I've watched in frustration and awe, as she seemed to get better and better. As the weeks marched on, I expected her to run out of steam. After her loss to Sharapova at Indian Wells, where she was actually ahead in the final set and looked as though she was going to cap an amazing comeback with her biggest ever win, I thought she must surely, finally crumble mentally. But no. She came back even stronger, mullering Greta Arn, Aravane Rezai and Kuzzy the Klown without dropping a single set. So I reached the end of my tether. No way was I going to miss out on yet another Pengu destruction. I mean, come on, she's up against Alex Dulgheru, a girl who has done nothing since last year's clay court season.........

I don't need to tell you the rest. Peng was handed out the kind of beating she herself had been dishing to all and sundry. I would never blame her of course, as I had ample opportunities to come out for a smaller loss. But I just couldn't see any way she would lose 2-0. At 5-1 down in set 2, Peng suddenly found her game and won 3 in a row, so I hung on in there but she ran out of steam. This was a classic example of why, if you have a plan you should always stick to that plan no matter what. As soon as you start making exceptions, it's asking for trouble. And the problem is, when you divert from your strategy it is often because you are '100% certain' that what you are doing can't fail. Which usually means that no matter how bad the situation becomes, you will be reluctant to reverse out of it - that's not trading, it's gambling.

But as any experienced trader will tell you, it's how you respond to the losses that will determine how successful you are. And I couldn't have responded much better. I just got my head down and ploughed on, barely making an error for the rest of the day. I truly was in the zone. Such a pity that one huge blot has ruined an otherwise blemish-free text book. Even cutting that red in half would have given me a very satisfying day. But on the bright-side, I do believe that this is the first time since I began this blog that I've had 4 consecutive days of profit! And that can only be attributed to one thing - better bank management.

I'm not doing much different to what I was doing previously. The only real difference is that I'm not afraid to get involved and go with my intuition and for the most part, I'm following my strategy much better. What I've found most difficult to adjust to, is the amounts of money I'm dealing with. It's still strange to me to be seeing figures that are 3 times smaller than I was used to. I've had to reign myself in and force myself to be happy with single figure wins. I just keep telling myself to imagine double or triple the greens, so I can see the future potential of what I could be making. But for now, it feels great to have the anxiety gone and my confidence returning and you can't put a price on that.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Wakey, Wakey

Despite a third day in a row of profit, I was disappointed with the day's trading. If I'm being honest, I got lucky with a few games which could have easily ended up with larger red figures. I got involved at points I shouldn't have in the Radwanska v Kirilenko game and paid for it, though it could have been a lot worse. Same with Llodra v Granollers. And things were not looking rosy during the Groth v Zvonareva game for a while either. I don't know what was wrong with me today. I should have been bubbling with enthusiasm after two excellent days but for some reason, I just wasn't in the right mood. I can't put my finger on why, so I guess it was just one of those days we all have every now and then, where we 'get out of bed the wrong side'. Maybe it was those 3 sleepless nights catching up with me. I was lethargic and struggling to focus on the games and my timing and reading of the play was well off. But I suppose if you can come away from a day like that and still have profit, you can't really ask for much more and I should be pleased.

I think a key reason why today still ended with a positive result, was simply because of my new low stakes and bank management. When I got things wrong and messed up my strategy, I was able to just hang in and wait a bit longer than I would have done with larger stakes and for the most part, this enabled me to get out with minor damage or even a profit. It wasn't exactly text-book following of strategy but the lack of fear I now have, allowed me to go with my intuition and over-ride the strategy to get me out of trouble. Anyway, it was a wake up call, if I still needed one, that I'm not out of trouble yet and just need to keep a tight check on my emotional state before trading. Preparing mentally before a session, even if just for 5 minutes, can make all the difference to how you perform.

Just as a side note, if you haven't seen the video clip on the Miami website of the amazing doubles point between Djokovic / Murray and Youhzny / Stakhovsky, check it out

Brilliant on two levels. Firstly, it's an incredible point. Secondly, watch how Djokovic does all the hard work, fights like a trojan to keep in the point and then Murray comes along with the eaiest chance and puts it into the net! Hilarious! Typical of his form right now.

Sunday, 27 March 2011


I was rejuvenated today. Actually being able to watch games, enjoy the tennis, listen to some commentary (even if it is just those often appalling blokes who clearly know nothing about the sport on betting site streams!), makes a huge difference. My key strength is being able to read matches well and so pics are vital. It showed today, as the only losses I had were on games with no stream available. Aside from those blips, I continued as I left off on Friday but with even more confidence. I felt relaxed enough to try things that I was fearful of with larger stakes in the past. I was basically able to trust my own intuition more, rather than stay rigidly within strict boundaries due to fear of large reds. I can guarantee that I would not have won on the Cuevas v Roddick, Gabashvili v Tsonga OR Sharapova v Lisicki matches if those same games had taken place on Thursday. In fact, I don't think I would have won on those games at ANY stage in the past!

I approached each trade with a much more solid risk assessment plan, so that I was never too worried about it going badly against me. Most importantly, this allowed me to stick with my own judgement and have a crack at situations that previously, I would not dare to venture near, purely because I did not adjust my stakes sizes to suit the situation. I used to always say I was 'keeping it simple', as I felt that it would suit me better, as someone not good with figures, to have one stake size, no matter what my bank was. I felt there was no need to over-complicate things and get bogged down in the numeracy and preferred to just slap down the same amount every time, without thinking. But actually, I've found it to be quite interesting, making decisions on the fly and thinking thoroughly about what my next move is going to be, continually assessing the risk and reward. It's actually been rather stimulating and has given me greater satisfaction when trades have gone well.

But let's not get carried away! It's only been 2 days and the number of matches will start to dwindle next week. The main thing is, I'm finally getting a good night's sleep again!

Saturday, 26 March 2011


I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. For the first time this week and possibly the first time in over a month, I traded with almost complete freedom. Every trade I executed without fear and followed my strategy almost to perfection. Hell, I think I even ENJOYED today! I'm certain that if I'd gone into today's trading with the anxiety of yesterday, I would not have done well, so the bank management has made a huge difference. The pressure of failing and picking up reds has dissipated. I still have that underlying anxiety about my overall financial situation but I now realise that the only way I'm going to overcome this is to trade as if I am a novice again, starting at the bottom with relatively small stakes. If I can stabilize and then grow slowly in the short term, it shouldn't be too long before I can up my stakes again because I have everything else in place that a novice wouldn't have - a solid strategy, market knowledge, experience and awareness of the mindset required. All today's profit was gained from a stake that was 3 times smaller than what I had become accustomed to using. What a difference it makes to be able to trade without fear - I've gone from a day where every trade was red to an all-green day!

