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

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Reflections

It's been a year since my last blog post.

This is the cycle I've been going through:

"I should write another post. I have so many ideas!" --> Sit down to write... --> Go face to face with the toughest obstacle for any writer: lack of writing flow ---> give up

I decided to write a little bit about my trading year so far... something easy instead of getting stuck in trying to craft any bigger message

Random points and events made in bullet form, in no relevant order:

1) It's been a solid year. I'm 97% towards meeting my PnL goal (a number in my head that I had in January that I'd consider a "successful year"). If I continue on the same trajectory, I should double the profits I made in 2015. I'm not even sure how I got to this point.... certainly not by design or extraordinary effort. 

2) I started the year with zero confidence. I had stopped trading in in the middle of November until the end of the 2015 (my longest break in trading ever). I had an explosive start to November followed by giving back  half the profits in a short time period (my worst drawdown period of the year) and suddenly I just felt I couldn't do it anymore. I had reached my limits in disgust, guilt, self-pity, anguish-- whatever negative emotion a trader could feel. I just wanted out.

3) I had no real plan with my free time. There wasn't any training montage of a man beaten down dramatically getting up and declaring he will succeed--no prolonged period of setting goals, reviewing trading rules, reading more than ever, re-strategizing, and getting back in the game. I just did whatever I felt like. Sometimes that meant an entire day of watching TV, taking long naps, and eating fast food. Then repeating that day. I spent time with family. I'd work on my golf game. I did some online dating. I met a girl and fell in love. I had enough money to just do nothing for as long as I wanted.

4) December 2015 -- I opened my mailbox and saw a letter from the IRS. This can't be good.




Long story short, this was all because of postage error I made when sending my extension request in April.

Well shit, now I have to trade...

5) At the start of the year, I traded like a massive piker. My goal was simply to show up--and showing up means DON'T LOSE MONEY, because if you lose money--you stupid fucking idiot--you're gonna feel bad and you hate feeling bad so you stop showing up!

Just show up, don't lose, and at the end of the day, you'll be surprised...

Confidence and size picked up from there. Last year's up-and-down emotional experience started to pay off in terms of cueing me into what not to do. I didn't tilt trade as much. I protected myself from myself. If that meant shutting everything off (something I once abhorred as a weaksauce mental midget thing to do), that's what I would do.

6) Major changes in 2016: I went cold turkey on adderall. That cranked up BANG BANG LET'S GO feeling at 9:30? Gone for good after 4 years. My energy level dipped dramatically but my trading got steadier. I became a slower, less reactive trader. More of an intraday trader than a scalper. I like the results so far. One downside? It sucks to write without the juice. Capturing that old writing flow has become much more difficult.

7) Another change: I started treating my trading as a business. This was stuff I always intended to get around to but kept procrastinating on.
  • I started a corporate entity for tax purposes
  • I opened an IRA for longer-term investing
  • I bought a quality desktop computer (I had been trading off a laptop for the past 2 years)
  • I subscribed to a news feed (Benzinga)
  • I paid for a real-time stock filter (Trade Ideas)
  • I started renting a WeWork office
  • I got a corporate charge card to use for the above expenses and collect those sweet, sweet rewards points

8) I still have days where I feel like an irresponsible adolescent who wakes up in his PJ's and presses buttons rather than a thoughtful, calculated, business-like professional trader. It's that easy for me... to wake up and just make $1000 in 30 minutes, then enjoy the rest of my life. Thinking about horizons beyond can add a lot of anguish and disappointment. Why didn't I make more? Why don't I make more? Why do I lack the iron-will of other traders to just commit and do MORE? Will I ever fulfil my potential?

9) I trade with an on/off switch. I don't bring it every single day, probably not even most days. I'll make "enough" and call it a day. I'll have days where I completely intend to mail it in but something special draws my attention and I fire all my bullets and make a killing. The conscious thought of pushing myself is usually absent (there's a burden of responsibility that comes attached with these thoughts that I cannot handle) but sometimes it happens organically. I don't even know anymore.

10) Some thoughts on social media... I think there's a lot of great ideas and a lot to learn from other traders. I think it's great to refine a trader's ability to gauge sentiment and feel out the "trading herd". But it can be a toxic mix when emotions like FOMO and jealousy get involved. I hate any kind of cheerleading on my feed, even when it's coming from good traders who I personally like.

11) February 2016: I got another letter from the IRS. I sent them a letter asking for penalty abatement and they responded. I only had to pay a tiny fraction of the original amount. THANK GOD.

12) My favorite trade of the year: shorting CNR on a 200% price spike (due to ticker confusion on  Morgan Stanley upgrade of the Canadian CNR, a high priced railroad stock) when there was already an agreement that the stock would go private at $1.10. Why didn't I put all my buying power into that one?

13) I've had to do a lot of reflection on who I am at this point. I remember sitting in class in my final year of college, after I had committed to moving to New York. I was bored out of my mind and day dreaming about the future.

Peter To.
Living in the financial capital of the world.
Young gun in his 20s. Real hot shot. 
Hedge fund manager.
Nice tailored suits.
Runs 10 miles every day.
Works 80 hours a week.
Millionaire.
No, fuck that shit... billionaire!
Then I'll buy the Dodgers from that piece of shit Frank McCourt and we'll win the next 10 World Series titles with a gigantic payroll (note: someone else has executed that plan and it hasn't quite worked out that way)

All these grandiose visions. I thought I was better than everyone else around me because I had fire and ambition. Nobody would outwork me!

I could've been yet another trader on instagram posting all-text memes about hard work and hustle and photos of my bomb-ass house and ferrari, under the guise of "motivating" others.

Needless to say I'm not that person anymore... maybe I never was? I'm not sure what motivates me anymore. Finding that fuel has been elusive. I can't fool myself by posturing like I did before in my early 20's.

14) That being said, I live a charmed life. There's literally nothing bad in my life other than my penchant for self-inflicted negativity. I got a good thing going.

15) But if I can just get out of my own way, I'd make so much money. I mean, it's stupid that I don't try harder!

16) Ah fuck, stop it already.