atans1

Think Like a Poker Player

In Uncategorized on 20/01/2012 at 5:50 am

As it’s almost time to take out the cards, mah-jong or backgammon set or dice, I tot that a posting abt investing and poker will be good start to celebrate the start of this festive break (back on Che San). Gd fortune, feasting, and health. Drink or drive, not both.

The Gambler

The wisdom of the late two-time champion world poker player Puggy Pearson offers our last set of rules to follow. “Only three things to gamblin’,” Puggy once said, “knowing the 60/40 end of a proposition, money management and knowing yourself.” Well, those rules apply to investors too.

Here are Pearson’s all-encompassing rules:

Knowing the 60/40 end of a proposition

Understanding the odds of drawing a winning hand is essential to poker. The 60/40 bets are those that offer the best chance of winning given all the options available. If you only play hands that have these odds or better, the statistics are on your side.

As investors, we should strive to put the odds in our favor with every trade. Finding the best 60/40 opportunities takes time and research, as there are many ways to find good candidates. These can be identified through individual stock selection, top-down or bottom-up approaches, technical or fundamental analysis, value-based pricing, growth-oriented, sector-leaning or whatever approach works best for a particular investor. The point is that investors must be constantly working toward finding and recognizing opportunities as they present themselves. Once you have been dealt the right cards, it’s time to take the next step.

Money Management

Managing money is an ongoing process. The first tenet is to minimize losses on each opportunity. Fortunately, investors do not have to ante up to play, as in poker, though investors must work hard to find good opportunities. Once you have a good hand, it is time to decide how much money to commit to the opportunity.

While much is written on this topic, let’s keep it simple. Basically it is a risk-reward decision. The more money you commit, the greater the possible reward and the higher the risk of losing some of that money. However, if you do not play, then you cannot win. (For more on this, see Determining Risk And The Risk Pyramid.)

Basically, when the best opportunities present themselves, it is usually wise to make a significant commitment. For good (but not great) opportunities, committing smaller amounts makes sense as the potential reward is less. As in poker, most of an investor’s money is made in small increments with the occasional big win coming along every once in a while. This requires that an investor evaluate each opportunity compared to others that have shown themselves in the past. Experience is an excellent teacher. Finally, investors can use a stop-loss strategy to mitigate greater losses should their assessment of the opportunity prove to be wrong. Too bad gamblers don’t have such a tool! (To read more, see The Stop-Loss Order – Make Sure You Use It.)

Knowing Yourself

The last gambling rule, knowing yourself, means doing everything you can to stick to your discipline. Everyone wants to get on with it to make the next trade, but if that opportunity does not fit within your measure of a good 60/40 opportunity, then you must force yourself to pass. While you will miss some good gains, this will also save you from some hefty losses. Following your discipline is essential for success as a gambler as well as an investor. You must be extraordinarily patient in your search for the right opportunities and then aggressively go after the best ones.

Think like Warren Buffett and a great trader.

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