The strange thing is, all of those wins came from me using my old strategy. As of today, I will refrain from all this old and new strategy speak. The fact is, I have several different strategies which are adaptable to different situations and so the new ideas that I have been paper-trading so successfully, will actually now become another string to my bow. So when I refer to my strategy now, it will just be a collective term for all my systems, I won't be ditching anything.

Tomorrow sees the start of TV coverage from Miami - FINALLY! The first week of Indian Wells and Miami are pretty much the only 2 weeks of the season where there is no stream to watch until the weekend. This has undoubtedly impacted on my trading, as I've been far more hesitant to get involved than usual. So hopefully, things will continue to improve as the tournament drives into its second week. I certainly won't be getting carried away by one good day though. This is going to be a long, slow process, very unlike the way I've attempted to trade in the past. Getting ahead of myself is a reaction that is every bit as dangerous as the paralysing fear I've experienced lately. However, this time, I'm ready for it.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Facing Truths

I haven't posted for 2 days now and there is one simple reason for that - I've had a nightmare. Every minute of every trade, I've been anxious to the point of a breakdown. It's been absolute hell. I became rigid with fear every time I hovered the cursor over the ladder and this lead to me not placing many bets which were spot on for my strategy. Nearly all of these moments would have produced winners. And of course, on the occasions when I did get stuck in, I would end up losing more often than not. After a while, I just started to panic. I didn't know whether I was coming or going. The stress was so intense, my whole body was boiling over and I couldn't even bare to be in the same room as my PC. Minutes felt like hours, as I paced from room to room, checking on the scoreboard updates intermittently. During some matches, when they started to go against me, I would cut the trade short through pure fright, and more often than not, those trades would go on to produce wins. The frustration made me do stupid things, including one occasion where I threw an arbitrary amount on one player to win and didn't even bother following the game, just prayed and hoped. It lost. My get-in points became more and more badly timed, as it seemed I always got involved at the exact moment the market did a u-turn.

On Wednesday, I actually finished the day with a tiny profit. Tuesday would have been break-even but for that one throw-away bet. But on Thursday, I had literally NO wins. Every single trade was red for the entire day. You can count the number of times that has ever happened to me on the fingers of one hand. Overall, I hadn't lost a huge amount but it was the way that it happened that got to me. I was supposed to have stopped paper-trading the new strategy but because I was too scared to use it, I missed out on 3 more days of profit and now, my bank is once more decimated.

I have had 3 sleepless nights of tossing and turning. On the 3rd night, I decided that I couldn't put myself through another day of torment. My nerves and confidence were shattered and one more day could lead to me completely losing the plot. So I stayed awake till 4am, desperately trying to work out what my next step should be. I knew that I had to face some home truths. Firstly, I was never going to get anywhere unless I fully committed to the new strategy. That meant that I had to trade without fear. So what was causing the fear? Anxiety about my financial situation. How could I lessen the anxiety? One factor stuck out like a sore thumb, a factor that I had ignored and swept under the carpet the entire year that I have been trading - bank management.

As I've mentioned many a time, I'm not good with numbers. I have avoided any form of bank management like the plague, figuring that I could get by without it. There have been a few posters on this very blog that have mentioned my stake sizes and money management and I now have to bow to you and admit that you were right - I should have been looking at this from day one. I moved on to large stakes much too quickly, just 6 months into my trading apprenticeship. That was before I knew anything about the mindset required for trading or had produced consistent profitable results. I've always just thought I wouldn't need it, as once I'd become consistent, it would be irrelevant. But now I understand why it is so important. Firstly, as a novice, it allows you to experiment and to find your feet, make a lot of mistakes before you settle on a strategy and learn the markets. Secondly, as someone more experienced, it allows you peace of mind. Good bank management for an intermediate / experienced trader, means that you can suffer a bad spell without starting to get anxious. It is that anxiety which has lead to me being all-over the place and making rash decisions. There have been times where my entire bank has been my entire stake, which in hindsight, is completely crazy!

So last night, I drew up a bank management plan for the first time ever. I will not be risking any more than 5% of the bank with a lay and will set my stop loss at 5% for my back bets. This means my stakes will significantly fall but at this stage, I can't be focused on profit. I have to basically go back a whole year and do what I should've done back then; build the bank slowly, looking for consistency instead of large profit. My aim is to roughly double my bank each month and increase stake size in proportion to that increase. Hopefully, the smaller risk will allow me to trade more freely, not miss opportunities and get back to actually enjoying what I do. Time will tell but one thing I can assure you, is that I never want to feel as bad as I have done this week ever again in my life.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


Today was the most nervous day of trading I have ever experienced. Making the switch from old to new strategy was much tougher than I expected. It was such a different way of doing things and it felt rather unnatural. I felt a huge amount of pressure to get off to a good start, as if to vindicate my reasoning for the change. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. 2 of my opening 3 trades were losers and the other one went right to the wire. I felt awful, pacing the room, heart pounding, stomach churning and I immediately felt doubt and panic spread across my mind. The relief of gaining a green in the Pervak v Kucova game, was immense. But my early worries lead to me becoming more passive and cautious as the day went on and it really cost me.

I used half stakes on the Dokic v Malek game, missing out on a healthy profit. I ducked out of a great opportunity during the Young v Clement game, which would have given me a large green. Instead, I dived into the Craybas v Davis game with a pre-match bet, going against my new strategy. I was lucky to get out with just a small loss. All-in-all, a disappointing end to what should have been a brilliant start. But at least I have profit and the knowledge that if I'd just stayed calm and done the right things, I'd have done really well. It is clearly going to take a few days for me to gain full confidence in using this system, especially as yet again, there are no live pics till the weekend. I just need to find a way to relax more during the games and I'll be fine. Bring on Day 2!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Miami Spice

There haven't been many matches since I last posted but I've been implementing my new strategy and so far, so good. I'm not going to lie and pretend it's all been smooth sailing. I started with a horrendous bit of trading in the Querrey v Robredo game. That dumb-ass Grinch lost to a one-legged man and cost me a large wedge in the process. I can't blame him entirely though, as I let a huge green slip from my grasp, deciding that there was no way any human with even a pea-sized brain could lose against a half-lame Robredo. But I didn't reckon on that yokel Querrey. That set me up for some angry chasing in the following Ivanovic v Bartoli game, which I never should have gotten involved in and subsequently lost.

