Phantom of the Pits - The Third Rule

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Art - Phantom, you have indicated that you used rule one and rule two in your trading career to allow you to change your thinking and your behavior. Why do you now state a third rule?

Phantom - The third rule has not been a written rule for me but has been a second nature type of rule over the years. You know that I strongly disagree that the market always is correct. From experience I have concluded that to be the case. I use this assumption on my part to protect profits and eliminate new positions in illiquid markets.

I'd like to point out that the third rule is not my rule and the credit goes to the traders that have convinced me that there certainly is a third rule to be used after rules one and two. I was very reluctant at first but I see that they are correct in this request. Let us look at everyone's rule here and not my rule.

Almost every trader that read my rule one and two felt there is a third rule. They really are sharp and more observant than am I. Even though I have used a third rule more as a rule of thumb, it is indeed a third rule. Our traders thought it should be a rule on when to take profits. It extends beyond that point because our true focal point is to keep loss possibilities as small as possible and retain as much profit as we can. That implies taking profits at the correct time and properly outside of rules one and two.

Although rule one does address taking the quick loss when the position has not been proven to be correct, we do need rule three to tell us something about our trading plan which is very valuable in trading. That rule tells us when we must question the liquidity in the market and the place that indicator has in our trading plan. I feel it is better to have that in a rule outside of the original trading plan in order to give us our criteria in illiquid market times for not losing much money.

I also feel that the time to take profits is clear within market conditions when we have our extreme volume days. This is usually a turn around indicator in most cases. But let us get out on those indicators. Why? Because we can re-enter any market as soon as we get another signal from our trading plan. Even if we were to miss part of the move at the expense of being early, we still will be better off in the long run. It is the long run we plan to trade in our careers.

ALS – Do we need to qualify the third rule?

POP – No, we do not. We will state it now!




The first part of the third rule addresses the situation of thin or illiquid markets. It states that we shall question our trade program signals and wait for further clarification of signals in those thin markets. At illiquid times the market is not a valid indicator for taking positions. Since most signals are generated by price, you can see the importance of the third rule allowing you to have an exception of questioning your signals. There will be some trade programs which address this situation very well. Not many programs use volume and open interest such as moving average indicators in generating signals.

I am not questioning various systems but only saying with the third rule that we must put an illiquid relief valve somewhere in the plan in order to preserve equity at those times.

The second part of the third rule gives us criteria for taking profits or removing any previously established position. We do know when to take profits. Although we take all the profits and may miss some of the move, we shall await further signals at extreme high volume days. Additional signals develop quickly after high volume days and we want the benefit of that by not being positioned incorrectly prior to additional signals.

Don't forget that a good plan will continue to give you signals based on market conditions. We are using extreme liquidity to our advantage by knowing that huge volume is the prelude of further correction possibility. Many times huge volume days are the very reversal days in bull markets. At any one time there could be an event, which causes extreme volume. It usually takes several days to play out when this happens. We also use that to our advantage in the third rule.

When we say we shall take the last half of our position off within two additional days, it is important to note that there will be times when we will do it very quickly and not extend to two additional days. The two additional days gives us the outside limit allowed for our rule.

The third rule is a good rule and it stresses the acknowledgment of trading in the long run and not the short run.

ALS – Many experts are going to argue with your rule three, as it will surely interfere with their professional trade programs. Most systems say to trust them over a valid time in order to allow them to work properly in the long term.

POP – My trading experience has told me to have enough integrity to bail out when I see that everyone starts putting on their parachutes. Why stick around to see who leaves their seat belts on? Trading is a run-run game. There are times you have to run before they run. That way there is less chance the market will out run you.

Do you think the experts ever buy insurance for their homes, cars and health? Surely the experts have a plan to protect positions at critical times. The third rule just places another double check in a good trading plan.

Traders must never be complacent when the market is at extreme volume whether high or low volume. These times are to be flagged and I don't know a better way to flag them than to remove existing positions. How much can you lose after removing a position after a market volume extreme? Why not make your plan give you another signal before you re-enter the market?

ALS – Do most traders have the same kind of thinking on this liquidity situation?

POP – We are either at the first floor (bottom) or approaching the eighteenth floor (top) of the elevator. Few traders watch the floor indicator. They wait to get off. I say just don't wait long! Liquidity is giving us our floor information so we know where to get off the elevator.

I've seen what waiting can do to people. It was back when the Hunt Brothers had too many bean positions in place. They were told that they would have to get out. I had just put a position on and within seconds the market was practically all sellers. I lost money that day within ten seconds and I got out. The volume was extreme and the market went limit down very quickly. Sure this was a short time frame and few knew to get out until it was too late but many situations do flag you that you are looking at a special price level.

