Thursday, September 6, 2018

Different Type of Edge

I have a bit of an edge to me--an angry edge. Had it ever since I was a little boy.

If I were writing a screenplay lionizing my entire life, I would cast it in a positive light. It's the chip on my shoulder. It's the drive to be great. It's the fire within. 

There was that time in 6th grade playing pickup basketball during lunch. Sean McFarland was throwing elbows while posting up and giving me not-so-subtle two handed shoves to grab the rebound. He only did this to me, I swear. Mr. Little League All-Star Athlete with all his trophies playing dirty like he's Bill Laimbeer. That piece of shit. He's been picking on me for years now--not just physically on the court, but taking jabs at me. Asking me why I didn't participate in PE--maybe I was just faking it. Asking me if I need to wear that brace for my medical condition. Just these little things he'd say because he thought I was a weakling. I had enough.

I charged at him and forearm-shoved him to the ground. Asked him what's up.

What's your problem dude?!

I still remember his face. He was shocked. He reacted like a whiny little bitch.

Nothing! Fuck you!

Returned a little bitch shove that knocked me back a half step. Nothing else. Pfffft. That's all you got?

When lunch ended we shook hands and that was that-we never had a beef again.

I stood up to a bully. Knocked him on his ass, demanded respect, and was given respect. 

That's a good story. That's a narrative that can sell.

But I'm not writing that screenplay. I'm not that cool. This is a blog where my most popular post was about me losing 6 figures in a trade in the dumbest way possible. It's about me being an idiot.

There's an ugly side to this edge.

There's the time I rage-reset the Super Nintendo and said some not-so-nice things to my sister because she was obliterating me in Mario Kart over and over. I was 7 years old.

There's the time I threw the remote at my cousin because the Blazers were beating the Lakers and he was rooting for the Blazers (traitor!) and smiling at every basket made. Rasheed Wallace would have been proud.

There's the time a classmate from high school hit a runner-runner straight to bust me in a home poker game and I threw such a nasty tantrum that they didn't want to invite me over anymore.

There's the dent in a waste basket that I kicked over and over again at the prop trading desk.

There's the hole in the wall at my old apartment in FiDi.

Spoiled, entitled brat all pouty because he doesn't get what he wants. That's the picture being painted there.

I really hate losing.

I hate it.

It just wrecks me on the inside.

No one is supposed to like it but I wish it didn't wreck me to the core like it so often does--to the point where I stay up all night until I exhaust myself because I don't want to go to bed and I don't want to go to bed because I don't want to think about the next day and what the next day is going to do to me (hint: it's gonna wreck me because I'm a loser and I'm going to lose).

Among my many flaws, my shakiness with handling loss is maybe the worst. Oh I'll take a loss. I'll be disciplined. But then I'll pout. You watch.

The Next Day

Why am I even writing all this? The same reason so many traders blog about stupid personal shit--because they took a big loss. Except in my case it's more like a large "giveback"--a larger than normal profit turned into fairy dust. I am literally the day's top tick to cover. And then the stock trades back to the lows. It certainly feels like a loss to me.

Now here's where stupid twitter traders with their motivation memes say "oh gee golly I messed up but  tomorrow is a new day hooray I love my job #trading $AAPL $TWTR $DRYS".

Fuck that shit, I am going to take this very personally.

The market gets to live rent free in my mind.

I'm the little bitch who moved his stop to break even and got ticked out.

I'm the idiot who didn't take any profits on a big move

I'm the little bitch who swung for the fences but didn't have the heart to stay with the conviction and sit through the swings

I'm the idiot who said he wouldn't trade these nasty "hero setups" anymore but didn't have the character to stay true to his word

NINE YEARS YOU'VE BEEN DOING THIS AND THAT'S THE BEST YOU CAN DO? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? YOU'RE A JOKE. YOU'RE A WORTHLESS FRAUD.

stick figure obama GIF

Ugh.

There are 6am next days, 8am next days, and 9:29 next days.

6am.  I can't have ENOUGH of this market! I LOVE IT!!!
8am. Clock in, check the news, do your thing. All professional.
9:29am. I hate trading.

Tomorrow is gonna be a 9:29 day.

I hate losing.

I hate the next day.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Button Pushing Fast Trader

So I posted a poll on twitter a couple days ago to see how many traders use hotkeys vs. mouse or touchscreen. I was curious because I don't see a lot of discussion on the mechanical side of trading.