Since then, I have actually sorted myself out and results have favoured me but sadly, without the profit I would have liked. Paper-trade results have given me 19 wins (individual trades rather than matches) and 3 losses since the Bartoli balls-up. The only problem is that I haven't for the most part, attempted to use real money. So again, I've missed out on some fantastic profit. It's tricky, changing the habits that you've strived to maintain for over a year. I've really found it difficult to fully commit to my new strategy, especially as I'm still really honing it to perfection. I've been winging it during some games and have made decisions that I regret but it's all part of the learning process. I still have to get comfortable with it but I need to dive in and go for it more to do that. I've been reluctant to get involved in several matches that would've produced winners and it's been very frustrating. I just need to trust myself more, as my reading of games is now very rarely wrong. But I think I am now ready to take the plunge and not look back. Strangely enough, it was a doubles game that has given me the confidence I need. The women's doubles final at Indian Wells was the first doubles match I've ever traded and it proved ripe for my new strategy. I gained a £40 win, the first I've ever had following the new strategy with real money!

So I'm now all set for Miami. It's gonna be a huge tournament for me as if it doesn't go well, I'll almost certainly be calling it a day as far as trading is concerned. I'll be back reporting daily with my struggles tomorrow - here's hoping for a bit of Miami Spice!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Strategy Overhaul

I know that it's going to seem strange to some of you that I'm changing strategy after one year. Let's look at the reasons why. My original strategy was based on Tradeshark Tennis Strategies. I followed these religiously for the first 3 months. I then started tweaking them as I felt there were one of two things that I was uncomfortable with. After about 6 months, I was doing almost entirely WTA and very little ATP. I then tweaked the WTA strategies further, as I felt I could get more profit. This worked for a while and I was really confident that this was the way forward. But I was still in 'boom and bust' mode. The strategy was great for a while but then I'd lose discipline.

After 9 months, I realised that the issues weren't with the strategies so much but with ME. I didn't have the correct mindset and so set about changing it and the way I approached trading. After 10 months, I had changed a lot and also had started back on ATP aswel, with a much better strategy. However, I underestimated how much my mindset needed to change and so nothing really developed. The wins kept coming, even more than ever before but one slip and I ended up back in a negative cycle. After 12 months, my bank was decimated and I was too anxious to follow the strategy properly. It requires immense patience, discipline and confidence and you have to be alert at ALL times. The way I was feeling emotionally, with all my financial worries, I just couldn't keep it up. I have also found it very exhausting. It has basically, stopped being a fun challenge and is now an anxious chore.

I still believe the strategy will produce success but only in the right hands. I've mentioned many a time that away from trading, I lack patience in anything. I find it hard to stick to things long term and am always looking for new stimulus and new challenges. I don't like sitting in one place for hours and waiting for something to happen. But the biggest issue for me with this strategy, has been the fact that I have often ended up losing money, when my own intuition and reading of the game actually ended up to be correct. That is incredibly galling. The problem is that the strategy imposes strict get-out points, which you have to use no matter what, otherwise you can face enormous losses. But those get-out points have too often led to me going all-red, when if I'd just gone with my intuition, I would have profited.

What I need is a system that allows me more freedom to use my own intuition, with less strict rules and boundaries. In life, I don't like following rules. I have a creative mind that needs room to breathe and make my own judgement calls. I like to be able to think things through and mull ideas over, rather than being boxed in and told 'you must do this here, right now, for this amount of time'. My strongest attribute within tennis trading, is that I can read games very well. I have a knack of predicting shifts in play and foreseeing what will happen from set-to-set. I'm not suggesting I can predict who is going to win every time but I have a good understanding of what is LIKELY to happen WITHIN a game, given a set of circumstances. But because of the constraints of my strategy, I am not often able to go with this intuition. I have paper-traded my own game-reading for weeks now and I don't often get it wrong. This does not constitute a trading strategy though, it's just gambling. There still needs to be some rules and bank and risk management etc. But I think I've now figured out a way to forge my strength into something that will produce consistent trades.

My old strategy was very intense, requiring me to closely follow games at all times, waiting patiently for exact points to enter. When i did enter, the intensity would grow to fever-pitch as I had to be bang-on it for a minute or two, before attempting to get out. If that moment didn't work out, I could be sitting on a huge loss, larger than my pre-defined acceptable loss. That will never happen with my new strategy. My loss will always remain the same from start to finish, it is the profit that needs to be decided upon. This should lift much of the weight of worry off my shoulders and enable me to function without fear. The intensity will be less, as it won't be concentrated down to a minute or two. I'll have more time for analysis and will be able to read the game and use my strongest skills to greater advantage. Rules will be a little more open-ended but that's OK because my stakes will be smaller and if something unaccountable does go wrong (scoreboard failure, retirement, injury etc) it won't put me in a difficult position. Overall, I will get to relax and actually enjoy the tennis a bit more.

I only wish I'd made the switch sooner. 3 days have produced 20 winners and 5 (very small) losses, which would have brought profit of approx. £550. My biggest fear is that I have not done enough paper-trading. 3 days is obviously nowhere near enough! But I have also been noting down my ideas for a couple of months now and very rarely have I been wrong. The Gambler's Law dictates that I will now have a few losses to start off with but I'm prepared for that. My bank management should be better with this new strategy and I can survive a few hits. I just hope that the 4 to 1 win ratio can remain consistent.

I've decided not to post here for a while during the start of this new strategy. I just feel as though I need a bit of a break and to put all my focus on getting it right. Hopefully I'll be back in a few days with some nice profit to tell you about!

Dinara Dinero

Only one thing brought me any pleasure from today's trading session - Dinara Safina was battered, bullied and embarrassed by Maria Sharapova. It was gone 4am again but unlike yesterday, I allowed a thin smile of malice to cross my lips as I slipped under the duvet. Aside from that, today was an absolute shambles.

Right from the word go, my mindset was wrong. The inside of my head felt like a tumble dryer on full-spin. I still hadn't decided exactly what my plan of action was; did I stick to my old strategy alone, phase in the new one, keep paper-trading or switch to the new one entirely? I'd thought about it all day but when the time came, I couldn't decide and so ended up in a complete mess. I was following 3 or 4 games at the same time, my eyes flicking from scoreboard to stream constantly. I barely looked up from my laptop for the first couple of hours. My mind was racing with thoughts, trying to keep up with the action and assessing which strategy could possibly be used in which game at which point. I began by using my original strategy on the Jankovic v Ivanovic game but had to red-up. Later on, I tried the new strategy and it worked - back in the green. I then used the new strategy again and was looking good for a big green but became anxious and reverted to the old get-out point. This cost me a good green and I ended up frustrated and with little to show for my efforts.