We have all heard when in doubt – get out! I think a poet made that statement and it took hold. It makes sense to this day and always will. You don't ever lose when you are out. There are times to be out.

ALS – It looks like the third rule is more of a rule to keep from losing money and to keep from losing profits previously made in the market. How often do you foresee a situation in which market conditions present these criteria of either high or low liquidity? Or should I call it volume?

POP – Yes, you could associate liquidity with volume in most cases. We are talking normal and abnormal market conditions of liquidity and we measure liquidity by using average daily volume as our reference. But don't forget we are only talking of extreme conditions of liquidity, which is abnormal.

Traders will see the validity of watching for extreme volume days. Their use of the third rule will become second nature. They will see the thin markets better and know what not to do in those situations. The third rule is a good rule!

We would normally expect the conditions to be a possibility at trend reversal times and at certain events, which cause lack of interest in trading a particular market. At times in front of critical reports you could see the situation develop.

ALS – In front of reports what do you usually do with your positions.

POP – From experience I have learned if you make a mistake you pay heavily with being wrong after the report. You have to have a big lead and then it takes it back sometimes. I must consider always cutting back in front of a report unless I am given a big edge. There are times you can not control your position the next day so why not cut back. Most traders should remove their positions in order to allow longer views of their trading careers.

I just recently had a new trader ask me about a sugar position and my guidance was to look at what the market had done the prior four days as we at that time had three higher lows in a row. The opinion was that sugar would go down. Today it made a contract high. Rule one and rule two with the help of the third rule allows all traders a long term outlook in trading.

First behavior modification must be adapted to the rules in order to have any expectation of trading long term in a trader's career. Many shall have to face the aspect which is human nature to oppose any change. Change is required and you are the only one who can do it. Your trading career depends on it. Don't take it lightly.

If you must, rehearse your behavior daily until you have it down correctly. Behavior modification requires positive reinforcement and trading often is not positive. Find the positive in taking small losses rather than getting wiped out. Find the positive in the simple rules we have given you to use. Decide what you want to do with the guidance you have been given!

Unless you go down the defeat road, you will never have to endure the hardship of knowing you didn't make a good attempt to change your behavior in trading.

I would like to leave you with one last thought. Trading is not as we had all thought. The sooner you learn that what you imagined about trading is far from reality and that you must change your thoughts on that reality, the better trader you shall become. Good Trading to all of you! I shall watch you trade and shall always be your shadow.

Our Phantom's Gift

Once upon a time, in the land of Pit trading, They came across a kind of book, Around about the glorious days of bulls and bears, Bound up with masking tape on all the tears, Maybe they did see but who would look?

The word spread near and far, Was writings by perhaps some Rook. Don't ever open it or it will spread, The misunderstanding of this knowledge instead, And please don't ever let anyone see you look.

The traders understood. Traders happen to be smart And they were smart to play their part to not look, They didn't even flip a page, For they knew it was from an old Sage. They never tried to peek at that old book.

Brokers didn't either, day traders, position traders neither, Cause they were smart and didn't ever need to look. In those glorious days of bulls and bears It could have been any day just as now, And not the ones to blame somehow For looking inside that dusty book.

Yes, someone did. Pulled off the masking tape, And turned the page to look At that old dusty book all out of shape. A kind of bright light or word, Or was it a sound everyone heard, Spread around the floor as everyone did look.

And word poured right out and all about, Into every place even a cranny and nook. Everyone began to scream and shout. It was thought to be so unfair That no one really would even care How it would spread to everyone who would look.

It spread to new traders. And I'll tell you this right now. Not even one could tell you how. It just got bigger every day that they would look. It left them thinking, laughing and crying, Thousands of them quick and trying. Cause of what they could see was in the book.

Now there's a way to get a copy, It can be read by any old floppy. Everyone wants to have a look But you can't stop it from spreading As it passes faster and farther each day. But anymore no one seems to want to stop the book.

As plainly as you could hear it would be everywhere and all around, For years and years as long as it took. Because of all the knowledge since the days of bulls and bears, Was the grandest wisdom ever found Because of that time they opened the book.

All Futures magazine Talk Forum traders, readers and observers. (Inspired by John Denver (1943-1997), Lascelles Abercrombie (1881-1938), & Harold Simpson (1950- 2055)

" Find the positive in taking small losses rather than getting wiped out. Find the positive in the simple rules we have given you to use. Decide what you want to do with the guidance you have been given! " ---POP

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