Big Mike's Trading Blog

Day trading futures, discussing money management and trade management techniques, and more

A word about profit targets, stops, and finding the right method

I posted this on my forum advice thread today but wanted to copy it into the blog as well.

I primarily trade 3 targets because it fits my personality pretty well.

Target 1 is a quick winner, let's say 6 ticks on CL. If the trade has trouble reaching target 1, then it's a red flag for me to look to exit the position immediately and try to minimize losses and then look to re-enter again later.

Target 2 is set based on price action so it varies a lot depending on the day and what price is doing, but I think a good average is probably around 18 ticks. I set it by looking "to the left" on my chart. Where is price likely to run into a possible problem? Target this area to get out.

Target 3 is also based on price action. It is beyond target 2. The thinking is, ok, if we didn't encounter a problem at target 2's level then price is actually likely to run further. I again set it based on "looking to the left", where is the next major area of support or resistance? I would say a good average for target 3 is probably around 50 ticks.

My maximum stop is 24 ticks. Usually the stop is a bit less, but again it always depends on price action. Let's use worst case scenario. 3 lots @ 24 ticks = 72 ticks of risk. Using my averages above, if my targets are hit I get 6+18+50 which is 74 ticks. So let's just call it 1:1 risk to reward after commission and a tick of slippage.

Now, my stops are rarely full stops. Usually, like I said above, if price doesn't "pop" up to that first target almost immediately, I look to get out of the trade with a small loss usually less than 6 ticks. I will re-enter the same trade later if it still looks good. Sometimes I do get trapped and take a full stop, usually what happens is my first target is hit, but then price runs back down against me. I set my stop to the point where I would be "wrong" about the trade. If I were to get out in this scenario --- target 1 was hit, so it had some momentum -- but target 2 and 3 were not hit, and price is moved against me --- if I were to exit here before a 'full stop' then I would be doing a disservice to myself, because I would look at the signal and say "this signal is still fine, I should be in this trade". Sometimes I do this well, sometimes I make a mistake and get out when I shouldn't only to watch the trade not hit my stop and then turn around and run to targets. I'm not perfect 

Now also target 3 is not often hit. Let's say I trade five days a week. Target 3 is hit 3 out of 5 days probably. It is those days where usually I can be done for the day in that one single trade when target 1, 2 and 3 were all hit. I set myself up for this on purpose. That is the sole reason target 3 exists for me. CL often moves this much in a move, and when it does, I want to be able to have the opportunity to capture that move and then be done for the day. I realize only a handful of these trades come each week, but when they come I am usually in the trade.

Trading is about probabilities, right? But it's so much more. It's also a constant battle with yourself. Deep down. Your desires, your demons. Every trade you put on is a calculated risk. To me, I find that I perform better by reducing the exposure. I carry a pretty good sized risk per-trade, but I do not trade often. Maybe 1-3 times a day. If I have needed to put on five or six trades in a day, usually I am having a bad day.

Hope this helps.



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