I followed this up with an insanely bad trade on Azarenka v Radwanska, which I only did because I had paper-traded the start of the game and would have profited instantly. The frustration at yet another missed win, led to me getting involved too soon and I redded-out. I started to feel really uncomfortable and was not enjoying the session at all. I once again, got involved at the wrong point in the Schiavone v Peer game, trying to force things too early. I switched and did the opposite only for the market to turn and leave me facing a big red within seconds. I couldn't contain my emotions anymore. I was hot, flustered and on the verge of tears. My muscles ached, forehead pulsed and my eyes were as dry as Ghandi's sandal. I was all ready to either do something very stupid or just give up altogether. The stress was overwhelming.

But then I did something very unusual, something I'd never done before. Instead of doing my usual head-slapping, wall-punching, self-berating, I suddenly just stopped, mid-breakdown. I stood up and with one sharp movement of my hands downwards, I ordered myself to end this madness. Immediately, I talked myself into being almost insanely positive! Even though I didn't feel like it at all, I forced myself to smile, look forward to the next game, push-aside any anxiety and stress and act as if I had no worries. I didn't even take a break, I just sat straight back down, opened up the Gasquet v Melzer stream and acted as if the last couple of hours had never happened. I pretended that I had a full bank, was looking forward to watching an entertaining match and that I had the best job in the world, with no financial pressure on the outcome. And it worked!! Any time I felt just a smidgen of negativity appear or any thought about the previous losses, I would eliminate it instantly and force myself to concentrate on ENJOYING the match and saying positive things to myself. The profit speaks for itself. I was absolutely 100% in the zone during this game. I wasn't cautious in the slightest and went for it, using both strategies.

Things quietened down after this and opportunities were thin on the ground. It didn't help that my paper-trades were again, vastly more profitable. I would have made over £200 today. TWO HUNDRED POUNDS!!! A total of 6 wins and 1 loss. The one loss was, you guessed it, the only game I decided to use real money on (Roddick v Isner). So instead I have £1.95.

So there are two major things to come out of today. Firstly, I must make sure I control my emotions before EVERY trade. It doesn't matter how fake it appears, it seems to focus me and it seems to work. Secondly, I'm definitely changing my system. I will spend tomorrow smoothing out any rough edges and shaping the strategy. I will gradually phase out the old strategy. It is still usable and elements of it I will still keep, but for the most part, I just can't be bothered with it. I've struggled for a whole year trying to make it work and during that whole time, I've thought to myself 'I wish I could find something more suitable to my personality'. Well, I think I have now. After 3 days where I've missed out on hundreds of pounds of profit (and several weeks of monitoring it without looking at how much I would've won), I can't paper-trade any longer. Tomorrow marks a new chapter in my trading life.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Dinara no Dinero

I hate Dinara Safina. She epitomises everything I dislike about tennis players. She never smiles even after winning a point, plays with zero subtlety, smashes every ball as hard as she can regardless of the situation, consistently moans at ball-kids and throws tantrums, grunts and screams loudly on every shot, makes the game difficult to watch and acts as if she thoroughly hates playing. I now have even more reason to hate her - she ruined my entire day.

I felt much better today and was really up for a good session. It started brilliantly and I had a nice early platform to build confidence from. But I did something inexplicably stupid on the Rezai v Sharapova game. I had £17 profit on half-stakes and I should have been happy with that. I'd have been £75 up for the day. But I got greedy and backed in at low odds. You can guess the rest. I was fuming, even more so when I looked at my paper-trades and saw I was in much healthier profit than my actual trades. So I placed a 'new strategy' trade next, on the Del Potro v Dolgopolov game............again, you don't need me to say what happened. Sod's law isn't it? My paper-trades produced 7 wins and 1 small loss today. The only real-money trade was a loser.

Fortunately, it wasn't a huge blow and I continued onwards, settling down and not losing my head. That was until the final trade of the day. It was going to be a loss anyway but somehow, I managed to turn it into a disaster which wiped out a full day's work. I tried to limit my losses by backing Stosur but accidentally LAYED Stosur instead. I tried to quickly reverse the position but it was too late. The damage was done and the best I could do was go all red - £40 on Stosur, £90 on Safina. I mentioned just a day or two ago about how losses feel 10 times worse when they occur in the wee hours. Well I was staring at a red figure for the day at 4am - I was demoralised. Even more so when I saw my paper-trade results - PLUS £130!!!

I know it's just a small loss for today but I feel sick. I'm really fed up at how just one lapse in concentration, one tiny mistake, one moment of madness, can cost me so much. The new system I'm working on would not leave me in such a position. It relies less on me having to trade out at exact points, requires a smaller stake to produce similar greens and overall, suits my personality much better. I can be a bit more laid back and let trades run and just watch the tennis unfold. I actually think it can be added to my other strategies and used alongside but there could also be some conflict, where it's either one or the other. This is not a fun position to be in! Plus, we all know what will happen as soon as I switch to the new system. The Gambler's Law dictates that my paper-traded 11 wins and 4 losses will reverse to 4 wins and 11 losses!

So I'm going to think long and hard about how to trade tomorrow. With the Dinara dinero in tact, I would have still been plus £50 for the day and only using half-stakes. But it isn't in tact. And the blood, sweat and tears to get the profit was yet another stressful rollercoaster ride. Maybe I need to admit that I am not suited to this style of trading and maybe never will be able to get that mindset consistently strong enough. Honestly, if you put someone with enough patience and discipline with my current system, they would be laughing all the way to the bank. Time for a change?

Monday, 14 March 2011

Wrong Side of the Bed

Don't you just hate it when you paper-trade a new strategy and it would have made far more money than the strategy you traded with real money?! That's what happened to me today. As you can see, a 4th day of profit in a row but should have been more.

I don't know what was wrong with me today. Maybe it was the fact I'd missed yesterday, or maybe I just got out of bed the wrong side but I just wasn't in the mood for trading. Normally I'm pumped up and positive but I felt tired and anxious before I'd even started today. I started well enough but my mood didn't lift. Two hours passed and it felt like eight. I wanted to stop but considering I'd lost a full day yesterday, I struggled on. It didn't help that Wawrinka kept doing the opposite of what I needed him to do! I persevered into the 3rd set on his game with Davydenko but got no joy. In the end, I was so pissed off that I deliberately missed my exit point and lost £30 that I shouldn't have. I went into the Becker v Bellucci game and the same thing occurred. In total, I backed a player 4 times on serve and they were broken every single time! That has never happened to me before!

Now I could feel the anger that I thought I'd killed off for good, start to rear its ugly head. I knew that if I didn't switch off and take a rest, I was heading into self-destruct mode. The break really saved my bacon. I took time off and came back refreshed and in a mood more suitable for trading. Results improved but for some reason, I remained on edge. I couldn't get matched on several attempts during the Benneteau v Melzer game and if I had done, my profit would have tripled. I looked at what I could have won with my paper-trades and I felt flat.

