Take it From a Skeptic
Before I start this review of Mark Minvervini's Trading Course (Master Trader Program) I need to be perfectly clear:
- I struggle to spend money... education is one of the few exceptions but even at that, I would thought the price take of 5k was a big ask (initally).
- The hardcore 'American style' sales pitch isn't something I like, I felt the marketing was pretty 'in your face'.
- I have been burned a few times following traders and 'guru's 'and in fact preach to do the opposite.
Having read Mark's books however, I simply could not fault his trading process, results and likewise how it resonates with my style of trading. Going to the MTP (Master Trader Program) was my all or nothing moment where I thought:
"You are either going to do this the right way and make money, or continue as is and accept mediocrity as a permanent state of consciousness".
My overarching goal was to learn how to trade stocks exactly like Mark Minervini or better. I saw Mark Minervini's trading course was coming up soon. After some research I took the plunge (hence this review) and have to say up-front: The Master Trader Program was my best investment of 2019. Here's why:
Further to this the addition of Mark Ritchie Jr. (son of renowned trader Mark Ritchie) made it really interesting. There were three trading heavyweights trading multi-million dollar accounts under one roof and they were there for one reason, to teach!
If you are going to pay top dollar, it's important to screen the line up. Needless to say, if you have any experience in position trading , it would be rare to not acknowledge the achievements of the hosts.
Also, a special shout out to the gent from Marketsmith as well as he provided some super useful tips on screening for stocks (Irusha Peiris). His product knowledge and experience on screening for winning stocks was a fantastic bonus during the time in Myrtle Beach.
The Right Mix
Having heavy hitters under one roof can be risky, sometimes opinions and views can differ or contradict each other. Luckily this wasn't an issue. Mark tends to be very sharp and have a low tolerance for 'noise' (there were some really special questions). David on the other hand is akin to the kind uncle you always talk to at Christmas dinner. They played off of each other's strengths very well and also limited the downside for any gaps in information.
The interplay between Mark, being ruthless (which I love and just consider honest) and David, being more emphatic for less seasoned traders provided a great balance. The Q/A format of the event was 'panel like' and the crowd could shout out whatever questions came to mind.
With a proven panel of expert traders, product experts on how to screen and find the big stocks lining up and an eager crowd of like minded individuals - I was in trader heaven. The interactions over the 3 days was rich and highly instructive.
Overview of the Content and Structure
On the evening of arrival there was a small social event to meet and greet fellow MTP participants alongside Mark and the extended team. It's truly fascinating to see 26 countries under one roof with one thing in mind - how to achieve super performance in their trading.
The mix was sprinkled with the classic; "It's not working anymore", "This time it's different" and all sorts of creative theories about algorithmic trading came up. In this and any other events, I come with a cup half empty, be careful who you associate with on arrival.
I really enjoyed the introductions because it was easy to assimilate into a more focused group of people you could link up with over the 3 days. I really think I made some friends for life and created a 'mastermind' group that will develop my discipline (and theirs).
Oddly enough, the arrival experience in itself paid huge dividends on coming to the course. There is a mix of highly experienced professionals that manage hedge funds, family funds and work for large institutions, coupled with everyday folk who are new to trading.
The People and Our Commonalities
As a group I found it fascinating that we all had the same issues holding back our trading, such as:
- Lack of confidence in a trading system (drifting strategies)
- Everyone wants to find the 'Holy Grail' instead of being consistent
- People with more 'experience' could not let go of twisted perceptions on "What works" (when it clearly didn't)
- Issues with ownership accountability and patience
Sitting around the dinner table discussing these tribulations provided some fantastic introspection material.
Here I was in Myrtle Beach, rubbing shoulders with hedge fund managers, market wizards.... and a guy who has never traded.
The course was broken down into 3 days. The overall goal was to re-introduce and recap key principles from Mark's books on trading but really drill down into the detail and drill down into the subtle details.
One per-requisite for attending would be to read Mark's books at least twice and fully comprehend and understand the message. Not the strategy, that part is easy, it's the why! Ask yourself:
- Why do stocks run up or make huge moves?
- What can I do to make the most amount of money when the fed has the printers on? (Just kidding..ish)
- How can I do this in the lowest risk way possible?
- Would I be able to stay in these trades and how know when to buy or sell?
Essentially, as a trader, there is very little else we do other than buy stocks (or shares, whatever). You choose when to buy, sell or hold and how much, sounds pretty darn easy right?
The reality of trading however is full of emotional traps and triggers that play to our weakness as a species, this was another compelling theme in the Mark Minervini trading course and my personal favourite aspect of the 3 days.
The two textbook style books (which drill into some fantastic details) really complement the training, the details are very well documented, mainly, the hundreds of charts of previous winners/losers which are marked up.
