Very few films capture the essence of life as a day trader. The pressure of walking the tightrope between profitability and looming losses is rarely captured in mainstream films. While movies such as “Wall Street” and “Boiler Room” glamorize the lifestyle of accumulating wealth by any means necessary, they do not capture the essence of actual trading in the trenches. These five movies illustrate key lessons every trader can take with them to understand more about their career.
1. “Rounders” – Money Management and Spotting Fades
This movie is a favorite among poker players, and it exemplifies the parallels that exist between playing poker and trading the markets. The two main characters literally represent the two sides that exist in the psyche of every trader. The contrast of styles between a “grinder” and a cowboy and the repercussions of those styles are illustrated throughout the film. The spotting of “tells” in poker is akin to spotting the “fades” in trading to determine the true order flow pressure behind the price action. “You can’t lose what you don’t put in the pot” resonates with trading and poker equally.
2. “Revolver” – Strategy, Transparency, Lateral Thinking and Ego
The tactical application of chess strategy interwoven throughout this film underscores how lateral thinking is employed to decipher transparency. The greatest enemy hides where you least suspect it: the ego. Purposely appearing weak to camouflage strength and vice versa is the engine behind price action. Traders can identify with how closely trade strategy parallels with chess strategy. What appears on the surface is rarely the true intent. This exemplifies the mentality embodied by seasoned traders.
3. “Rogue Trader” – Stop Losses
This film is the cautionary tale of trader Nick Leeson, who bankrupted Barings Bank in 1995 after accumulating $1.3 billion in hidden trading losses. The movie initially captures the exhilaration of turning a large loss into an equally large win. Ultimately, that false confidence leads towards the collapse of England’s oldest banking institution. The film depicts the consequences of adding a complete lack of trade management to a losing position. Any trader who has blown out an account can attest to the fact that desperate money never wins. This perpetual reminder resonates throughout the film as it places the viewer in the cockpit of a speeding race car heading over a cliff. Traders can identify with all the tell tale signs of an impending blowout. A well-managed stop trumps a poorly managed win.
4. “Two for the Money” – Complacency, Humility and Preparation
This movie covers the rags-to-riches journey of a sports handicapper in the realm of sports betting. Traders can relate to the euphoria that accompanies overleveraged wins and the numbing disbelief in the wake of massive losses thereafter. This cautionary tale depicts the slippery nature of how win streaks can manifest into much larger losing streaks, as complacency creates blind spots in the trader’s psyche.
5. “Floored” – The Emotional Ups and Downs of Trading
This documentary captures all the highs and lows of being a trader moving from the trenches of the trading pits to the electronic trading screens. The repercussions for the old-school floor traders left behind by the electronic trading revolution are clearly portrayed. Their ardent stubbornness illustrates their downfall. Adapt or be eliminated is the universal theme in this film, very much like the markets. Candid interviews with both successful and struggling traders provide rare insights into the impact of this profession on lifestyle, family and overall psyche. Traders will be inspired by many facets of this film, which truly captures the essence of trading for a living.
Jea Yu can be contacted at UndergroundTrader