I'm a bit surprised that--given that my audience is mostly "active traders"--only 21% use hotkeys.

That means a whole lot of you are missing out on the experience of being a speed demon on the keys.

As well as being a button pusher and the residual effects of being a button pusher.

On Monday, I was excited to see one of my swing positions gap up pre-market. I owned the call options. It was a carefully thought out, methodically entered technical trade from the prior week. I had been patient. I waited for my targets to sell rather than just blindly taking profits into strength. I kept a decent chunk to let it run. The trade was paying me off a fat multiple of my initial risk.

My buddy Clockwork took the same trade and I thought he sold way too much on the initial breakout from the trading range. But that's his choice. So going into this pre-market gap up, he was probably a bit too light on his position.

But then in less than a minute, his PnL catches up to mine on the symbol.



Wow, huge buy imbalance, indicated a point higher.
I bought 30k at 11.60 and sold into 12.
I just made $9000 off that move.

Oh okay. Nice job.
You sneaky fuck.
You goddamn bank robber.

I don't think a mouse clicker could have done what he did.  And certainly not a mobile trader. In theory, if they were absolutely prepared to react to that specific scenario in advance, maybe they could have. But being "absolutely prepared" in this scenario would entail actually having set up hotkeys to be faster, in the first place.  I get the sense that most mouse clickers just don't care about being fast. They don't care about scalping. They are content to look at a chart, make one entry, set a stop, and maybe enter a couple profit taking limit orders and making a living off that. That's fine. I guess this blog post is give perspective to those who don't trade like this.

Clockwork is a natural scalper but he doesn't even make most of his money scalping anymore. The ability just gives him the opportunity to snatch the free money off these special situations.

The best traders at my firm--and I'm only talking about guys who I personally know and saw trade nearly every single day--are really fast. They process data fast. And while they all started off as scalpers, they can do everything now. Long/short. Options. Market plays. Micro cap low floats. Crypto. Gray-box trades. News trading. Scalping. Day trades. Swing trades. Long-term positions. They might trade up to 20 positions a day. One guy runs a hedge fund now. They can trade the patient money and the hot money.

Can you do that with just point and click?

I can't think of anyone who stepped in from the other end of the spectrum--trying to be a relaxed big picture position trader and only using their mouse to make trades--being able to add scalps and hot money trades to their arsenal. Not saying they have to do it--hey, look at Warren Buffett right? he doesn't need to do any of this shit to make his money. Just saying I haven't seen it. Fast can go slow, but maybe not the other way around.

That being said, there is a residual effect to being trained as a "fast trader". You might just get these annoying bad habits that are difficult to shed later. I can tell you first hand.

Psychological drawbacks
  1. Unwillingness to take pain. Thinking you can time every move to a tee, so you don't give positions any room to breathe
  2. "Get out and get back in when it looks better" <--- can get carried away with this concept since getting and out with buttons just feels easy and natural. 
  3. Too much button clicking without purpose, start asking yourself "what am I doing" as fees rack up, feel demoralized
  4. Thinking speed can be the edge on a low margin trade. Oh I don't know what this stock will do but I'll just pay the offer as this seller is cleared, see what happens. Risk a tick maybe I get lucky.
  5. Lose sight of the big picture, trying to trade in and out of everything may just butcher the bigger picture outcome that got you interested in the first place
Advantages
  1. Take advantage of special situations to size up quickly with low risk
  2. Better at scalping
  3. More efficient at filling orders (more important when trading size or on a thinner stock with wider spread)
  4. Better feel for how liquidity moves in a stock
  5. Can manage more positions
  6. Certain strategies are enhanced -- news trading, imbalance trading
So there you go. You want to be a fast, stare-til-your-eyes-bleed mother fucker trading with 17 monitors and a $200 custom keyboard, go for it. There are pros and there are cons. Personally, I just accept that this is part of my DNA at this point and I can only to try mitigate certain things. You can also just be your regular low stress position trader but use hotkeys and maybe save yourself the spread/slippage. It adds up over a long career. Either way, happy trading.

Friday, March 30, 2018

5 Interesting Trades I Made in College: Buying Gold Bullion

There are five trades I want to reflect on from my college days. Each trade represents a new trading phase. And I went through many phases, much like a student who kept switching majors. I want to do political science. No, maybe programming. Hmm, but what is all this hype I hear about eastern european gender studies? Nah, I'll do film and broadcast--I do love movies after all! But then I eventually settle on business economics because it's bland and it'll get me a job.