Days like this occur every now and then. I actually followed my strategy fine apart from that one moment in the Wawrinka game, so can't be too angry at myself. But I started to get those horrible thoughts of whether I'm happy with my strategy or not and whether I should change to the new one already. I've often wondered whether my strategy suits my personality enough. It requires me to wait around patiently for long periods and never to make pre-match bets. This is totally against my own impatient traits. I'm someone who prefers to be doing something at all times, to be active and getting involved. On the flip-side, my system suits my own cautious nature. I prefer to weigh things up and be sure about anything before leaping in and taking big risks. And I really hate being involved but nervously waiting for things to turn my way. In my system, I normally only have a couple of minutes to be nervy and then I'm out of the trade. So I'm at a bit of a juxtaposition. I think it's important to have a strategy that suits who you are and I'm just not sure I'm 100% happy in that respect, even though I know it will produce results.

But then maybe I did get out of bed the wrong side and I should just get on with things. Hopefully, I'll feel back to normal tomorrow. Perhaps I'm just missing some WTA coverage - come on Eurosport, pull your fingers out!!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Once bitten.............

Due to Betfair once again being down, I decided after what happened to me last time, I would take the whole day off. Simply not worth the risk. Plus I felt quite good about not giving them my commission for one day! I stumbled across this remarkable statement whilst looking for info about the down-time, where a Betfair spokeswoman said, regarding the site issues:

"No one had felt the problems as keenly as Betfair staff but the betting exchange had picked its moment as best it could."

It makes your blood boil doesn't it? What an arrogant and insensitive comment. Whoever this woman is she deserves a severe reprimand for that. So the poor Betfair employees have to work a tiny bit harder to sort out the mess which THEY made and somehow, this is a bigger problem than a trader stuck with an open bet of hundreds or thousands of pounds, that he has no way of hedging because all matches are suspended? It just goes to show once again how little Betfair truly cares about its customers. And as for picking 'its moment as best it could' to shut down - SATURDAY AFTERNOON?! It beggars belief. And what is the reason we have to suffer this disruption? So that Betfair can make even MORE money and screw us Brits over even MORE by moving to a tax haven! But you know, it wouldn't even bother me much if they just did a few very simple things like updating us regularly and in a timely manner, scrapping the Premium Charge and voiding all bets on markets that are affected by disruption or blatant fixes. Until competition comes along, that will never happen.

I read in the same article that Betfair are looking to break into the American market. Well I hope they do because that will mean that the US has relaxed its gambling laws and it will almost certainly lead to an American company or two starting up as competition - then we'll see how much Betfair REALLY value us. I for one, will not forget the number of times I've been messed about them.

Eliminating the Trolls

Three days of profit in a row - I can't remember the last time I was able to say that! It was another uninspiring day of number-gazing but this time, I followed my strategy almost perfectly right to the end. The only blip was during the Bartoli v Niculescu game, where I mis-read the market movement and guessed the score incorrectly. The scoreboard put me right and I had to back-pedal but it cost me a negligible amount. There were lots more games I could've gotten involved with into the wee hours but these days, I recognise the importance of sleep and going to bed stress-free a lot more. There is nothing worse than throwing away hours of graft and that is particularly true when you've stayed up till 5am only to see your juicy green deteriorate into a painful red. It's happened to me many a time and it's a real killer! Knowing when to stop is an important part of trading, just as much as knowing when to get involved.

I still traded cautiously again today. In fact, I used half stakes on every trade. Whilst this does make me think 'Hmmm, I could have made some serious profit this week', I have felt a lot less nervy and been a lot more decisive with my trades than I would have been using full stakes. I may feel a bit more confident when TV coverage starts tomorrow on 'The Fifth Slam'. I'm really looking forward to it, however, I'm not for one minute thinking that I am out of the slump yet. My goals will continue to be the same for a while and they are to stick to my strategy at all times and to remain unflustered by whatever happens.

Just a few words before I finish, about negativity. I'm a big believer in positive energy and that to be happy and / or successful at almost anything, you need to have positive influences in your life. That means family and friends that are 100% behind you, encouraging you but also, peers and colleagues that will not try to get in your way, put you down or just plain annoy you! That's why I never post on forums anymore. I used to waste hours responding to malicious, moaning, negative individuals on Betfair and eventually realised that not only was I wasting time that could have been better spent resting my eyes or doing something productive but it was also making ME negative too. This can directly affect your mood and subsequently, the way you trade.

As a trader, mindset is so important that I believe that surrounding yourself with positivity is VITAL. And that has to come from within too. I've learnt recently not to beat myself up for my mistakes and not feel down about my weak points. If you can't encourage and be nice to yourself, then what hope have you got?! I am my own harshest critic and there is literally nothing that anyone could say to me that would be worse than what I've thought myself! So I encourage any constructive criticism and would like to thank all those who have written such positive comments on this blog. It really does make a difference to know that people are behind you and are experiencing what you are going through, especially in a solitary profession like this.

But if I am to give one piece if advice that you may not have heard before, it is this; get rid of the negativity in your life. Most negative people want you to fail, so use that as an extra incentive, an extra reason to prove them wrong but do so by acting positively. Don't fall to their level, rise above it by being successful and happy. And if it is YOU that is negative, start approaching life in a more positive way - I guarantee you'll see improvements in all aspects, whether that be personal or professional. I know all of this because I used to be very negative myself, many years ago. I was never nasty with it (unlike these pitiful trolls you get all over the internet) but I had a defeatist attitude, a glass half-empty mentality and would moan a lot without even realising how it affected my relationships with others. These days, my positivity has opened the door to so many more opportunities and life-changing experiences that I would never have entertained through my negative days. So when I start trading every day, I do so with enthusiasm, positivity and self-belief that I can become successful. Even if I don't succeed, at least I'll know I did everything I could to make it work.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Endless Flashing Numbers

Despite ending the day in profit again, I am disappointed with the day's trading. It started well, as I slowly but surely continued sowing the daffodil seeds. I was using half stakes and being very cautious again. Whilst this is fine for this period without TV coverage, I felt that I may have started to overuse this tactic. I had an opportunity to go in full-stake during the McHale v Ammanmuradova game but chickened out of it. This lead to me making only half the green I could have had. I would've greened up and left the game at that point but with a much smaller profit, I continued into the second set and lost it all. I then started to get a bit tense. I'd worked diligently for a few hours to build up a decent early profit but was now worried that the accumulated small greens could all be wiped out with one red. The prospect of all that hard slog and being cautious and patient, only to go up in smoke, started to play on my mind.

