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Trading Anxiety


I trade the S&P e-mini. I have a system that works. My problem is my performance is dramatically less than it should be. How do I know this? At the end of the day, I review my charts. Using reasonable rules, my shoulda/woulda/coulda results are typically 3-4 times more than my actual gains. Also, my software has a simulation mode (real-time). Whenever I use it, instead trading real money, I get superior results.

It's all very frustrating. IMO, the root cause is fear. I always take small profits. Bird in the hand and all that. Unfortunately, this doesn't produce the results I know are attainable. My achilles heel is mental toughness.

I'm posting here, seeking advice. Books, blogs, forum posts, direct correspondence. I'm open to anything.
ETM - what are you trading and what sizes? e.g. ES 1 contract per trade? Or does your strategy involve scaling number of contracts. Not asking for your strategy specifics, just trying to understand what you're dealing with. Also, how many trades per day? zero to eight?
The system is one lots. No scaling involved. 30+ trades per day.
Just brainstorming some ideas here...

Your risk/reward is $50/point per trade. (Let's ignore commissions.)

What if you got someone to take the other side of the trade and you could do it at $1/point. i.e. you're making real money and the risk is much lower. I know you can't do that, just trying to establish how you'd feel about it. If it were 5c/point or $5/point how would you feel and perform do you think?
Simulated trading will never be the same as real time. It has to do with the rules the software uses for the fills on orders. Simulated trading fills can only approximate the position in the que for an order, this results in fills that you can't get in real time. In real time you will not get these fills.

In real time you will always be filled on all of the "losers" and miss a good percentage of the "winners".

This is the primary reason people blow out their accounts. In "sim" they see great gains, in "live" they don't. If you have a method that gives you a win rate of 80% in "sim" after missing 20% of fills in real time your win rate drops significantly. Realize, most systems can only show a win rate around 40% losing even only 10% of winning fills in real time turns them into a loss. Again, those trades you miss will only be winners, you will always get filled on the losers.
It's been my experience (w/ Ninja Trader), that I miss fills in Sim mode that should be filled with real trading. For example, quick dips will show ask orders filled where I have a limit order, but I don't get filled. All things considered, I think my sim trading is fairly accurate.

I know what you're talking about w/ sim trading getting unrealistic fills. I once tried out a trading room where the leader would get fills and I would not, even though I placed my order earlier. I didn't stick around.


And you're right about all losers getting filled. Sucks, don't it.

Again, my big hurdle is taking every signal and staying calm while I'm in a trade.
ETM I agree with your experience with sim trading on Ninja Trader. The results are fairly realistic as it also simulates your position in the "fill queue" when you place the trade. As such I think that your sim results are probably more accurate than beyondMP described.

beyondMP I agree with your assessment on some sim platforms. As just mentioned I think that Ninja is a lot more accurate.

ETM what do you think your results would be if you were trading a nickel/$1/$5 per point instead of $50?

It seems to me that scaling your amount per point would allow you to experiment with your anxiety. Hypothesizing here, imagine the CME allowed you to scale from $0.01 to $1,000 per point. Or to put it another way. Imagine that in addition to allowing you to trade multiple contracts it also allowed you to trade fractional contracts. e.g. 0.01 contracts would be worth 50c/point.

Trying to think outside the box. If you had a trading coach that you paid a sufficient amount that they could afford to take the other side of your trades in fractional contracts up to 1 contract you'd be able to measure where your anxiety sets in. The net result of working with the coach would obviously be negative during that period (unless you were also running the same trades in the market in parallel) because the coach would need to get paid. Throwing this out in case it stimulates a related idea.

How about something that's not trading and can stimulate the same anxiety based on monetary size at risk. For example, if you were to play poker or backgammon or some other game for real money. Start really small where the amount is trivial and doesn't both you if you lose it. Scale up and see how you cope and what the cut-off point is and try and examine why that's cut-off point.

In my opinion, the anxiety-set-in-point is normally relative to a person's wealth. If they can't "afford" to lose it then it will be there.

Yet another idea. I was hesitant to mention this because so many scams revolve around this. If you were to share your screen with one or more traders where you traded in sim and they paid to watch you trade (because you're profitable) and they would obviously use that info to trade with real-money to pay the fees, you might be able to generate the same income through the fees rather than the trades. Seeing and understanding their success could be a stepping stone to your success. As I said, this is a can of worms and you'd be putting yourself in a position where 99% of people who do this are scamming their customers.
Some years ago I got into a fight with Ray, the owner of Ninjatrader, on another board regarding parameters I found in NT that contributed to false results in both Sim and Realtime. These parameters would lead to giving brokers an advantage against a trader and causing losses that were totally out of the traders control. I asked for him to remove these parameters. Not only did he refuse, he ended up having me kicked off the board and all of our posts regarding the issue permanently removed.

If two things are inaccurate and one is less, it still is inaccurate and can lead to false results.

Anxiety can be your "inner voice" telling you there is problem your rational mind has not identified correctly.
Maybe some of the anxiety is coming in because your account size is not big enough? For example, I know that trading 1 ES contract on a 5k account versus a 50k account result in very different mental anxiety levels. With a 50k account you are more likely to be relaxed and ok with losses whereas with a 5k account you are always nervous about going bust. I know that I have experienced this. That is why a lot of traders say to trade with a smaller size when you are anxious. Since you are already at 1 contract, I would say try to save up and increase your account size. It has helped me and it might help you.
etm the book i suggest is "trading in the zone " by mark douglas