You don't know if you'll like it until you actually do it. 

Here are the five trades.

  1. Buying gold bullion in 2008
  2. Buying AAPL when Steve Jobs announces medical leave (don't ask me where I sold it)
  3. Buying a small biotech with a drug that... cured laughter??
  4. Shorting AIG after it went from $6 to $40
  5. Shorting some scam micro-cap called InfoLogix
 I don't know if I will finish this but I finished the first part and would rather publish it now before I decide I don't feel like blogging again. So without further ado...

Buying Gold Bullion in 2008


This is the time I went full gold bug. 

It was the year 2008. What a wonderful time it was to start learning about the markets. Big banks going chapter 11. The market plunging to 10 year lows. My trading career was born in the chaos. Molded by it. You saw Too Big to Fail, you know what I'm talking about.

We all had our narratives to explain why this huge, spectacular, horrible thing was happening to the market and the underlying economy. I had mine.

2008 Peter To was a hardcore libertarian. Non-stop. This was his soap box at the time.
  1. Vote Ron Paul otherwise you're just voting for the evil government-loving Republicrats
  2. No bailouts or nationalization! I say let them fail and see what happens. MORAL HAZARD!
  3. End the Federal Reserve! Bunch of no-good money printers stealing my wealth.
  4. Mainstream economics was 99% politically-driven fallacy and masturbation in linear regressions. I called my Econ 100 professor a neoliberal shill on the margins of my midterm since I knew he graded them himself. I also told a policy class TA to fornicate with himself because of he told the class how great the New Deal was. 
  5. Everything happening the economy is happening because people are stupid and governments are incompetent and/or corrupt. We printed too much money, we got greedy, and Greenspan created this gigantic housing bubble. Now we're grade-A FUCKED. That was my narrative.
  6. Hyper inflation was imminent! We were on the precipice of an extraordinary collapse of confidence in the U.S. dollar once the Fed tries to print their way out of this mess.  Peter Schiff said so and I bought his book!
2008 Peter obviously knows everything about the world and how it works. And hyperinflation is so obviously going to happen, he thinks. It's like a mathematical certainty based on the Austrian school of economics, which is always right because capitalism is the purest system and government intervention always ends badly. 2008 Peter, to his credit, also puts his money where his mouth is. There must be a way to profit off of this inevitability. So what does he do?


Oh, like a gold ETF or gold futures where he can trade it and avoid high transaction fees? No.

Fuck that shit. He buys actual gold coins.

coins GIF

Because once the economy collapses, those fraudulent paper vehicles will never deliver! Fake gold! You need the real thing that you can touch damnit! 

That's what doomgold666 on thesilverforum.com said and he has 15,000 posts in the 9 months so he seems pretty credible.

2008 Peter was ready for $10,000/oz. Gold. He was ready for anarchy in the United States. He was ready to claim his status as an oracle and a market prodigy. He was ready to give all these idiots around him a big fat, resounding "I told you so!" 

2008 Peter was also an impressionable kid. Maybe moreso than he'd like to admit. And when your conviction is only based on the sooth sayings of other self-anointed experts rather than actual experience and observation, is it truly real conviction?

2008 Peter was also a market rookie with zero experience. Would he really stayed composed if the market started to test his ideas? Would he really die on his own sword for his predictions?

Let's see how this trade turned out, in four panels.

ENTRY.


TRADE MANAGEMENT.



EXIT.



POST-HOC ANALYSIS.



Ouch.

I loved those gold coins. They were like family to me. My little shiny metal children.

In those few months of drawdown, I learned that you never go full gold bug. And never make market predictions based on passionate political opinions. Only idiots do that.

It pained me to sell them but I had to let go. In those 5 months since buying, I had unsubscribed from the gold bug libertarian cult. 2009 Peter had learned the folly of his ways. He needed liquidity so he could move onto the next phase and make godlike returns from his new strategy.

2009 Peter was going to a new Peter, a better one. He was going to be...

a Value Investor...


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Trade That Made No Sense



We were were in agreement that we had to find a better way.

Clockwork and I started our trading careers as  professional minimum wage traders. We meticulously manufactured small profits--all amounting to a low payout that, after being chewed up by commissions, profit split, platform fees, and the occasional compliance fine, would fail to sustain even a mediocre life quality in high-priced NYC.

