InTrade CEO John Delaney refused to improve the fairness of the trading on his Ireland-based event derivative exchange.

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One InTrade trader, in October 2009:

The four re-definitions that have (so far) been necessary during the 3-month life of the US.GOVT.HEALTHPLAN.DEC09 contracts have brought to my attention that Intrade, to the best of my knowledge, does nothing to notify members that contracts they own have been &#8220-clarified&#8221-. It may be coincidence that volume on this contract spiked upward on July 29, Septeber 5 &amp- 10, and October 9 following rule changes on July 28, September 4 &amp- 9 and October 9. I suspect, however, that some members were aware of the rule changes while others with open orders found out about them later. While avoiding such ambiguous contracts would be preferable, some system should be in place to ensure that the unexpected need to revise contract definitions does not provide certain members with an unintended advantage.

Among the possible changes that I feel would improve this situation are the following:
1) Post a notification in the &#8220-News&#8221- whenever existing contract definitions are changed.
2) Notify all members with current positions and/or orders in a given contract whenever rule changes are posted.
3) Halt trading for some period of time after each change to allow members equal opportunity to respond to these changes, rather than providing an advantage to anyone who might look back at the contract specs or read their email first, including anyone who might know to look for a change after requesting the clarification from Intrade.
4) Add an asterisk or other indicator beside the contract summary on the trading screen, so that members interested in that contract will know that the contract definition has been changed. Ideally, the date of this revision should be included.
5) Add whatever changes among the above are instituted to Rule 1.7.

Changes 1), 2) and 5) seem like common sense to me, but perhaps others will disagree. In any case, I look forward to other exchange members&#8217- comments on all of these suggestions.

The same trader, in December 2009:

Well, six weeks have passed since Mr. Delaney&#8217-s assurance that this issue would be addressed &#8220-ASAP&#8221-. Unless I have somehow missed being notified of the policy change , it seems clear that the status quo is fine by management.

All I can do to attempt to encourage Intrade to take seriously the ambiguities in certain contracts is:
1) liquidate all my positions in such contracts,
2) avoid trading any potentially ambiguous contracts,
3) attempt to warn other traders about contracts that may be potentially ambiguous.
In particular, I will certainly stay away from any contracts involving U.S. legislation.

I could instead try to anticipate specific improvements that would help minimize ambiguities. However, if Intrade management cannot be bothered to address this issue even in a broad way, I think that it would be counterproductive for me to apply the occasional Band-aid. Discouraging other traders from becoming entangled seems more productive.

Tobin Tax = a tax on financial transactions

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Sounds like Jason Ruspini shouldn&#8217-t lose sleep over it &#8212-it won&#8217-t happen:


Paul Krugman Tries to Foist Specious Argument in Tobin Tax Debate.

Jason Ruspini is against the Tobin Tax.

Feedback trading in prediction markets

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Robin Hanson is schooled about prediction market trading.

Our guest author to our Master Of All Universes:

Feedback trading just means the kind of momentum trading that is pervasive in traditional assets, again, less so in prediction markets. In the biastest experiment, traders were given formal &#8220-clues&#8221- about the settlement, but for many market participants, the best &#8220-clue&#8221- (even rationally, if lazy) is recent price action. Even if feedback trading was possible within the experiment, the outcome (manipulation attempts were corrected) suggests that it wasn&#8217-t prevalent.

In this experiment, traders were given equal endowments of shares/currency&#8230- i.e. initially had equal account sizes. Yes, there were an equal number of manipulators and non-manipulators, but they could not coordinate. Even if they were implicitly coordinating, this is not the same as a single large trader influencing the market. Yes, in the theory paper trading sizes were variable, but according to the same parameter for each trader. Maybe if there were a large supply of potential traders able to frictionlessly join the manipulated market, a manipulator&#8217-s relatively deep pockets wouldn&#8217-t matter.

Jesse Livermore’s 7 Trading Lessons

The late Jesse Livermore is considered one of the best traders of all time. His exploits have been chronicled in several books, with the most widely read being Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefevre, originally published in 1923.

Livermore was wealthy and broke several times over during his tumultuous life, which ended in his suicide. His ability to make and lose millions garnered him many lessons which the trading community have enshrined over the decades since his death. Yet these lessons and rules remain as pertinent today as they were in the early twentieth century.

We’ll take a look at several of his trading rules to remind us why we must have a plan in place before trading a dollar of our hard-earned money.

(I must give credit to the Lefevre book mentioned above, as well as Jesse Livermore: World’s Greatest Stock Trader by Richard Smitten, for the following ideas.)

Lesson Number One: Cut your losses quickly.