I could once more sense that welling-up of frustration and nervousness that I am so prone to. I struggled to contain it but have to admit that my final 3 trades of the day were poor, despite the fact that 2 were winners. I had red positions on all 3 at some stage and was relieved to finish the day with any sort of profit. All 3 markets were lacking in decent liquidity and I should have just left them. But after missing out on profit in the Del Potro v Stepanek game because I was overly cautious, I went the opposite way and put myself into risky situations that I struggled to get out of due to the lack of money around. I could sense that my head was starting to go and shut down for the day.

So this explains why I'm unhappy overall. My goal remains to complete the day by following my strategy 100%. This didn't happen in any of those final 4 games. I am also still very aware that I am getting frustrated too easily and added to that, I am also a little too cautious. However, I don't think this is a bad thing for now. The more small greens I build up and the less reds that appear, the more my bank and my confidence will grow. I am obviously still pretty fragile right now and it's best I play it extra safe until TV coverage begins and I can soak up losses more easily. On the positive side though, I have had just 2 reds in 2 days, neither of them large and my reading of the game was good enough to get me out of 2 more red positions. And there is only one more day without TV coverage. I cannot begin to describe how irritated I get just staring intermittently between the ladders and the scoreboards. 8 hours of squinting at flashing numbers really makes you question why on earth you got into this game in the first place!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Daffodil Principle

I'd never heard of 'The Daffodil Principle' story before, but the Mind of a Trader podcast 38 brought it up. It couldn't have been more coincidental that I discovered it today, as it is basically the same as my own 'Year Zero', which I begin today. In a nutshell, it's about forgetting the past and starting something afresh but with a patient, methodical approach that will reap rewards in years to come. Take a look here if you are unaware of the principle

I certainly needed to be patient today because it was starting to become rather frustrating. After a perfect start, things moved along at a snail's pace. There was no TV coverage, which I find remarkable considering it's the first round of the biggest event outside of the grand slams. I don't understand how a challenger event in Sarajevo can have several streams per day in every round but Indian Wells has nothing till the 3rd round?! This severely hampers my trading style, as I tend to be a bit more cautious when I can't see the action, just as a precaution. If I'd been watching, I'm certain I'd have doubled my profit on the Vandeweghe v Gallovits game. Those scoreboards are unreliable anyway and in fact, one of the matches I was following was stuck for so many games that I had to give up and leave it. Add to this a retirement in the first set of the Errani v Arn game and you can see how my old, impatient self would have possibly done something rash. The new me took it all in his stride though. I like to play music when I don't have a stream to watch, as it keeps me focused when staring at flashing numbers would often send me to sleep. This helped me through several hours of waiting around for good openings and eventually, I pulled through and ended the day in profit.

I could've stayed up and played a couple more games but I recognised that I was too tired and hit the sack. That in itself, is progress because in the past I would never stop till the last game was over, even if it required match-sticks to hold up my eyelids! All-in-all, a satisfactory start and my first daily goal achieved - I finally followed my strategy PERFECTLY! The first seeds of the daffodil principle are sown.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Blog Review

Over the past few weeks, since I've been in this deep slump, I've realised a lot about myself and my trading. First and foremost, I realised that I was knowhere near mentally strong enough to be successful. Even though I'd done the groundwork to discover how I needed to be with my mindset, I wasn't prepared for quite how tough it would be to change my whole psychological approach. I really believed that it would happen instantly. I knew what to do, so I just had to do it. I was very, very wrong! I now realise that I have to put in much more hard work to re-train my brain and get rid of bad habits.

Secondly, I realised that I wasn't being quite as professional as I thought. I felt the steps I'd made at the start of the year (where I'd changed my diet, regime and equipment) were enough. But there was much more that I could have done and I needed to focus even more and not cut corners on ANYTHING. Little things that I thought wouldn't be a problen or wouldn't catch me out, HAVE caught me out. Things like trading when tired, messing about on the net, not preparing for unusual circumstances in a match, scoreboard failure or not being ready for Betfair fuck-ups. I didn't go through all the minor details and eventually, they became major problems. I am now ready for anything to happen - there are no more excuses if I get caught out.

Thirdly, I've realised that trading is a continual battle. I felt as though I had cracked it earler this year, that the only way was up and all the hard work was behind me. I now realise that the hard work never ends. It's a constant struggle to remain focused and not take your eye off the ball. Things might get easier but that doesn't mean they become easy. Once consistency is found, the next difficult part is to remain consistent and that is a whole new ball game. But I should enjoy the challenge and embrace the learning.

When I first started trading, I thought it would be pretty cushy; get up when you want, choose your matches and your hours, watch a couple of games, place a couple of bets, in and out in a few minutes - nothing to it. But you don't neccessarily think about the psychological aspect and how it will affect you, particularly when it becomes your sole source of income. Traders who are only part-time or doing it for fun in their spare time will have no idea of the extra pressure involved when it's full-time and how that can affect your mindset. I have seen a few blog and forum posts where people talk about 'easy greens' and how the market was 'a trader's dream' etc. What a load of bollocks! Newbies should ignore these comments. It does seem easy when it's going well but it sure isn't in a rough patch. And just because a market seems perfect for one trader, doesn't mean it is the same for every trader. We all have different strategies and never forget, if you are getting matched then someone must be wanting the opposite to happen to what you would like.

I guess what I'm saying is, it's easy to be put off track by what others are doing and this is the final major thing I've learnt recently - be careful who you listen to. In the time I've been writing this blog, 2 of the blogs I've been following have given up and 3 have gone AWOL for over 2 weeks. I've listened to and acted upon information that I shouldn't have recently and I now know that the only person I can truly rely on is myself. And I can't even do that half the time!

I know I started a 'Year Zero' a couple of weeks ago and whilst I started well, I got frustrated too easily at the slightest knock. Well I'm starting Year Zero again but this time, I'm mentally stronger thanks to hypnotherapy. Once Indian Wells 1st round starts, there will be loads of matches on, plenty of live coverage and excellent liquidity. My strategy is even tighter and I have my zest and excitement for trading back thanks to this short rest. The Mind of a Trader podcasts have re-inforced my self-belief. In fact, I feel more passionate and confident than ever. My back was up against the wall and I've never felt so low but that has inspired me to become better rather than give in. Everthing is in place for me to become consistent and successful. So on Wednesday, Year Zero is back! This time, to stay.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Never Give Up

"People of mediocre ability sometimes acheive outstanding success because they just don't know when to quit. Most people succeed because they are determined to succeed."

