Many members of the “established” investment community are quick to point out that investing is not gambling. To the general public, gambling has many negative connotations. When professional gambling is mentioned, most people immediately think of compulsive gamblers who seek out high levels of unpredictable risk and impulsively lose their paychecks, and money that is crucial to their basic survival. But gambling is not necessarily “bad” or “evil.” Indeed, professional traders are essentially professional gamblers. It’s all a matter of cultivating the right mindset, the cold and focused mindset of a professional gambler.
Although trading is a form of gambling, it’s vital to make a clear distinction among compulsive, amateur, and professional gamblers. Compulsive gamblers are addicted to gambling. They gamble to get a rush and a feeling of euphoria. They have absolutely no discipline. Obviously, trading is no place for the compulsive gambler or compulsive trader. But many confuse compulsive gambling with professional gambling, yet these two types of gamblers are polar opposites. Professional gamblers, as well as professional traders, may take risks, but they manage them carefully. They look for high probability trade setups and only then do they place a bet.
Amateur gamblers, or social gamblers, are interested solely in enjoyment and entertainment. They budget a fixed amount of money for gambling entertainment, and then, spend it as they would for a movie, concert, sporting event or some other fun activity. Fun is fun, so it doesn’t make sense for a social gambler to develop a detailed strategy for beating the casino, or carefully limiting risk at the blackjack tables, for example. Part of the fun of social gambling is getting a thrill and the hope of finding Lady Luck on one’s side and winning a big jackpot.
Many novice traders, however, make the mistake of applying the amateur, social gambling mindset to trading. They view trading as entertainment. If you’ve got money to burn, there’s no harm in taking this attitude toward trading, but most of us want to make profits. And a social gambling mindset can quickly wipe out your trading account. If you are serious about trading professionally, changing this mindset is vital. You may find trading enjoyable, but the main objective of professional trading is making profits. Not only does that mean building winning trading skills, but careful risk management, discipline, emotion control, and executing trading strategies in a peak performance mental state.
Don’t put on trades just to get a rush of excitement. Seek out high probability trade setups, and stand aside until you find a setup where you can win. In gambler’s parlance, “you’ve got to know when to fold ’em.” You must also act as a professional gambler when it comes to risk management. Just like a professional gambler, trading is a matter of patiently waiting for the odds to move in your favor. On each roll of the dice, a professional gambler risks very little, so as to anticipate and recover from a losing streak. Professional traders also face losing streaks, and it’s vital to minimize risk to survive those times when your game is a little off, and you need to wait for the odds to return to your favor.
It’s useful to view trading as professional gambling. It puts it in proper perspective. However, rather than an amateur player, you are the casino who carefully discerns the odds, makes sure they are in your favor and takes advantage of the “law of averages” to ensure that over a large number of trades, you make a big profit. By abandoning an amateur mindset and cultivating a professional mindset, you will trade profitably and consistently.