Nowhere is this rule more apparent than in the modern-day crash our markets experienced in the fall of 2008. For those market participants who “bought, held, and hoped,” the gut-wrenching drop left them paralyzed, disillusioned, and angry at the market. They felt like they had no control and no choice as the losses spiraled down the rabbit hole. The primary culprits of this death trap are hopeful thinking and fearful paranoia.

As a market slides lower, a trader will rationalize his losing position by either doubling down (buying more at these now-cheaper prices) or at the very least, holding on because “there’s just no way this market can go lower.” If merely this one simple rule was implemented to “cut your losses,” the vast majority of traders would be light years ahead of the crowd.

As soon as a trade is contemplated, a trader must know at what point in time he’ll be proven wrong and exit a position. If a trader doesn’t know his exit before he takes the entry, he might as well go to the racetrack or casino where at least the odds can be quantified. Trading without an exit plan is like driving a car without insurance. You might go years without a major crash, but when the crash occurs (and it will), you want to be protected from a major financial disaster.

Lesson Number Two: Confirm your judgment before going all in.

Livermore was famous for throwing out a small position and waiting for his thesis to be confirmed. Once the stock was traveling in the direction he desired, Livermore would pile on rapidly to maximize the returns. He admitted that his biggest mistake was holding on to a position as it ran against him, and then selling out when the pain got too great.

Livermore learned to remedy this dilemma by taking on a small line at first, and only adding when he was proven correct. There are several decent ways to buy more in a winning position (pyramiding up, buying in thirds at predetermined prices, being 100% in no more than 5% above the initial entry) but the take home is to buy in the direction of your winning trade — and never when it goes against you.

Lesson Number Three: Watch leading stocks for the best action.

One hundred years, ago Mr. Livermore didn’t have near as many issues to track, yet he made it his mission to follow the market makers and big players when their money flooded into a specific stock or commodity. Livermore knew that trending issues were where the big money would be made, and to fight this reality was a loser’s game.

Today, traders have the ability to track sectors, ETFs, and the footprints of the best mutual-fund managers to ascertain where the heavy hitters are moving their capital. Superstars such as Google (GOOG), Goldman Sachs (GS), and General Electric (GE) can also show their hand when looking at the bigger picture of overall market health. Traders ignore these tells at their own peril.

Lesson Number Four: Let profits ride until price action dictates otherwise.

Perhaps the most famous quote attributed to Livermore is, “It never was my thinking that made the big money for me. It always was my sitting.” Traders are wired to be “doing something,” and this can cause churning, over-trading, getting out of positions too soon, and making your broker the wealthy one. The famous Turtle Traders were trend traders who made few trades and had learned the importance of staying in a winning trade.

For today’s traders, there are multiple variations to keep you in a trade. It’s not so important which method you implement, but that you do recognize when to hold a winner for maximum potential, and when a trend has changed character and it’s time to ring the register.

One method that satisfies the desire for profit and subdues the fear of a losing trade is to take one half of your profit off at a predetermined level, put a stop at breakeven on the rest, and let it play out without micromanaging the position. Even day and swing traders will benefit from letting a partial position play out when all indicators hint that more upside might be in the cards. Always remember this rule is letting a profitable position run, but it’s not a license to bury one’s head on a losing position.

Lesson Number Five: Buy all-time new highs.

Traders love a bargain — trying to bottom feed, buying in on limit orders instead of market to save a penny, buying on dips, and various other trickery to try and catch the swing low of a trade. These same traders can also recount when saving a penny cost them a dollar, buying that dip was only the start of a long downtrend, and buying new lows only led to lower prices and more misery.

Livermore understood that when a trader buys new highs, that for that moment in time, the only holders are happy holders. Blue skies are above and there are no longer-term investors waiting to sell once they get back to break even. The psychological merits of buying all-time or 52-week highs are immense and shouldn’t be discounted as a part of your overall strategy.

Lesson Number Six: Use pivot points to determine trends.

Livermore famously called them “pivotal points” and today they’re better known as swing highs and swing lows. When going long, traders are continually looking for confirmation by assessing the strength of a move. Higher highs and higher lows are a solid indicator that a current uptrend is merely taking a slight pause, and the odds of higher prices are in their favor. These same pivot points are integral to drawing support and resistance lines to give traders their line in the sand. Taken together, trend lines and pivot points can enlighten a trader to a change in momentum, which may change the character of a trade.

Lesson Number Seven: Control your emotions.