George Allen

This quote was taken from The Mind of a Trader podcast 50. I have quit so many things in my life too early, given up without fighting for what I want. That was mainly because I didn't have enough self-esteem or confidence. These days, I don't struggle with either of those things. I have acheived so much in recent years due to working hard and battling for what I want. So why am I giving up now? Answer: I'm not.

I had a bad day, a horrific day. I posted straight after defeat, I wasn't thinking clearly. It's been a bad few weeks. But I have to view those losses as an opportunity to learn. I need to change what I'm doing wrong and do even more to make myself a better trader. If there is one thing I don't lack, it's determination to succeed. I'm not going to let a year of hard work go down the pan. I need to look at what I need to change and then this time, I must do more to make sure I stop repeating mistakes. So what are the major issues?

1. I need to untie myself from the pressure and anxiety surrounding money. If I can ignore the financial side and relax, I will be able to trade with greater freedom and will be less impatient to rack up wins.

2. I need to follow my strategy to the letter. All thoughts of trying anything new must be eliminated and I must ignore what anyone else writes or says.

3. I need to tighten up on my get-out points and any area of my strategy that is unambiguous. I must be prepared for any situation and know exactly how I'm going to deal with it.

4. I need to control my emotions more. I need to stay neutral at all times, never get over-confident and never get frustrated at a loss or a missed opportunity.

5. I need to relax more when I'm not trading. I need to stop thinking about it and over-analaysing every trade. I know exactly what I need to do now, so when not trading, I should de-stress and enjoy myself.

6. I need to make sure that when I do make a mistake, I rectify it immediately and don't repeat it. I keep repeating the same things over and over and it has to change.

I have a few days of rest till Indian Wells starts and will refill my bank with whatever I can get. I will spend my time relaxing and not thinking about trading generally. I know what to do, I just need to do it. I will be listening to the Mind of a Trader podcasts but that's as far as it goes. I will have a couple more hypnotherapy sessions too. They have made a big difference. I'm no longer screaming the walls down with anger, kicking furniture, going through whole days of berating myself and smacking my head whenever I think about my mistakes. After a bad trade, I recover much quicker and settle down much easier. I stopped being afraid of placing a trade and have begun to follow my strategy better. I still get frustrated but it takes a lot more to get me into that 'red mist' phase now. I feel stronger mentally, more determined and more confident that I will get through this difficult period. I just need to work on the underlying anxiety. If I can suppress that, I honestly feel that there is nothing mentally that will get in my way.

The most difficult thing, I feel, will be stopping those repetitive bad habits. They are so ingrained within me that I cannot seem to stop them. It is going to take immense discipline to change them and remain that way through the rough patches. I have to truly LEARN from all my mistakes in a practical manner. It's no use me knowing the theory behind all my errors if I don't rectify them with ACTION. The more I DO the right things, the quicker those habits will disappear. I need to step things up and force myself to change. This time, things will be different.

Game Over

Today I sensed I was nearing the end. I've tried so hard to just stick to my strategy no matter what these last couple of days but the results just aren't coming. Yesterday, whenever I failed to get matched, I missed out on a win and whenever I got matched, the trade reversed and I ended up red. I tried 4 times in a row to get matched for my first trade on Groth v Morita this morning and every time, I failed. I watched with growing fury as each time, the point was won in my favour. When I finally was matched at the 5th attempt, what happened? It reversed on me! I finally snapped. I could not handle the prospect of another all-red book and just let the trade run open-ended. I needed Groth to win the set or I was in big trouble. The problem with being on players like Jarmilla Groth is that they never do things the easy way. You know they are going to shank shots miles wide and smash sitters into the net and double fault at crucial moments. You just hope that the big winners out-number the poor misses. On this occassion, they did, though my stress levels had gone through the roof before that happened. Finally, some luck!

I just needed something, anything, to go my way. But it didn't help my mindset. In effect, I was giving up on my strategy and I carried that attitude into the next two games. I stuck a large bet on Bartoli, expecting her to at least take a set - she lost 2-0. I went all-in on Melzer. He lost 3-0. So that's it. All over. I hope you enjoyed reading and good luck to all you traders out there.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Deer in the Headlights

After a perfect start to the day, I was in a great mood and all set to relax until the evening games. I couldn't see a suitable opportunity in the Kleybanova v Kraijcek game and was going to leave it, when I decided in the final set to try out a new strategy. It was something I had paper-traded for a few days and out of 10 matches it would have produced a win every single time. So you can guess what happened next.............

The trade started fine and I was all set to get out and green up when it took a sharp, unexpected turn and reversed on me. I was shocked and ended up staring at a £15 red like a deer caught in the headlights. I knew I should have got out but all sorts of thoughts were rushing through my head: 'Don't take a red now, you'll ruin the profit from this morning' 'Next game will probably go back in your favour, stick in for a bit longer' 'There are no more games for hours after this, you don't want to end on a red and have that long wait to recoup'. I ignored the danger signs that my intuition was telling me: 'This looks like it might keep reversing, take the red and admit defeat' and was soon over £100 in the red. It came back my way and I was fortunate to get out for just minus £70.

I was livid inside. I didn't display much emotion outwardly. Gone are the days of smashing my fist into walls and wailing at the top of my voice! It wasn't the trade itself that pissed me off. I stand by it and would do it again on another match. But it was my reaction when it turned that I shudder to think about.

I've realised that I need to be a bit more thorough with my strategy and face up to parts of it that need tightening up. When I get into green positions, I have not generally thought about when I was going to come out of the trade. This leads to a 'Deer in the headlights' moment when trades reverse, where I end up doing nothing and making the situation worse. So I need to put in place a stricter rule for when I start to reverse out of a green position. I have never fully addressed this issue and it is one of the things that has caused me the most problems. I have always left it open-ended as to what I do in that situation. Partly because every situation where you are in profit is slightly different and you perhaps need to apply different techniques depending on your current reading of that situation. But I have to also admit that I have been ambiguous about it because I didn't want to face it. Facing up to the fact that you might be in a situation where you are losing your profit rapidly, is a scary thought. None of us wants to have to face up to that but it's a reality that it will happen.

Last year, I had to face up to the reality that I was going to have to red-out more often than I was doing. It was something I swept under the carpet as I didn't want to even consider the fact I would have an all-red book. But I find that if you prepare for the worst with a strict plan that leaves nothing open to interpretation, it makes it easier to deal with bad situations. If you just say 'I'll deal with it when it happens' and hope that it doesn't, it will leave you like a deer in the headlights, with just seconds to evaluate what your plan of action is. And usually, what you'll be programmed to think is 'Don't red out! Whatever you do, don't lose!'. So I now always know my get-out points and it becomes a habit to just use them without thinking. So now, I will watch the ladders closely and come out of the trade as soon as my P&L reverses from green, to around the £0 mark. No questions asked, no analysis, no waiting an extra point - OUT. Maybe this will eliminate the deer moments!