Every day, we would trade with the same bullshit trading piker mindset.

 We would look for tight consolidation patterns, squint at the level II for a large order that could be our exit to reduce slippage, buy the first tick-up with a tight stop, and hurriedly try to sell it for 10 cents. 

Yeah 10 cents. Why so little?

Well, every time a winning trade came back to our entry--which was literally every time it felt like--we would experience immense regret that we didn't sell it. Because we "knew" it would happen.

"Welp, looks like they're gonna run the stops again."


We had trapped ourselves psychologically. Taking mediocre ideas and trying to take mediocre profits before the trade proved its true colors--that it was a mediocre trade with little chance to form the sustained, powerful trend that's worthy of holding. Our only saving virtue, one that would ensure profitability, was being too cynical to believe in our own trades--because being patient and riding a winning trade was a sucker's game. Something they wrote about in trading psychology books from 20 years ago before the HFT's made the market too annoying to trade.

I joked about going to law school. He joked about getting an MBA. Enough was enough...  this was the final straw. If you don't make real money in a risk-taker's job, you might as well just quit and get a real job. And if you're about to quit, you might as well empty all the bullets and see what happens (especially on someone else's dime).

"Let's trade bigger and if we blow up, we blow up. Who cares at this point?"

We had a clock in our heads at this point--now or never to make this trading pipe dream a reality.

But we agreed the solution wouldn't be to increase size with our current piker bullshit trading strategies.

We needed to find scale-able strategies where we could hold positions with both size and conviction.

The type of strategy that would make us real money, the type of money that attracted us to trading in the first place.

First, we needed better...

...Role Models.

Slow Trot was one of the best traders from Crazy Capital Group. He had been trading for 14 years. He wore shorts, flip-flops, and an old raggedy t-shirt. He spoke with a slight Texan 'twang in his voice. He took his seat at the bar and ordered all of us a drink. We wanted to pick his brain. 

Slow Trot  told us about all the weird shit that guys at Branch B would do to make money. It was a whole different world outside of the repackaged vanilla technical strategies that over-saturated trading education circles.

Secret sauce trading strategies that included:
  • Buying thinly-traded ETN/ETF when they were mispriced from their NAV on price spikes
  • Preferred stock and warrant arbitrage
  • Trading the opening and closing imbalances
  • Having huge in positions in stocks I've never heard of, stocks that barely traded 10k shares a day
  • Exploiting an odd-lot algorithm glitch on shares of BRK.A when it was priced in the 100,000s
Slow Trot told us about the day the entire firm bought stocks during the flash crash. Their attitude stuck with me:

"It was someone else's money."

Copycat Trading

We decided to model ourselves after the best traders at the firm. 

Lucky for us, our firm implemented a new link-up system where we could see the real-time risk monitor, including all positions and respective PnL, of the best traders at the firm (provided they agree to a link-up).

I recorded their best and biggest trades on a daily basis, to see if there was something I could learn from the pro's.

One particular ticker caught my eye: AEPI

For one week, I noticed that every day Slow Trot and his buddies would be shorting AEPI Industries a few minutes before the close and covering afterhours for a profit.


AEPI: Chemical company. Thinly traded -- at most 200-300k in volume on a "highly traded" day. Never heard of them in either real life or the circles of FinTweet. Yet the most highly profitable ticker for the firm for the past month.

I couldn't understand what the edge was on the trade. Who is giving this money away?! This wasn't a day trade. Position trade. Technical trade. Fundamental trade. Trend trade. Mean reversion trade. Scalp. None of those labels could aptly describe what was going on here. AEPI was a mystery box that I couldn't wrack my head around. For starters, it made absolutely zero sense how all of these traders could close their positions at reasonable prices during the afterhours market (when there is "supposed" to be far less liquidity and very wide bid/ask  spreads), let alone why the stock would move at all afterhours with no news. 

The AEPI trade was more a weird phenomenon or glitch that kept repeating, over and over and over again.

The stock would trade close to half of its daily volume in one 5 minute bar from 4:00 to 4:05 and always trade in the same direction. DOWN. It never upticked, not even once.

And traders were making money hand over fist betting that it would keep repeating itself. They made their entire week/month on one pain-free trade that lasted a few minutes while pikers like myself would grind all day to pay the bills.



