Abridged Life Story Pt. 3 / Beginning Full Time Day-Trading / Becoming a Militant Student

After being accepted into Tim Sykes’ Millionaire Challenge in late May, I spent the entire summer and fall of 2013 studying videos, DVDs, and attending lectures. Below was my daily schedule:

4:45am PST: Alarm

5:00am PST – 6:00am PST: Study video and review pre-market watchlists

6:00am PST – 6:30am PST: Check pre-market movers, review charts, prepare orders with multiple entries & exits

6:30am PST – 8:00am PST: Trade

8:00am PST – 11:00am PST: Sleep or attend lectures

11:00am PST – 1:00pm PST: Trade

1:00pm PST – 2:00pm PST: Eat lunch

2:00pm PST – 7:00pm PST: Study video

7:00pm PST – 8:00pm PST: Eat dinner

8:00pm PST – 12:00am PST: Study video

As you can see from the above, my entire life became consumed with stocks. I would review video almost non-stop — even while cooking, bathing, going to the bathroom, I would have a video running on my computer, phone or iPad. While driving around the city, I had my phone or iPad open playing video from Profitly. Even if I couldn’t see the visuals, I would listen to Tim’s commentary and visualize the chart patterns he was describing. During the trading day I would have two laptops open: one running trading software and the other running a dvd or video. Tim Sykes pervaded every minute of my life, 19 hours a day, for months on end.

I took notes on each and every video, including the title of the video, the tickers mentioned, keywords, a bullet pointed list of lessons, and a summary of the main takeaways. I ended up compiling a document, hundreds of pages long, with hyperlinks to each video. I included keywords in case I wanted to search for a topic like “earnings winners” — I could easily find all the videos with that tag, should I need to review a specific topic. I also starred what I deemed were the best videos, in order to skip straight to the best content and make review easier. An example below:

Lesson notes

Lesson notes

As you can see I bolded the main takeaway lessons so that I could quickly scroll through and review should I ever feel in a rut. Each time I would fly back to the East Coast, I would spend the entire 5 hour flight scrolling through my notes, and re-watching any videos I needed to review. This proved extremely valuable to my learning process. I have these notes backed up in at least 4 different locations — on multiple servers, hard-drives, and even physical copies.

Note-taking aside, I made a lot of mistakes that summer, although looking back I’m not sure if it was a natural part of the learning process, or just my being too impatient and eager for action (probably both). I ended up trading stocks & patterns I had no business trading, particularly early-on, before I had a chance to really absorb all of the video lessons. I gradually honed my focus as the months wore-on, and it wasn’t until October or November, after PSC13, before I was really in my element.

It’s really funny looking back because now I have such a tight, controlled system of scanning and selecting stocks. I’m at the point now where I can open my software, spend just a few minutes looking at tickers, and pretty much know then and there if I am going to have any trades that day. Back then though, I felt like I was all over the place. My focus was being stretched in all different directions, and I felt like I was always behind the ball, that I was always struggling to keep up. It’s not that I couldn’t make sense of all the information that I was being fed, rather I wasn’t able to form a cohesive narrative about what I should be trading, when, and how. That all came together gradually through watching videos, attending lectures, and probably most importantly, through trading experience.

I view those early failure as the price of tuition in learning how to trade. I will give myself credit for one thing though — I documented EVERY chart that I traded, taking screenshots and enumerating exactly what I did wrong, and what I should have done instead. An example of an earnings winner that faked me out is below:

Fakeout breakout lesson

Fakeout breakout lesson

I used these screenshots to analyze everything I did right and wrong in an attempt to improve my winning % and pick better stocks. I even went as far as compiling a folder of “avoided trades” and “missed trades”, in order to document why I didn’t take a certain trade that I was considering. An example of an avoided short trade below:

No go on short-squeeze Friday

No go on short-squeeze Friday

I was considering taking a short position on the above stock (note: not a stock or chart that I would short today), but avoided due to the fact that it was “short-squeeze Friday”. I would have been squeezed hard here — I also noted that flipping sides and buying the squeeze would have been a decent trade plan.

I also took screenshots of the various charts that Tim taught and I enumerated exactly what Tim did right and wrong, per his commentary. I saved these charts in a folder called “Charts to Memorize”, and “Tim Lessons” and further organized the charts by long/short and then by category/pattern name. I have dozens of folders with various pattern titles such as “the trap”, “long stair-stepper”, “short stair-stepper”, “afternoon fade”, “morning panic”, “mid-day spike after morning panic”, “afternoon fake-out breakout”, “cover when support holds”, “dip buy”, “pump dip buy”, “AM spike”….to name a few. I would cycle through these charts like flashcards, burning each pattern into my brain. I also listed in what video each pattern appeared, in case I wanted to go back and review the original video.  An example from one of Tim’s dip buy video lessons below:

Dip buy chart example

Dip buy chart example

Another example below, this one from one of Tim’s video lessons on shorting:

Video lesson on shorting

Video lesson on shorting

I used these screenshots to internalize the lessons and memorize the chart patterns. Below is an example from one of my folders titled “delayed earnings breakouts”.