That said, I would not have placed that trade during a busy week of games. If it hadn't been an 8 hour wait till the next match, I would have just left it. But I couldn't quite face all that time without a chance to gain more profit. Instead, I now had 8 hours of mulling over another stupid error, over-analysing it and kicking myself for lack of patience. There was now more pressure on the evening games and I felt horribly nervous trading them. A big part of me had the urge to just throw every last penny I had left on one player to win. I was fed up of the anxiety and the analysis and the endless rollercoaster. I had a win or bust, self-destructive moment. I just wanted to shout 'fuck it!' and see what happens. Pervak v Hradecka and Sevastova v Cornet just didn't go for me, though I can't fault what I did. I was so close to bursting point during that final game that if I hadn't switched off the PC, I would've lumped everything on one of them. Nothing is going my way when I need it most. Once more, I have fallen back down the well.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Back to Basics

"Do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not"

Thomas Huxley

This quote could have been made for me. It was taken from The Mind of a Trader podcast no. 65, which is all about self-discipline. If I apply this to my trading each and every time, I will be successful. It really is that simple. On paper. I've done it in the past but have lost my way lately. But it was my goal for the day. Forget profit (I never set monetary targets anyway), my only aim is to do the right thing.

My heart was pounding as I placed my first trade today but I had one of those 'in the zone' moments and knew I had to go in full-stake and capitalize. Finally, a healthy sized green! So what did I do in the next game? Pissed it all back up the wall! It was an impatient trade and afterwards, I made the wrong decisions at key moments and was ball-deep in a match that would have been easy pickings if I'd kept my cool early on. Fortunately, things turned my way and I got out without losing the lot. It is so frustrating right now, I cannot begin to convey to you how I feel. It's not big errors anymore, just tiny little ones. But an error is an error and I wanted to be clean of them today, so my objective was already ruined. Nonetheless, it is a sign of my growing mental strength that I didn't get angry, anxious or dejected. I simply shut down the PC, went out for a walk and came back as calm and as determined as I had been at the start of the day. Ayumi Morita gave me an opportunity and I grabbed it with ease, making sure I greened up early and putting me back to parity for the day.

My plan was then simplified even more - strip back my strategy so that I only use the less risky get-in points. My last 3 losses have all been for the same reason. I've elected to use the riskier of my get-in points, when at a time like this, I should really be going back to basics and playing percentages even more. Those riskier get-in points are ones I rarely use - for special occasions where I feel my chances of winning are higher than normal. That wasn't the case the last 3 times but I used them anyway and then panicked a bit when they went wrong. But at least I'm using get-in points that are part of my strategy now.

Unfortunately, the lack of matches this evening didn't give me much opportunity to test out my 'back to basics' approach. I shouldn't have got involved in the Hercog v Zahlavova game, the market was too gappy and jumping all over the place when I placed my trade. I was lucky to get out for just a small loss, it almost ended very badly when I failed to get matched, so I finished it there. But I ended the day with a win and they are starting to mount up now, it's just that the few reds are rather large and cancelling them out. Roll-on Indian Wells I say!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Dancing in the Rain

Yesterday was rough. I contemplated giving up. It is going to take me even longer to get going now because my bank is obliterated and stake is half what it was. But I found this great blog which has given me some new spirit. It has a series of podcasts all about the trading mindset (you can check it out on my blogroll).

I had a listen to podcast no. 86 (You Need to Learn How to Dance in the Rain) and it sums up my current situation perfectly. It's all about getting through the tough situations, where everything seems to be going against you. Although I already know the basic principles outlined, hearing it spelt out by someone else does give me greater hope that I can conquer it. I'm going to spend some time listening to these, as there is a lot of invaluable insight that may just get me out of the well.

Although it might seem to most of you that I'm not getting better at trading but am in fact getting worse, it is difficult to convey to you just how close I am to doing well. As I've said before, everything is in place for me to make money. I have a great strategy which does produce results (honest!), I have a strong intuition for reading tennis matches, I can concentrate for as long as I need to, all day long if need be and the hypnotherapy has given me a stronger mind, self-belief, patience and determination. I have tightened up on lots of little things this year, that were costing me last year. The only thing that I have not been able to control is my anxiety. As my funds have got lower and lower, I've become more and more aware of an impending doom and no matter how hard I try to ignore it, it has affected my trading, making me more desperate, impatient and eventually even more anxious. The only way to break the cycle is to plough on and try to blot it out, so I don't get frustrated during the days when things go wrong. Eventually, the greens will build up and the anxiety will dissipate and the mistakes will disappear and I'll be back to normal.

So today, I didn't look to change too much. I only let myself down on 2 of the 5 games I traded yesterday. The other 3 just didn't go for me but 9 times out of 10, they would have gone my way. I went into matches with the same steely determination and as much confidence as I could muster. It seemed to work for the most part. I really messed up on the King v Oudin game, with a second trade that was just plain daft. I must admit that I was influenced by an opinion I'd read elsewhere. This isn't the first time I've done this, especially since the slump. I have to learn to blot out any outside opinions on forums, blogs or from commentators. They are of no consequence to me. My strategy is unlikely to be exactly the same as anyone else, so I need to just do what I believe and not question it. It turned out that my original opinion was correct anyway, so I could've saved myself £30. This is why I have banned myself from forums.

I read back through all my old posts and also found that many of my losses could have been avoided if I had not been influenced by what others were doing. I was doing well when I began the blog. I'd just had a great week doing ATP only, followed by an excellent Fed Cup weekend. I was on a real high and this was where it all started to nose-dive - I was OVER confident. My expectations were no longer neutral. I started trying new things to push things along quicker, gain bigger greens. I tried to work out what others were doing on their blogs, I wanted to make what they were making. That soon came back to bite me and eventually, I took my eye off the ball, made some silly errors and then started losing discipline altogether. The slide began and my strategy went out the window - I was in the gambler's cycle again. But it all started because I moved away from what was gradually making me consistent. Not anymore. From now on, I stick to what I know and what I do best, come rain or shine.

I was extremely nervous during all my trades, more so than I have ever been but it didn't stop me getting stuck in. I end the day in profit too. Not much but it has been a relatively quiet week anyway - just two tournaments, very few live streams (which always make it easier for me to trade) and many of the matches on at times when I am asleep. I really could have done with a busy week to get my teeth into and get that profit moving quicker. At this stage though, getting wins on the board is what matters and so I'm pleased with how it's gone. My aim now is just to have a day where I don't make any errors. If I do that, the profit will come.