Trader Mark Cook Reveals His Rules for Day-Trading Markets

By Jim Wyckoff

A day trader is a cross between an extrovert and an introvert, with both characteristics in balance, according to Mark Cook, a veteran trader from East Sparta, Ohio.

“The introvert aspect is depicted by the disciplined workaholic with a reclusive concentration. The extrovert aspect is depicted by an aggressive, competitive, self-motivated individual striving to be the best in a selective profession,” said Cook.

Cook won the 1992 U.S. Investment Championship with a 563% return on his money. He is a featured speaker at the Telerate Seminars Technical Analysis Group (TAG 20) conference held here this weekend.

Each trading day, “I am a creature of habit, going through a daily ritual before the markets open. I outline in detail all three possible scenarios for that day: up, down or sideways. I assign a probability to that scenario and make a written strategy plan, which has been incorporated into a trading fax service that is devoted to teaching people how to trade. Thus, a disciplined trading plan is imposed on me.”

Every day trader must be “flexible, alert and feisty,” said Cook. The flexibility must be used to shift from being long to being short “literally within seconds.” The alertness is used for observing price movements that are an aberration from the norm, he said. “Feistiness is the savvy aggressiveness to fight back with a vengeance to regain money you lost. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people lose money in the morning and quit. My most profitable days are when I lose money in the morning and stay in because I want to get it back.”

For 12 years, Cook has kept a daily diary of trading patterns he has observed. He said the diary is “priceless” because price patterns occur much more frequently than most realize. Regarding keeping a diary, Cook uses the adage: “If you don’t know history, you’re doomed to repeat it.”

The following are Cook’s seven major rules for day trading:

DO NOT TRADE THE LAST HOUR OF THE DAY IN THE S&P 500 FUTURES MARKET. The probabilities of a successful trade diminish in this timeframe due to the impulsive and reckless buying and selling by institutions just because they didn’t get their trading done earlier, said Cook.


AFTER TWO HOURS OF TRADING, ASK YOURSELF: “DO I FEEL GOOD ABOUT MY TRADING TODAY?” Once two hours have passed, Cook says a day trader should have made at least two, or perhaps more, trades, “but enough to reviewuate what you have done.” If the trader feels good about the day’s trading, continue. If not, stop trading that day.

ALL CYLINDERS OF THE ENGINE MUST BE RUNNING EFFICIENTLY. “Day-trading is a job, and your paycheck is determined by your ability. You can only maximize your ability if you have all the information you need to make trading decisions. “If a piece of equipment that one uses for trading is not working, stop trading.

HAVE COMPLETE FAITH IN YOUR INDICATORS. “This is a must for success,” said Cook. “Many times your indicators give you a buy or sell signal, and you don’t follow it because you don’t have the confidence the signal is right this time. Successful day traders believe in their indicators, but also are aware that nothing is 100% foolproof.”

TO ANYONE WHO ASPIRES TO BECOME A DAY TRADER, OBSERVE THOSE WHO ARE SUCCESSFUL. “Any information you can procure on the trading philosophies, mechanics and techniques is well worth your while.”

DAY-TRADING IS A LONG-TERM COMMITMENT. “I fervently believe it takes several years to become a true professional,” said Cook.

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