Easier said than done in everyday life, let alone in one’s trading account, controlling those emotional demons that lurk under the surface may be the most difficult task for traders (beginners and seasoned alike) to master. You finally hit a quick 10-point winner, and the euphoria and pride rush in to give you a virtual high-five. You hold on past your mental stop-loss and watch your equity bleed like a leaking faucet, which in turn causes you to seethe with frustration, whether on the outside or internally. If there’s one absolute rule, it’s that every trader has to confront the role they allow their emotions to play in their trading life.

Livermore chronicles the times when he was trading for revenge, to get back his lost stake, or merely to prove he was right. By his own admission, these were terrible reasons to put on a trade, and he was at his finest when he blocked out the noise of his day and just watched the tape.

Our goal as traders should be to also make a critical yet honest assessment of the areas we can improve so the bottom line will support our claims of truly being seasoned traders. Adhering to the time-tested rules of Jesse Livermore would be a great start for anyone.

Prediction markets are a zero-sum game.

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Did you lose money betting on InTrade, lately? Well, your money ended up in the pocket of that guy:


UPDATE: There was nothing about &#8220-hating the game&#8221- in my post. It was just a reference to the &#8220-sheep and wolves&#8221- concept floated by Robin Hanson. (See also the Iowa Electronic Markets research on their traders.)

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Ten people are bidding on a stock at 90, while 100 people are offering to sell it at 91. What price is the next trade?

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Interviewees often say that since there are more sellers than buyers, the sellers get to determine the price. That logic usually yields an answer between 90 and 91. That&#8217-s exactly wrong. &#8220-They&#8217-re not thinking about what&#8217-s going on in the real world,&#8221- says Rubczyk. In reality, when there are more sellers than buyers, the price falls. So the next sale would probably be in the mid- to low 80s.

&#8220-Some candidates would say you can&#8217-t answer that question, because there&#8217-s no formula,&#8221- says Rusczyk. &#8220-If that makes their heads explode, that&#8217-s a problem.&#8221-

What would our Jason Ruspini have answered to that quiz?

How to break a successful prediction exchange in less than one week

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Whiskey Kilo (a Hollywood Stock Exchange trader):

Change is one thing, breaking the whole site and acting like its nothing happened is another. The whole concept of trading movie stocks, movie bonds and options have taken a backseat to making sure you can blog, add friends, and “Schmooze”.

The old portfolio page was color coded and extremely easy to understand, you instantly knew if you were making H$ or losing your shirt. Now the current portfolio page is a small box, one colour, light grey on a white backround and the type is half the size of the font here, also you can only see 12 stocks at any given moment. Whoever OK’d this part of the site has to have never traded any shares online before.

From what I can gather, there was a beta version of this 3rd generation of the game, but no one paid any attention to the any of the feedback, two days after this new rollout, started calling this new version a beta game, and what HSX staff there is say that portfolios are now their priority. However the only things that really work right now are the blogs, which pay H$10,000 a posting, adding friends pays traders H$1000, Online Polls, and Schmoozing. which paid initially H$1000, but now pays H$100 per reply. The only reason I see for paying traders to blog is to bring more eyeballs to the garish 728?90 and 300?225 ads on each page to pump the number of advertising views on HSX. But if this is part of the grand scheme here, I can’t see Gold coin or Forex advertisers closing sales from a bunch of 13 years because all the veteran traders have left in disgust.

I welcome Jed [*] to read the HSX Support page: and look around, I shudder to think this all is going to be a B-School case study on how to kill a successful site in under a week.

[*] Jed Christiansen, who put up a comment in defense of HSX (Jed systematically defends the people I slam on Midas Oracle) &#8212-and who has just begun an MBA education.

TradeFair was first branded as a serious financial prediction exchange, but it didnt work out, and TradeFair is now actually an operator that applies gambling (not betting) to the financial markets.

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Take a look at their ad:

Three remarks:

  • They got carried away from the prediction market approach (which, unlike InTrade, they never understood fully, anyway).
  • This gambling approach of the marketing of the prediction markets is very interesting in terms of potential revenue growth. I encourage InTrade, TradeSports, BetFair, NewsFutures and HubDub to adopt it.
  • However, it remains to be seen whether TradeFair is the right venue for gambling. TradeFair was supposed to be a serious financial prediction exchange (the British equivalent of HedgeStreet), and it is now the online equivalent of Macao or Las Vegas. Hummm&#8230- Will these 2 different worlds mix well together? Could La Callas sell pork sausages? Could Yehudi Menuhin sell used condoms?
  • And I won&#8217-t mention the issue of problem gambling, which I predict will be made worse thanks to TradeFair Hi &amp- Lo and BetFair Arcades.

Once the previous bet is resolved, you can start off anew with another 5-minute bet on the FTSE &#8212-from the level that was the basis for the settlement of the previous bet.