“It’s not whether you’re right or wrong that’s important, but how much money you make when you’re right and how much you lose when you’re wrong.” -George Soros

One element of trading that is over looked as traders chase hot stocks, trends, and chart patterns is the importance of taking trades that have the potential to be big wins OR small losses. Big losses will kill your account quickly and small wins will do little to pay for those losses. Our trades have to be asymmetric where our downside is carefully planned and managed but our upside is open ended. This is a crucial element for trading success and has to be understood and planned for.

The risk/reward ratio is used by more experienced traders to compare the expected profits of a trade to the amount of money risked to capture the profits. This ratio is calculated mathematically by dividing the amount of profit the trader expects to have made when the position is closed (the reward) by the amount the trader could lose if price moves in the unprofitable direction and the trader is stopped out.

A big secret that many rich traders know that new traders do not is that the winning percentage for even the best traders is only about 50%-60% one type of trading edge comes in having bigger winners than losers. A great formula to use is a 3:1 risk/reward ratio, with this ratio a trader is risking $100 to make $300. If 100 shares of stock are bought for $100 a share and the stop is at $99 then the stock should only be purchased if it is probable that the stock could run to $103. At a $103 share price profits could be taken or ideally if it runs to $104 a trailing stop could be set at $103 to give the stock an opportunity to be an even bigger winner. After ten trades your account could look like this:

Lose $100
Make $300
Lose $100
Make $300
Lose $100
Make $300
Lose $100
Make $300
Lose $100
Make $300
Profit $1,000 with only a 50% win rate!

However if you allow losers to run hoping they will come back and take profits quickly while they are there you can get into trouble fast.

Lose $1000
Make $100
Lose $500
Make $200
Make $100
Make $100
Make $200
Make $100
Make $100
Make $100
Lost $500 even with an 80% win rate!

Other ways to measure the ratio:
In trades you can also plan to cut your losses if the stock drops 5% while taking entries on stocks that can run 15% of more.
Another way to measure a 3:1 ratio is that you can risk 1% of your trading capital for the possibility of making 3% of your trading capital in profits.

Remember that you can cut losses even shorter if you are proven wrong before your stop is hit, but at the same time you have to allow enough room for normal fluctuations and volatility in your stop and use position sizing that you are comfortable with for your trading account size. I also recommend you to allow winners to run as far as possible, you never know when you could have a huge win with the right entry and trend.

First know how much you will risk on any one trade then do not enter a trade where the upside is not at least two or three times your risk of loss.