There was no explanation from anyone as to why it would work.

To exacerbate my FOMO (fear of missing out), new traders on the desk started joining the trade, with no better an understanding on what was going, and would reap the rewards.

I had a voice of reason telling me "don't take risk on something you don't understand". Then I told that voice to cram it. I thought about some of the strategies that the top guys used. Did they truly understand their edge at every micro detail level? Not really. They just did what worked. I had to turn off my brain and leave the skepticism at home. This was free money and I just didn't know why yet.

The Next Day

Do I even have to tell you what we did next? There was only one logical course of action.



We saw Slow Trot get into the trade a few minutes before the close. We jammed into it as well.

Then we waited, in great anticipation.




Funny thing happened: the stock upticked.


Our positions were immediately out of the money.




Faced with paying up a big one point spread to take a loss, we chose to keep holding.

Then we saw the "pro traders" add to their positions so again, we just followed along and did what they did.

This was definitely going to end well.


The Day After That

The next day we hoped it would just stop and let us minimize our damage. Okay, the glitch stopped working but that doesn't mean there's reason for the stock to move up right?

At the open, our hopes were dashed. AEPI refused to slow down.

Our max-loss limits were triggered on the open and the firm liquidated our positions.

It was my worst loss of the year. It wiped out the last 3 months of hard earned piker trading profits. The firm as a whole took quite a beating.

They say the best trades have 3 phases:
Innovators.
Imitators.
...and Idiots.

And once the idiots hop on the bandwagon, the trade gets over-crowded and stops working.

Even though I don't know why the trade ever started working in the first place, I at least know why it stopped working.

Aftermath

To this day, I still have no idea what was going on in AEPI. I have many questions.

1) How did someone find out about it?
2) Why did this trade have an edge?
3) Why did it stop working?
4) Was this a case of a trader knowing something but not wanting to spell it out for legality reasons?
5) How was everyone else so willing to hop onto a trade that seemingly had no clear logical explanation for why it worked?

There's a lesson here about not getting into trades you don't understand, but I didn't start this blog to impart wise lessons. I'm just an idiot.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Stepper!

The Firm Next Door


There was another prop firm sharing the building floor with us. Let's call them Lemmings Capital.

Lemmings Capital was a small outfit run by a rotund bear-bodied Russian, Ivan, and Bob, a balding, bespectacled man who always sported an worn-out adjustable cap. Supposedly, they were both "traders back in the day" i.e. the SOES bandits era. I would pass by both of them in the common areas frequently, but never make eye contact nor acknowledge them in any way. Maybe it was because the memory of ease-dropping on a conversation my head trader had about those two where he remarked,

"I don't know how those two sleep at night." 

It was always different faces shuffling into Lemmings Capital around 8am in the morning. Mostly young recent college graduates, many of whom English was not their first language. Some majored in the humanities. Others did social sciences or communications. One of them pursued a theater degree. Not sure if anyone with an actual finance background ever traded there. You wouldn't see the same face for longer than a month, but you'd see the same familiar expression. Fresh out of school. Deer-in-the-headlights. Clueless. 

One slow summer trading day, many traders were out in the kitchen to watch Euro 2012 on ESPN. I made small talk with one of their traders, Billy, asking him about the strategies that his firm used. What was the training process like? What setups did they look for? What did their mentors instruct them to call out on the desk?

"Well, we look for steppers."

"Oh, what's a stepper?" I asked with eyebrows in-quizzically furrowed, trying to mask the smirk that would give away that I already knew the answer. 

It was an "advanced level II strategy", he told me. He proceeded to explain further.

"Stepper!"



A stepper refers to a large order, bid (ask) that steps up (down) in price. Say a stock like AAPL is normally showing between 100 to 1000 shares on the bid or ask. A slightly bigger order would be 5000-10000. An unusually huge order, worthy of the "STEPPER!" shoutout, would be 50,000 or greater.



This is supposed to be the "large buyer" or "whale". That's the guy you front run with your small piker buy order. It's first level logic -- a buyer with a lot of shares to buy must send the stock price up, right? You scoop up shares in front of it and see where he takes you. The stepper then "steps up" through the price in order to jockey for fills, rewarding any and all scalpers for their parasitic trading.