Having received our workbook, day one commenced and we got stuck straight into some crucial areas of Mark's strategy, known as 'SEPA' or Specific Entry Point Analysis.
The day was broken into a play by play breakdown of:
- Screening and creating screens to look for high quality stocks and setups
- Understanding where crucial pivot and turning points are in a stock's base (Stage analysis, very similar to that of Mark Weinstein)
- What constitutes a good low risk setup
- Specific chart patterns and entry triggers - crucially, how they look and feel in daily and weekly charts
- When to walk away from poor setups and how they look
Although I was in a good place with these areas, having a panel of pros telling me WHY it works was worth it's weight in gold. It shows the synthesis and systematization of intuition into a strategy. If anything, the success which lay before me truly
The first day had me super excited. It confirmed so many questions I had on the 'fringe'. Stock selection is only second to risk management and after hours of intense Q/A and screening, my confidence in my own strategy sky rocketed.
For those with vested interest in the psychological approach, one thing I liked the most was the absolute zero bullshit answers from Mark. Being there in person it was clear that there is only one way to make triple digit returns - have a good market, and know how to pick the best of the best and make big returns.
On the second day of the Mark Minervini trading course there was no time delayed in getting stuck in. There was a continuation on the previous day but more of an emphasis on the fundamentals and how to look for clues that create super stocks. The day focused on:
- Position sizing, when to buy, how much etc
- When to sell and specific clues that a breakout may be failing
- Scaling in and out of trades to reduce risk but increase reward when things are working out
- Psychology around following the plan and taking high quality trades
Position Sizing - If there was a 'Holy Grail'
The position sizing element of Day 2 was probably one of the most notable things about Mark's books and to have it explained in granular detail in person was phenomenal. I was struggling to analyse this data before and put it together in a way that yielded results. When explained incrementally and in the context of the strategy, it really hit home on just how specific you need to be before buying a stock.
So many times I've made excuses for taking low quality trades, buying grade F setups and not driving accountability into my trading. The truth about trading, is that it requires a great deal of self-awareness and tons of work. Seeing just how many iterations and processes Mark has gone through to create this content was mind blowing. At the end of day 2 I thought to myself "If I knew what I know now and applied it in 2011 until now, how rich would I be?".
In discretionary trading, it is critical to ramp up when things are working out and close the purse when the market isn't favorable. I understand this concept far better since the course.
Above: Mark going through the position sizing principles in detail, opening floor for questions.
The third and final day was great fun. It was market open and we sat in on Mark and David Ryan's procedure. This was an all access pass to the screening process, stock selection and finally, the pulling off the trigger on ACAD.
Mark and David went over in detail about how they looked at the market as well as the post-analysis methods they use to ensure emotional and personal alignment, a glimpse of Mark's watch-list, how it is organised and looks in real time can be seen below:
I would view Day 3 as the 'putting it all together' part of this journey. It was hammering in all of the concepts and entry points we were exposed to during the week. It culminated well and it was clear that there was absolutely nothing held back. The entire strategy had been laid out on the floor for people to take or leave. The only element left to focus on was yourself.
There was a pivotal moment on this day as when I spoke to other traders I was perplexed:
- Everyone still wanted to shill me on other traders or Gurus to follow
- About 1 in 10 people I spoke to had a trading journal with real data
- There were tons of people saying - "Yeah but that was in the nineties" etc
- I realized that less than 10 people will follow the plan and I wanted to be 1 of them (I will be).
- Some people thought that participating in the Mark Minervini trading course they would become trading pro's without having to gain real-life trading experience.
At the end of the trading day the floor was opened for questions. I was totally sold, I went back to my hotel room and wrote down my self-affirmation. I know I can trade, I make money trading, now I want to make huge amounts of money - and not get in the way of my own success.
Excuse Removal System
After attending Mark's course and learning how to trade like a Stock Market Wizard, there was nothing left I could blame for my results. If the best in the world couldn't inspire me to own my trading, I was doomed.
The overall experience was very much worth the money. My only caveat here is that you get what you give. Trading is an art and how we interpret and synthesize data differs from person to person.
If you expect an easy system for making money then this is not the event for you. Realizing just how much is involved in trading was a great takeaway from this event. If anything, it could serve to deter people thinking about starting and save them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Many of the questions I had about selling in particular were answered in a level of detail that I could not get from any course or book. It came together very well and I felt that applying these rules and standards as a religious doctrine to money management.
Would I do it again? Yes, but not next year, now that I know how to practice, the rest is up to me.
It's Totally Yours to Own
Remember, the ultimate trading weapon you have is yourself. I personally don't believe that anything in life which is worth it comes cheap. You certainly pay for what you get, and in this case it was money well spent. The Mark Minerivi trading course can provide the knowledge, but you must gain the experience.
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