Delayed earnings winner chart

Delayed earnings winner chart

I became obsessed with knowing all of the potential ways a stock trade could possibly play out. I would go into a trade with a handful of trade options in my mind — for example I would anticipate that an earnings winner holding near its highs into close could either spike into close, hold it’s gains but not spike, dip due to profit taking, spike the next morning, delay spike the next morning, gap the next morning, sell-off the next morning, or delay breakout a few days later. I had every trade option memorized and was prepared to take action accordingly.

I continued to make mistakes, however by August they were getting less frequent and less sizable. Another thing I did, which is a MUST if trading, is that I kept a spreadsheet (trade log) of every trade I made with the date traded, ticker, long/short, entry price, exit price, position size, $/share gain/loss, $ gain/loss, % gain/loss, commission, $ profit/loss after commission, fundamentals, technicals, exchange, reason why traded, where I found the stock, and notes. An example from my trade log below:

Trade log

Trade log

I also kept analytics, breaking down my trades by pattern, long/short, month, exchange, time of day, and fundamentals, so that I was able to keep tabs on, and analyze exactly what was working and what was not. For example I could look at my trades in any given month and see that I was 100% profitable on late-afternoon earnings breakouts (my bread and butter), while I was 0% buying breakouts in the early-afternoon. I suppose it became somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophesy as I would focus on what worked, and shied away from what didn’t, but I’m not too concerned as I was able to narrow down a niche.

Anyway…keeping militant records and notes is certainly what I would recommend, especially when you are just starting out. It is of the utmost importance to figure out what is working and what is not working, and adjust your trading style accordingly. I figured out what was working (namely late afternoon breakouts on earnings/contract winners, OTC gappers, and dip buying recent runners at support), and began to focus my attention on perfecting those categories. Whatever your strategy or whomever your guru may be, go all-out in your commitment as a student.

Abridged Life Story Pt. 2 / Swing Trade Success and Becoming a Bag Holder

Throughout the Spring and Summer of 2010, I managed to make money trading, although I probably shouldn’t have because I had no plan in place (read: I should have lost it all). I read every article and book that I could get my hands on about the MACD, moving averages, stochastics, RSI, technicals, fundamentals (but mainly technicals), and I had convinced myself that I was decently competent at trading. I became a big fan of the MACD and the slow stochastics indicators — I would pick a stock and watch how these indicators would seem to coincide with chart movements (although I had a sneaking suspicion at the time that most of the indicators were bullshit). I traded a few stocks using the indicators, such as Corning ($GLW), American Airlines ($AA), and British Petroleum ($BP), and seemed to have success with all of them. I used the MACD, along with the daily chart and news, to trade $BP rather perfectly. When the oil started flowing unabatedly, I looked to pick up some shares on the cheap into the free-fall. I went long into the plummet when the MACD crossed over and indicated bullish. I sold a few days or weeks later into the bounce for a small profit.

Freefallin'

Freefallin’

…okay this wasn’t the exact set-up that I was looking at at the time, but I didn’t have the presence of mind back then to take a screenshot of my charts. I used this strategy a few times with Corning ($GLW), but the chart isn’t interesting enough to post here. Point being, I used dumb luck to make a little money and lured myself into a false sense of competency. In the fall of 2010, I moved to LA and continued my work in the film business, so I had much less time to trade actively. I turned once again to swing trading and value-finding, for the convenience of time. This is around the time that I started to notice certain stocks were going parabolic and I wanted to figure out why — I just assumed (perhaps rightly so), that the investing public was a stupid and panicky lot, prone to bandwagon tendencies. It was MDBX’s absurdly meteoric rise that brought me back into the pennystock fold.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.21.07 PM

From rags to riches

From my desk I watched $MDBX climb from $3.14 / share to $215 / share overnight — I knew nothing about promotions at the time, and I was astonished at it’s rise, assuming that the public just really loved weed stocks. This got my stock juices flowing and brought me right back into the fold. I began reading Marketwatch.com daily once again, and began re-examining pennystock services — namely Peter Leeds, to whom I had previously subscribed with success, and Tim Sykes, whom I had been following for about 5 years, ever since my college friend turned me on to the show Wall Street Warriors. 

Per my newfound enthusiasm, I began researching and found two stocks that interested me — Seven Arts Entertainment ($SAPX), and Groupon ($GRPN). At the time it never entered my mind that a stock could be a paid promotion. I trusted the sanctity of market press releases, and figured that there was some sort of regulatory body that would protect the investing pubic from misinformation, lies and deceit. Rather, lies and deceit never entered my mind — they occupied no place in my market lexicon. Boy was I wrong — all because of one word — “disclaimer”. I remembered, from reading Tim Sykes’ blog many years prior, that the media would often manipulate buying due to unjust hype, but I never figured that press releases could be purposely manipulated as to spur buying for the purposes of insiders off-loading shares to the public. That’s exactly what happened, and I was one of those buyers…in hindsight Groupon ($GRPN) was a better buy.