Traders at Lemmings Capital were instructed to look at liquid S&P 500 large caps for these large orders and then loudly call out "STEPPER" upon spotting one, so others can jump on, ride the wave, and get paid their two to five pennies a share. This was called teamwork, they were told. They'd be each other's eyes and ears. So everyone else can eat and pay their rent. Don't be silent, be noble and selfless.



These pikers were just getting in front of large orders with size and trying to make pennies, with their exit plan being to hit the big order when it started getting taken rapidly. It was pure, mindless order flow scalping in an environment where manual order flow scalping had basically been left for dead by the rise of HFT.

9/10 times, you would either lose a few pennies as the order failed to the move stock before being taken out, or make a few more pennies if you were fast and able to take advantage of the microscopic reaction. The gross profit or loss would barely make a dent. Traders were encouraged to trade max size to squeeze the most out of a tiny move. It's the small trading fees that would add up over time. Needless to say, Lemmings Capital did not have a high margin business plan.

That other 1 out of 10 times... well, you got fucked.



 The HFT algo would either yank the bid quickly and hit the remaining bids underneath or a seller would take out the bid in one shot, what Billy told me was called "one-printing". Then the rest of the bid side would thin out quickly. This would happen before anyone could react, trigger all the tight stop losses, and traders step on each other to panic out, exacerbating the severity of move by just a few more ticks for the next one out. Bob and Ivan taught their traders to be "be disciplined and always use a stop loss", so they always got out, no matter what.


A few minutes later, the stock would trade right back up to the original price where they had gotten in.

Agony. 

Lemmings Capital was another burn and churn firm profiting off the trading commissions rather than teach an edge and make money through a profit share. The firm required small deposits from new traders so they weren't really taking any risk in the first place. None of the poor souls had any clue what their (lack of) edge was.

Slowly but surely, every trader blew up their accounts, one algo-driven shakedown at a time.

Once your loss exceeded your deposit, Ivan would let you know you were being cut off. Then, I don't know, maybe you put your head down and start to cry because you failed.

Bob would take you out in the hallway, put a hand on your sullen shoulder--like an empathetic veteran manager consoling a pitcher who had just surrendered a crooked inning--and give you the good ol' pick-me-up speech.



"Brother, I've seen the progress you made, you are so close to making that breakthrough. This happens to every trader the first time around. You remind me of myself when I first started trading, that's the kind of special talent you have. You're selling yourself short if you quit now. Give trading another chance, I really believe you're one of the few who will make it."

Translation: Make another deposit with us.

Ivan and Bob spent more time conducting interviews than they did actually trading on their own desk. According to them, everyone was a special trading talent.

 I asked Billy if he made any money at all since he started. Not overall but just one profitable month, and if not even that, one profitable week?

"No, but I feel I'm close. It takes at least year to be profitable they said."

I think he left a month later to take the CFA or something like that.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Podcast

https://chatwithtraders.com/ep-098-peter-to/

I recorded a podcast.  It's about trading and stuff. Thanks to Aaron for reaching out!

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Best Trade I Made in October

... was trading DeAndre Hopkins and Jeremy Hill for Dez Bryant in my $200 fantasy football league last week.

It was that kind of a trading month. 

9 months of hugging the highs of my equity curve and then the first prolonged dip.

It's becoming a pattern on this blog, every time I hit an iceberg, that's what the next post is all about--about how lost I feel and how it sucks and how I'll never, ever, ever make money again. 

1% drawdown? I need to take a day off, I can't handle it anymore.
3% drawdown? I want to quit trading forever.
5% drawdown?! Where's the cliff because I gotta jump off!

This is kind of how my equity curve and my day-to-day mood plays out.


So I'm kinda there right now.

I tried to trade and my mind wasn't having any of it. I was like a college freshman procrastinating on his 10 page civics essay. I obsess over the absolute least important tasks. Look up a ticker to see if I want to make a trade? Nah, nuts to that. I'm going to waste my time instead. I'm going to browse r/nba and watch this Joakim Noah jumpshot (if you can call it that) loop over and over again. 

Then I waste the rest of my day staring at my fantasy football team's roster to see how I can make it better.

That's what the rest of this post is about. Being petty, obsessive, and over-competitive about something that ultimately doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things--stupid, silly fantasy football. Because I'm bad at my job and I need something to help me distance myself from the pain of acknowledging this reality. Do yourself a favor and stop reading.


