### Determining a Good Risk/Reward Trade

Contrary to popular thought, successful traders can take on any type of trade in terms of size and risk as long as they first understand the implications of the trade and are willing to stomach the losses should they occur. If a trader feels that they have the hot hand, they may choose to press a bet (to make a larger than normal purchase or sell on the belief that the odds are in their favor). They do this knowing that they may suffer greater than normal losses if the trade doesn’t pan out. Traders do this all the time. It is critical, if you are to be successful, to understand that trading is a game of probabilities. Technical traders are simply looking for patterns with a greater than 50/50 chance of repeating themselves over and over again. Once such patterns are identified, traders attempt to recognize such patterns in current charts and then identifying entry and exit points based on those charts. Entry and exit points are typically associated with support and resistance areas of the charts. Ah, support and resistance areas. These were the tools of the early traders, traders that read the tape … traders that were successful at technical analysis long before the advent of all these derivative indicators, these answers to the problem of technical trading, this onslaught of technical wizardry. The oldest and purest form of technical analysis is support and resistance. Understanding it provides a large portion of the technical analysis that one needs to be successful at identifying entry and exit points.### Calculating the Risk/Reward Trade

In previous chapters we have talked about the need to identify potential trades based on chart patterns. The idea is that you collect a set of candidate charts, charts that have positive prospects for immediate or reasonably near term trading time frames. It is with these candidate charts that one can dig deeper into the possibility of trading that particular issue. The identification of a probable trade centers around the proper identification of realistic entry and exit positions based primarily on support and resistance. Once you have properly identified the support and resistance points you can take those numbers, plug them into a simple spreadsheet and calculate the risk reward. The simplest form of calculation involves nothing more than the following- Entry Price
- Stop Loss Target
- Stop Profit Target
- The resulting Risk/Reward Ratio

### Ranking Trades and the Spreadsheet

To see if a potential play is worth wagering money on, one must determine what the potential losses are if your analysis is wrong, and what the potential gains are if the analysis is correct. You should always shoot for a minimum of 2:1 ratio, that means that your potential profit should be roughly 2 times your potential loss. This is a rule of thumb that many traders use … especially the good ones. In the example above, if one enters a trade at the price of $29.12 with a define stop loss exit of $30.68 and a potential target exit for profits at $26, then the ratio is roughly 2:1 (a bit less in this case). That’s it. It’s really that simple. Recognize that once one has entered such a formula into a spreadsheet and begins using it, one can easily play with the numbers to make them work. For example, let’s say that NEM looks like a great short right now, but that the exit is really $31, not $30.68. Now, one could stretch the target to $25 even though the support lies at $26 in order to*justify*the trade, but the trader inside you knows this is not the case. When setting support and resistance points, one has to realize that if the numbers are fudged, the person fudging the numbers is the one hurt. It’s their money that’s on the line. An easy way around the temptation of making the numbers work, is to always look at the support and resistance points first and allow as much slack in the numbers as makes sense. Now, plug in the entry price. Does the risk/reward make sense? If it doesn’t change the entry price, not the stop or target prices. Jiggle the entry price to the point where it makes sense and then simply wait until you get that entry point or pass the trade up. There are always more fish in the pond. Once a number of potential trades are identified, the next step is to take a position in the trade. It is important to realize that no trade is a certainty as they are all probability based. The likelihood of success and failure can be quantified to some degree based on certain risk factors. By quantifying the risk factors and ranking the potential trades based on these risk factors, one can take a systematic approach to trading … an approach that can pay huge dividends. This is a laborious process that takes time and organization. The simplest way to organize this is via a spreadsheet. Since spreadsheets can contain simple arithmetic equations, you can easily build equations to compute the risk factors described below. When first experimenting with trade rankings, one should error on the side of simplicity as having too many factors is no better than having any at all. So how can you begin to construct a ranking system that allows you to increase your reward and reduce your risk? It’s not so much difficult as it is tiring. Looking back, you must first screen a large number of stocks and then flip through a large number of charts looking for technical patterns that have potential. The primary technical indicators you are interested in are those that have the highest percentage of success. Edwards and Magee go to great lengths to point out all types of technical trading patterns in their bible of technical trading, Technical Analysis of Stock Trends . The obvious factor when ranking trades is to balance the risk versus the reward with the idea that the higher the reward relative risk to the risk, the higher the probability over time that you will make money. The simplest way to calculate the risk to reward ratio, is to pick an entry price for a given stock and then ask yourself, where would you have to consider exiting the stock if it turns out that you are wrong on the trade. For the reward, you ask yourself the same question but the exit is associated with your having a winning trade. Based on how many shares you intend to trade, you can calculate the amount you will loose and the amount you will win. Don’t forget to add in your transaction costs as part of this. This is the fundamental basis of all ranking systems. From there, you can begin to add other variables such as, how long do you expect to be in the trade. The shorter the period of time relative to the risk/reward, the more money you can make over time (assuming you win more than you lose). As your refine your ranking system you will find that stocks with higher betas are naturally more susceptible to short trading periods given their volatility. Another key variable is a confidence factor. The confidence factor itself if typically based on several factors such as the probability that the technical picture is favourable, the probability of the market contributing to your individual stocks success. Regardless of the factors you experiment with, it is important that you keep your data available for study over time so that you can continue to refine your system. Without constant scrutiny, your ranking system can loose it’s value overtime as the markets are dynamic and always changing.