Trading &/or Gambling

The difference between trading and gambling.

This article will shine a light on the most frequent mistakes that traders make. These mistakes blur the thin line between trading and gambling.

Many people have spoken on this topic, but we truly believe that it is still not sufficient, and traders should be better educated on how to avoid gambling behaviour and emotional outbursts. When we speak about trading versus gambling, we define gambling as the act of making irrational, emotional and quick decisions.

Most of the time, these decisions are based on greed, and sometimes fear of the trader. Let’s dive into the exact problems we have personally experienced thousands of times, and want to help others avoid.

Bad Money Management

This is something that everyone has heard at least once, but seems to naively ignore in the hopes that it is not that important.

It is the most important. When a trader enters trades, it is exceptionally alluring to enter with all of their money, or close to all of it. In gambling terms, that is going “All in”, or “All or nothing”.

As a rule of thumb, both traders and gamblers should only place or bet money that they can afford to lose.

Thankfully, at least in trading one can limit their loss for that specific trade, by placing a stop loss or exiting before total liquidation. In Poker, you can’t fold when you are “All in” and take a portion of your money back. However, that does not mean entering trades with full capital, even with a stop-loss, is going to give you exponential returns and feed your greed for profits.

Traders should enter positions with a small amount of their full capital, to limit the damage from losses. Yes, you also limit the possibility that you win a few trades in a row with all of your money and… There goes the greed we mentioned.

The “globally perfect” percent of equity you need to enter trades to reach that balance between being too cautious and too greedy does not exist. There are methods, like the Kelly Criterion, as described in our previous Idea, that help you optimize your money management.

Always ask yourself, “How much can I afford to lose?”. Aim for a balanced approach. This way you can position yourself within the market for a long and a good time, not just for a few lucky wins. Greedy money management, or lack thereof, ends in liquidations and heartbreak.

The Use of Leverage

Anyone who has tried using leverage, knows how easy it is to lose your position (or full) capital in seconds. Using leverage is mainly sold to retail traders as a tool for them to loan money from the exchange or broker and bet with it. It is extremely profitable for institutions, since it multiplies the fees you pay them ten to one hundred-fold.

In our opinion, leverage isn’t something that should be entirely avoided. However, it should be limited as much as possible.

We cannot deny that using 1-5x leverage can be beneficial for people with small accounts and a thirst for growth, however as the leverage grows, the more of a gambler you become.

We often see people share profits made using 20+ times leverage. Some even use ridiculous leverages within the range of 50-125x.

If you are doing that, do you truly trust your entry so much that you believe the market won’t move 1% against your decision and liquidate you immediately? 

At this point, the gambling aspect should be evident, and it goes without saying that you should not touch this “125x Golden Apple”, like Eve in the Garden of Eden. Especially when you see a snake-exchange promote it.

If you use a low amount of leverage, and grow your account to the point where you don’t need it for your personal goals in terms of monetary profit. You should consider stopping the use of it, and at least know you’ll be able to sleep at night.

Always Being In A Position

Always being either long or short leads to addiction and becomes gambling. While we don’t have scientific proof of that, we can give you our own experience as an example. To be a profitable trader, you do not need to always be in a position, or chase every single move on the market. You need to develop the ability just to sit back and watch, analyse and make conscious decisions. Let the bad opportunities trick someone else, while you patiently wait for all your pre-defined conditions to give you a real signal.

When you think of trading, remember that the market has a trend the minority (around 20-30%) of the time. If you are always in a position, this means that 70-80% of the time you are hoping that something will happen in your favour. That, by definition, is gambling.

Another aspect, that we have experienced a lot, is that while you remain in a position, especially if you have used leverage, you are constantly paying your exchange fees. You can be in a short position for a week and pay daily fees which only damage your equity, and therefore margin ratio. So why not just sit back, be patient and define some concrete rules for entering and exiting?

Avoid risky situations, and let the market bring the profits whenever it decides to.

Chasing Huge Profits

Hold your horses, Warren Buffett. Through blood, sweat and tears, we can promise you that you cannot seriously expect to make 100% every month, no matter what magical backtesting or statistics you are calculating your future fortune on. Moreover, you will realise that making 2-5% a month is an excellent career for a trader.

Yes, the markets can be good friends for a while, you may stumble into a bull-run and start making double-digit profits from a trade from time to time. Double-digit losses will also follow if you lose your sight in a cloud of euphoria and greed. Many times, you can follow the “profit is profit” principle, and exit at a small win if the risk of loss is increasing.

Being Sentimental Towards Given Assets

You may have a fondness for Bitcoin and Tesla, and we understand that because we too have our favourites. Perhaps you’re deeply attached to the vision, community and purpose of certain projects. On the flip side, there may be projects that you completely despise and hope their prices plummet to zero.

What you personally like and dislike, should not interfere with your work as a trader. Introducing such strong emotions into your trading will lead you into a loop of irrational decisions. You may find yourself asking, “Why isn’t this price going parabolic with how good the project is?”.

This sounds, from personal experience, quite similar to sitting at a Roulette table and asking: “Why does it keep landing on red when I’ve been constantly betting black? It has to change any moment now”

First and foremost, you may be completely wrong, but most importantly – it could go parabolic, but trying to predict the exact time or expecting it to happen immediately and placing your “bet” on that is again, gambling.

Don’t get attached to projects when trading. If you are an investor who just wants to hold their shares in an awesome company, or cryptocurrency, that is perfectly fine, hold them as much as you want.

The key is to make an important distinction between trading and investing, and to base your strategy on the hand that the market provides you with.

Putting Your Eggs In One Basket

We all have heard of diversification, but how you approach it is crucial. A trader should always have their capital spread between at least a few assets. Furthermore, the trading strategy for each asset must be distinct, or in other words – they should not rely on the same entry and exit conditions for different assets.

The markets behave differently for each asset, and you cannot be profitable with some magical indicator or strategy with a “one-size-fits-all” style.Divide your trades into different pairs and asset classes, and study each market individually to properly diversify. Manage the equity you put into each trade carefully!


The takeaway we want you as a reader to have from this article is that trading without consciously controlling your emotions inevitably leads to great loss and most importantly, a lot of stress.

We hate stress, trading and life in general is exponentially harder when you are under stress. Control your risk, sleep easy, and let the market bring you profits.

Reaching this level of Zen will not be easy, but it is inevitable. Be happy when you make a profit, no matter how small or big. A lot of small profits and proper money management complete the vision you have of a successful business. Ultimately, trading is just that – work, not gambling or a pastime activity. Treat it as work and always remember to never rely on luck.

The advice we’ve included here is written by a few experienced gamblers… Oops, I meant traders 🙂

We hope that some of the lessons we’ve had to painstakingly learn through trial and error can now be shared with those who are interested. Of course, none of this constitutes investment advice. It’s merely a friendly heads-up.