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March 1, 2002

Sniper Trading: Essential Short-Term Money-Making Secrets for Trading Stocks, Options and Futures

By George Angell

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  • Sniper Trading: Essential Short-Term Money-Making Secrets for Trading Stocks, Options and Futures

(John Wiley & Sons, New York, 242 pages) $39.95

reviewed by Gregory Bresiger

Many, many traders are lost. They don't understand. They don't have techniques to minimize risk and they don't know themselves. They can't describe their trading styles; what is good and what is dangerous about these styles. They will not accept the hard fact that the "vast majority" of traders are losers. They should make a career move now, before they do more than a little damage to themselves and others.

That's because they often don't know how to measure success or lack either the mental makeup to endure and understand the rigors of daily trading, an experience that even humbles the best of veteran traders.

These conclusions come from the author of this intriguing book. He is a floor trader with about a decade of trading experience. George Angell has written an interesting and - at times - a very detailed book that is not an autobiography glamorizing his triumphs in the style of self-aggrandizing books that one frequently finds in this group. Those kind of books constitute the "I am great" books category, such as the ones that are ghost written for Donald Trump. They should be entitled something along the lines of, "Surviving on Fluff-How I Fool the Bankers, Pols and Media Every Day."

Angell thankfully gives the reader none of this. There is little here of Angell telling us about his greatness and, much to his credit, there is much about Angell's failures as well as those of others who thought that trading was as easy as opening a bottle of brew and watching the tube.

Trading for a living is demanding. Trading requires years of experience and the development of skills, Angell repeatedly reminds readers. And most traders lose, Angell tells us. And that is about as likely to change, I would say, as the laws of gravity or the likelihood of major government departments shutting down and returning tax dollars to the average Joe. But let Angell explain why some aspects of markets never change.

"Although the volatility has risen immensely in recent years," Angell writes, "the basic market patterns have not changed - nor have the proverbial games that floor traders play. The fact is, human nature remains the same, and this is the strongest argument one could make about the future. Human fear and greed are likely to remain the same and so are the mistakes that unsuspecting traders will make. The vast majority of traders will continue to lose - and a good thing, too, since these are the people who supply the profits to the winners." (page 39).

The last sentence should be repeated 10,000 times a day by every rookie trader, especially by the ones who are expected to be among the most talented and promising. These poor souls are the trading equivalents of the vast majority of credulous souls in the great nations of Europe in August 1914, who thought World War I would be an easy turkey shoot that would be over in a few weeks. (For more on this, see Barbara Tuchman's superb book, "The Guns of August.")