The Turtle Experiment
By the early 1980s, Richard Dennis was widely recognized in the trading world as an overwhelming success. He had turned an initial stake of less than $5,000 into more than $100 million. He and his partner, William Eckhardt, had frequent discussions about their success. Dennis believed anyone could be taught to trade the futures markets, while Eckhardt countered that Dennis had a special gift that allowed him to profit from trading.
The experiment was set up by Dennis to finally settle this debate. Dennis would find a group of people to teach his rules to, and then have them trade with real money. Dennis believed so strongly in his ideas that he would actually give the traders his own money to trade. The training would last for two weeks and could be repeated over and over. He called his students “turtles” after recalling turtle farms he had visited in Singapore and deciding that he could grow traders as quickly and efficiently as farm-grown turtles.
A Complete Trading System
- Markets – What to buy or sell
- Position Sizing – How much to buy or sell
- Entries – When to buy or sell
- Stops – When to get out of a losing position
- Exits – When to get out of a winning position
- Tactics – How to buy or sell
Markets – What to buy or sell
The first decision is what to buy and sell, or essentially, what markets to trade. If you trade too few markets you greatly reduce your chances of getting aboard a trend. At the same time, you don’t want to trade markets that have too low a trading volume, or that don’t trend well.
Position Sizing – How much to buy or sell
The decision about how much to buy or sell is absolutely fundamental, and yet is often glossed over or handled improperly by most traders. How much to buy or sell affects both diversification and money management. Diversification is an attempt to spread risk across many instruments, and to increase the opportunity for profit by increasing the opportunities for catching successful trades. Proper diversification requires making similar, if not identical bets on many different instruments. Money management is really about controlling risk by not betting so much that you run out of money before the good trends come.How much to buy or sell is the single most important aspect of trading. Most beginning traders risk far too much on each trade, and greatly increase their chances of going bust, even if they have an otherwise valid trading style.
Entries – When to buy or sell
The decision of when to buy or sell is often called the entry decision. Automated systems generate entry signals which define the exact price and market conditions to enter the market, whether by buying or selling.
Stops – When to get out of a losing position
Traders who do not cut their losses will not be successful in the long term. The most important thing about cutting your losses is to predefine the point where you will get out before you enter a position.
Exits – When to get out of a winning position
Many “trading systems” that are sold as complete trading systems do not specifically address the exit of winning positions. Yet the question of when to get out of a winning position is crucial to the profitability of the system. Any trading system that does not address the exit of winning positions is not a Complete Trading System.
Tactics – How to buy or sell
Once a signal has been generated, tactical considerations regarding the mechanics of execution become important. This is especially true for larger accounts, where the entry and exit of positions can result in significant adverse price movement, or market impact.