...perhaps a better dip buy than $SAPX

…perhaps a better dip buy than $SAPX

It made perfect sense to me — here was a company, in my industry (in fact I could basically see their headquarters from my building), with a long, proven track record, doing a certain amount of revenue per quarter, with a beaten down chart that was sure to rebound with all the projects in their pipeline. What I didn’t know was what effect float, shares outstanding, and market cap had on a stock. I couldn’t figure out why the chart was getting hammered with all the new projects in development, however it suddenly made sense — In late January $SAPX came out with a press release blaming shorts for the recent downtown in the stock price. That was it! Shorts were to blame! I suddenly had a reason to buy shares, now that there was a clear party culpable, and it came right from the CEO’s mouth, so it must have been an honest, truthful statement.

What I didn’t know was that this type of press release, blaming shorts for the sudden plummet in stock price, was a classic promotion trick that scumbag-CEOs, running garbage, promo companies, would release in order to attempt to squeeze shorts who were riding the piece of shit into oblivion. Anyway, at that time I represented the naive, American stock buyer who was doing due diligence (or so I thought), and playing the odds (or so I thought), by buying a stock that was tremendously undervalued (or so I thought). I also approached SAPX with the typical, sucker mindset that promoters subsist on — if I bought enough of these stocks, odds were good that at least one would hit big and make me enough money to offset the losses on the others, and then some…after-all I just witnessed $MDBX go from $3 to $215 overnight, and I extrapolated that I only needed one $MDBX to make me rich, and so therefore it was worth buying the lotto tickets. (As an aside: in hindsight, just writing this makes me cringe).

Baghold fail.

Baghold fail.

What actually happened was that promoters were paid to issue bullshit PRs and send emails, in an attempt to pump up the stock. My biggest win ever was right around the corner, however, and now I was hell-bent on a path to learn more about penny stocks. Juxtaposing the $SAPX loserdom, I had purchased some shares of the Tesla IPO ($TSLA) around $18 / share, back in 2010, with the thesis being to hold for a swing into good sales numbers. Three years later my thesis played out perfectly as the company reported stronger than anticipated earnings and sales, and squeezed the massive amount of dumb shorts who were sitting stubbornly in this, sky-rocketing the shares.

TSLA

decent swing thesis

I ended up making around $30,000 total off this trade, on two different transactions (one in June and one in July). This gain also coincided with two events — Tim Sykes’ Lamborghini road trip, and my departure from my job. I had decided that enough was enough — I was going to live out my lifelong fantasy of becoming a full-time, pennystock day trader, and I was going to do so by any means necessary. I knew I needed guidance, and something about Tim Sykes’ ability to make several thousand in a few minutes, trading from a Lamborghini at a rest-stop, propelled me down the path of subscribing to his service. I signed up for his “Pennystock Silver” service, and after a month of seeing that his strategy worked, I applied for his Millionaire Challenge and was accepted. Good timing since his lessons on “earnings winners”, helped me secure that second $15,000 in Tesla ($TSLA) profits.

…more on that to come.

Greetings / Abridged Life Story Pt. 1

Hello blogees! I decided to start a blog to chronicle my journey from hapless market bystander / incompetent participant to consistently profitable, daytrader. It certainly wouldn’t have happened without guidance from mentors, namely Timothy Sykes. I’ll give credit where credit is due, without giving away too much of his strategy.

Some background — I placed my first trade when I was about 12 years old. I remember scouring the internet (then relatively new), for rates of return on different blue chips and mutual funds. I ended up picking what turned out to be the best performing Vanguard mutal fund and poured all my money, hard-earned through my childhood leaf-raking, and dog walking companies, into the fund. A few years later, in 2003, I parlayed that money into shares of Sirius ($SIRI), trading then around .70 cents / share. I watched shares climb into the $8’s, however after steadfast stubborn-hood, insisting that the shares would be trading in the $20’s and surmising what could be done with all the new-found profits and glory, I watched shares retreat into the 3’s, much to my adolescent chagrin. I reluctantly took profits in the 3’s and 4’s, learning a tough lesson about profit-taking.

Fast forward a handful of years to college, I made a few swing trade mistakes that rocked my confidence — In 2007 I had bought shares of Healthstream ($HSTM) in the low $3’s, with a thesis in mind to hold through a share buyback program and a restructuring, which were sure to appreciate the shares to my benefit. I was right, but not before getting impatient and selling all my shares. Over the following weeks, months and years I watched my thesis unfold, without my participation, exactly as originally planned.

HSTM

Healthstream incompetence.

Another swing-trade, train-wreck, clusterfuck was my Visa ($V) IPO trade. I remember getting up at 6am Pacific, pacing pre-market with my laptop in the miserably freezing, dark Seattle dawn, waiting for the second that shares began trading. Buying at $55, and watching my shares rise to $90, I thought myself to be some sort of hero. Again my thesis was to hold for a swing, with a price target of $200 (a la the recent Mastercard $MA IPO). I was right, but again not before taking profits wayyyy too soon. See turdification below:

Turdification nation.

Turdification nation.

What both trades taught me was, when crafting a thesis, stick to it, or at least try to. A little more patience and better knowledge of techincals would have potentially helped.

More lessons, trials, tribulations, failures and triumphs to soon follow…