Long DEZ, Short NUK

So, a little background: I am co-manager for my buddy's west coast league. I don't know anyone in the league except him and he doesn't know anyone in the league except one friend--so we're complete outsiders. I have 100% control over the team because between the both of us, I'm the one who's the hardcore football fan. Despite a mediocre draft, good management and good scheduling luck had our record at 5-2 heading into week 8.

For the past few weeks, I've been anguishing over our team's low scoring ceiling because our 1st rounder, the guy who's supposed to be the anchor of our fantasy team, DeAndre 'Nuk'* Hopkins has the misfortune of having to play for the Houston Texans--a team measuring dead last in offensive DVOA. A bad offense means fewer touchdowns, and thus fewer fantasy points. Now, it's not Nuk's fault that his offense completely sucks. Nuk is a supremely talented All-Pro wide receiver who, quite frankly, deserves better. How can you be dead last in offense with this stud on your team? Certainly, someone was to blame... 
*it's pronounced Nuke

... I'll tell you: it's this guy.


Can't throw accurately 
Can't read the defense 
Turnover prone 
Actually somehow worse than perennial backup fodder such as Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer, TJ Yates and Brandon Weeden 
Makes me want to throw up when I watch him play 

As long as this stickly Robert Pattinson doppleganger was taking the snaps under center, Nuk was going to suffer. Doesn't matter how wide Nuk's catch radius is or how sticky his hands are, because if Suckweiler is out there slinging it, he'll throw it 10 yards short. I've seen Hall of Fame receivers languish in bad quarterback wasteland. 2006 Randy Moss. 2012 Larry Fitzgerald. There's just no sense in retaining false hope. Even with average quarterback play in 2015, Nuk Hopkins produced a sterling 1500+ yards and 11 touchdowns. 2016? On pace to finish with 868 yards and 6 touchdowns. His value was declining quickly and I had to unload him before everyone figured it out. I had to cut my loss.

I tried to trade Nuk for Odell Beckham Jr., another blue chipper who at the time was also underperforming (but who I thought would rebound). Declined. Mike Evans, a 2nd round receiver having a great year. Declined. It was clear I wasn't going to be able to make out like a bandit. I had to take a chance on a receiver with warts (but with the upside to make the risk-reward worth it) and hope it paid off.

For those unfamiliar with fantasy football, most leagues don't trade. A couple theories on why trades seldom close:
  • Everyone wants to win the trade. So a lot of trade proposals are just fishing for some button clicking amateur to accept. A fair trade is usually one where neither feels completely satisfied.
  • Most managers have an anchor bias to players they drafted, especially anyone in the top-3 rounds (the "studs" who collect the most points). So they're usually too slow to make the assessment that said player has lost value. No one wants to trade away a known superstar who might just be due and then see them breakout in the 2nd half, for a no-name waiver-wire hot performer who might cool off.

After going through everyone's roster three times over, I found the right trading partner. His team was 1-6; maybe he was desperate to make a move.  He had an under-performing marquee receiver who had his share of red flags, such as injury concern and QB chemistry. On top of that, said manager's roster had 3 other good receivers playing ahead. It was definitely a player who the manager might have felt detached from.

My target man? The mercurial Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys had the #1 offense in DVOA, the exact opposite end of the spectrum from the Texans. 2014 Dez was a touchdown machine on a great offense. 2016 Dez, coming off a knee injury, wasn't a sure thing. You didn't exactly hear the fantasy experts proclaiming a return to greatness for number 88. But I had to roll the dice on the chance that maybe, just maybe, he could tap into his gifts and perform like 2014 Dez again. His situation was certainly more favorable. Nuk's upside was capped out with Brock Lobster's shittiness--that I knew.

There had been zero trades in the league to this point. Knowing that and having had dozens of trade proposals rejected, I felt I had to sweeten the deal to close it. He didn't want to take DeAndre for Dez straight up. I looked at my bench and tossed in Bengals running back Jeremy Hill, who had just punched in his highest scoring week of the seasons against the lowly Cleveland Browns. I hated Jeremy Hill due to his week-to-week unpredictability and I had three RBs ahead of him and was thus dealing from a position of depth. If I waited for Dez to have a big game before proposing the trade, it would be too late. It was now or never.

I pulled the trigger. He quickly accepted. 

The Commissioner Speaks

Shortly after the trade completed, my pal relayed to me some group texts from the league commissioner. He was lobbying everyone in the league to veto the trade because it was (in his opinion) "unfair". I was shocked.

