Is it true? Does a 2:1 profit/loss ratio matter?

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1rrrConsider the old adage permeating the forex market that a trader must maintain a ratio of two dollars in potential profit for every dollar that is risked on a transaction.

Is it true? Does a 2:1 profit/loss ratio matter?

The first thing to recognize is that a successful trader is measured by profitability, not maintaining an industry-expected risk reward. Trading manuals and Forex gurus have long trumpeted the 2:1 risk reward ratio as a guidepost for traders. Traders in turn march dutifully to the mantra of 2:1 risk reward ratio.

Let’s look at some examples in the forex market to test the traditional wisdom.

Trader A has a taste for risk in her trading style and accepts a healthy $400 average loss. But she is making an average of $800 on her winning trades – an “admired” 2:1 risk reward. But her winning percentage is only 30%. For every 10 trades she thus loses an average of $40, despite her 2:1 risk reward that is widely advocated.

Trader B, on the other hand, makes an average of only $175 on her winning currency trades but still endures a $400 average loss – a frowned-upon risk reward on 1:2.29. Yet she makes a gain on 70% of her trades. For every ten trades she makes she realizes a profit of $25.

What is at work here is not the risk reward ratio that is determining profitability but the risk reward ratio operating in tandem with winning percentage. It is the expected win percentage AND the fundamentals of the risk reward ratio that must be continually evaluated.

When playing the forex market traders must determine the style of trader they are, not blindly pursue industry-recommended ratios. Once a calculation is derived to tag your win percentage as a trader, then you can figure what risk reward ratio is needed at a minimum to make a trade pay off.

Traders with lower win rates must make sure their trades average larger risk rewards to deliver bottom line profitability. Others who are not willing to take large hits for a big score will push their trading activities towards a higher win rate and smaller risk reward ratios.

Too often trades are labeled a good play if they present rewards two and three times the money risked. But what if the trade has a success rate of only 10%? Who is going to make that “good” trade now? On the other hand if your research shows a statistical edge that provides a 90% win probability what will it matter if you are trading with a 2:1 risk reward or a 1:5 risk reward? Trading in the forex market can’t be executed in knee-jerk fashion based on accepted ratios born in an informational vacuum.

There are many roads to success in the forex market but one road is pitted with more potholes than the rest – following traditional wisdom.

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