Know when to hold em – know when to fold em

One of the most challenging decisions that forex traders are faced with on a day to day basis is…knowing when to hold on to a trade and when to close it.

This decision is usually the one that gives traders the most difficulty and frustration, and it is something that you must learn to effectively deal with if you want to make consistent money in the forex market. Trade management is often the area that gives forex traders the most trouble; it is relatively easy to get into a profitable trade but it is much harder to manage that profitable trade in such a way that it produces an outcome you are satisfied with.

This article will only focus on one area of the process of trade management; knowing when to hold on to a winning trade in order to let your profits run, and knowing when to close a winning trade and take your money. Pardon the cliché, but as the Kenny Rogers song goes, “You’ve got to know when to hold em’, and know when to fold em”…(If you never heard the song click here: Kenny Rogers)

How to manage a trade with a big open profit…

While there are certainly worse problems to have in the world, trying to figure out what you should do with a trade that is deep in profit can actually be quite puzzling for many forex traders. The problem that traders in this situation face is whether they should hold their trade for an even larger gain that may or may not materialize, or close the trade out and walk away with a very nice profit.

What this decision really comes down to is one of logic vs. emotion. Take a look at the technical picture of the chart that you are trading while completely disregarding how much money you are up or how you feel. When you look at the chart from this perspective think about how big the recent move has been that you have traded, how much has price moved compared to the ATR (average true range)? Do you really believe there is a logical technical reason that such a large move will continue on in your direction before reversing, or are you just being greedy? Remember that just because a trade is heavily in your favor does not mean you should necessarily keep it open. If you are in a trade that is up more than 3 or 4 times your risk, you should really stop to ask yourself, “Do I really believe this trade will keep going up or down in a straight line or is it more likely to experience a correction?” It usually makes more sense to lock in most of your profit or close a trade out that is deep in profit, because if there is one thing we can all agree on about the forex market it’s that it ebbs and flows and doesn’t travel in a straight line for very long except on rare times of economic volatility.

Here is an example of the point above illustrated in the daily GBPJPY daily chart from mid – 2010…

Another example….

How to manage a winning trade in trending markets…

Trending markets can increase the odds of a trade moving in your favor and as a result the chances of being able to let your profits run into bigger gains. One good way to tell whether or not you should try and let your profits run when a market is trending is whether or not new highs (in an uptrend) or new lows (in a downtrend) are being made on near daily basis. If this is happening you can simply trail your stop loss along the 8 day ema or slightly above / below the previous day’s high or low and let the trade run in your favor until it reverses and hits your stop.

Here is an example of the above point illustrated in the recent EURUSD bullish move on the daily chart…

Another example…