WHAT???? 

"How in the hell could this be unfair?" I thought. 

I wracked my mind around it again.  Both receivers have flaws. Dez was far from a sure thing, having missed 4 weeks of action. I had soured on Hopkins but he still carried big name value. There was a chance (like, if Brock got injured and the Texans signed Brett Favre or Peyton Manning, that kind of chance) he could rebound close to his 2015 numbers. On top of that, I gave him Jeremy Hill, a top-25 running back! C'mon, how you could possibly say I ripped the guy off? It was 100% fair.

Then I re-read the text.

Commissioner: Hopkins is a star receiver and Jeremy Hill just had a huge game. Nima's team* could be stacked in the playoffs now. Not fair to the rest of us. This should be vetoed.
*other guy in the trade

Oh.

He's saying I got ripped off.

He's saying that I made a trade so lopsided in value, against my own interests, that he felt compelled to intervene for the sake of the league's competitive balance and its sanctity.

He's saying that I'm a moron, basically. That's what he's saying.

Other league members chimed in. They actually agreed. Even one guy who didn't want to veto had said "I agree it was a little one sided but..." Everyone thought I was moron!

They managed to get their four veto's and the trade was reversed.

I was aghast. What's this stinging sensation I feel? Oh it's my pride. I can't even get a stupid fantasy football trade right? Is it possible that I don't know what I'm doing? Was this symbolic of a greater event in my life unraveling before my very eyes--the start of a perilous decline and the eventual demise of my trading career?

No, fuck that. I was right. They were wrong. I mentally and emotionally doubled down on my thesis. I was entrenched. These jackaloons just didn't have the requisite intelligence and mental agility to adjust their perception of value. They didn't see what I saw as a matter-of-fact biblical truth--how god-fucking-awful a quarterback Brock Osweiler is. He'd make prime Jerry Rice look like Freddie Mitchell. These donkey dipshits were too busy circle jerking each other over how the dumb the outsider must be. These knob gobblers had neither the vision to conceive forward-thinking trade ideas, nor the balls to do what it takes to close the deal. 

The commissioner's impassioned lobbying against the trade also inflamed my sense of right and wrong.

Who the fuck was he to think his perception of player value was superior to all others?
Who the fuck was he to think he can dictate what is fair among two competitive parties mutually agreeing to a transaction?
Who the fuck is he to think he should "protect" other members from their own choices?

Veto's should be used against clear collusion, and only that. To veto this trade was anti-capitalist and thus anti-American in spirit. I didn't know nor had contact with any of the other members. He elbowed his own brother into voting to veto. For shame!

Nima re-proposed the same trade and threw in a backup tight end that I didn't need (Martellus Bennett, who he was going to drop in order to complete the 2 for 1 deal). He was able to persuade some who voted to veto. The trade cleared 2 days later. The entire charade didn't matter but now my ego had skin in the game.

Sunday Morning

Sunday came around. I was matched against the league's first place team.

Dez would play against a top-5 defense while Nuk played against a bottom-5 defense. All the projections and expert rankings had Nuk higher. If there was a game for him to show he could retain value as an elite receiver, it had to be this one. He would finish with a grand total of...

6.4 points. Less than half his weekly projection.

Nuk, I love ya baby, but we couldn't keep going--not like this. It's not you, it's your quarterback.

Heading into the Sunday night primetime game, I trailed 14 points. His team was finished. I had one guy left on my roster. You can guess who it was.

The Moment of Truth
With three minutes left in the game, I needed a touchdown to win.

I needed the Cowboys to drive down the field and throw it to the right guy.

19.3 points. Vindication baby. Vindication.

me in the living room

Being the mature adult that I am, I then changed my team name to "Suck on Dez Nuts" and sent a bunch of lopsided trade proposals to the commissioner with unnecessary completely necessary, maybe-borderline-harassment, nasty taunting messages attached. Fuck him, that's why.

I felt so satisfied with myself. I had a thesis. I had conviction. I put in the research. I acknowledged the uncertainty but took the risk anyway. The doubters had their say--they thought I was an idiot. They were proven wrong. It fueled me. I'm a winner. I'm a fantasy genius. Even in a bad month, I can still find a good trade. 

Fuck you Navid. I've never met you but I think you're an asshole. Let teams make their own choices. SUCK ON THIS