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Is Forex Trading Gambling? The Answer Might Surprise You

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To answer the question, is Forex trading gambling, we have to break it down by the very definition of what it is to gamble. But before we do that, I want to share a brief outline of the way I used to think about trading and gambling.

I remember when I first started trading Forex back in late 2007, a little more than 6 years ago. Whenever the subject of trading would come up at a social gathering, I was usually pretty quick to chime in; I was so proud to be a “trader”. Without fail, one of the first comments people would make was,

“Oh, so you must like to gamble”. Or my personal favorite, “You must love going to Vegas!”. Being the naive trader I was at the time, I would get a little defensive and respond with something like,

“No, not really…trading is nothing like gambling if you know what you’re doing”. Of course at the time I had no clue what I was doing, but that’s beside the point.

Fast forward to today…boy was I WRONG about that statement.is trading gambling
Make no mistake about it folks, trading is gambling!

Here’s what Webster’s Dictionary has to say about the definition of the word “gamble”:

  1. To risk losing (an amount of money) in a game or bet
  2. To play a game in which you can win or lose money or possessions
  3. To risk losing (something valuable or important) in order to do or achieve something

Notice a common theme? “Risk” and “losing”. If there are two things a Forex trader knows, it’s that there’s always risk and you will lose money at some point. It’s simply the cost of doing business as a Forex trader.

So why then do so many Forex “pros” love to tell you that trading isn’t gambling? Or that their new and improved strategy is a sure thing with a 98% win rate? Because they want to sell you their product, of course. They want you to feel like you’re no longer gambling. Because gambling is a bad thing, right? The truth may surprise you.

What is the truth? The truth is that even the “big boys” at the large banks and hedge funds gamble every time they sit down at their trading computer. But (and it’s a BIG but) there’s an inherent difference between how they gamble and how 99.9% of retail Forex traders gamble. It’s a little thing called “probabilities”.


Learn to Think in Probabilities


It all comes down to putting on trades where the probable win is higher than the probable loss. In other words, stacking the odds in your favor. In a previous lesson, I wrote about price action and confluence. The more “Confluence Factors” you have in your favor on any one trade, the higher the probability is that the trade will make you money.

So is Forex trading gambling?

Forex trading is the ultimate form of gambling. We get to review past price action before putting on a trade. Can you imagine getting to see the dealer’s hand before making a decision at the casino? That’s exactly what we can do in Forex.

However, this advantage you’ve been given as a Forex trader will go to waste unless you know how to use it to your advantage. The key is finding the right Confluence Factors that stack the odds in your favor. Here’s what that looks like.

price action and confluence on gbpcad chart

Notice how we’re now in a trade where we have five different factors in our favor. All of these factors mean a higher probability that this trade will make us money, and it did.

  • Price action pin bar on the daily chart
  • Price is rejecting a key level
  • The trend is up
  • The moving averages are providing dynamic support
  • No immediate resistance to the upside

Let’s go back to the casino example for a second. We can learn something from casinos. The goal for any Forex trader should be to trade their account like a casino owner runs his/her business. Casino owners know they’re going to lose money on some customers, it’s the cost of doing business. But they also know that by the end of the year, they’ll turn a profit because the odds are stacked in their favor.

So start trading your account like the casino owner runs his/her business by using price action and confluence, and begin stacking the odds in your favor.

Oh, and the next time someone asks if you like to gamble, just answer with, “yes, but only if the odds are stacked in my favor”. Then wait for the strange look they give you. 😉

Your Turn

Do you think trading is gambling? Feel free to leave your thoughts or questions in the comments section below and I’ll be sure to respond.

  • you don’t know what you are talking about and that convinces me that you are not a good trader because if you were you would know that trading is not gambling as it requires very specialized skills to be successful. You can argue that people who do not have those skills, and there are many of them are gambling. But the few that have acquired the skills and know what they are doing are NOT gamblers. So you are not credible as a trader. I am sorry. You should not be trading.

    • Sorry you feel that way, Justin. But according to Wikipedia “Gambling is the wagering of money or something of value (referred to as “the stakes”) on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning money and/or material goods.”

      Choose the definition from whichever source you prefer; they’re all the same.

      Wagering of money on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning money – that sounds like trading to me.

      Every business gambles to some degree, not just the trader. But that doesn’t mean you can’t win consistently over an extended period.

      Of course, we can also just agree to disagree. I’m okay with that too.

      Cheers.

      • Guest says:

        Hey Justin,
        If you think that way, you can say parents looking after their children and providing them with everything in theire capacity believing children would look after them in return when they will be needed and when the children ditch their parent to be in old age homes, the parent were gambling. An entrepreneur who confidently relies on his hunch and abilities to grow a business is gambling. The investors who invest in companies and shares are gambling. Nonetheless the very individual who is working hard to get a dream job is gambling because most of the time the aspirant does not end up with dream job or to make things worse even jobless. All of these people know nothing more than the history known to them and they are gambling with their time, money, resources. When I started Forex trading, i started with demo accounts and I traded without doing any analysis. I ended up blowing my full account. I was gambling. It s been 2 years now and I am still in the process of learning, because I dont want to gamble. How do I do that. Not trading based on emotions, trade purely based on facts, get news updates constantly, follow mentors, research, back test. And I am able to make profit now. Those who think forex is gambling you are set to loose 100%. Those who think it is a serious business or investment venture and do everything necessary for its success, your success is guaranteed.
        Good luck folks.

        • Dakao says:

          It’s amusing how deeply our trader egos can be tied to the idea that what we do is somehow nobler than gambling. I think Justin made it quite clear what definition of gambling he’s using: risking something you own (capital) against the prospect of earning profits on that capital, with the caveat of doing your best to ensure the odds are in your favor.

          Those who think forex is gambling where you can’t help alter the odds and it’s best to just go for it — will lose, sure. Just like people who go to Vegas and don’t play the odds will also lose.

          So why do some people manage to maintain an edge in gambling, or an edge in trading? B/c something about their process allows them to only selectively gamble when the odds are in their favor.

          By most people’s reflexive estimation, that’s not gambling any more, b/c most people assume that “gambling” MUST entail high odds of failure for any participant.

          It’s all semantics; there are successful professional gamblers (who systematically exploit key and recurring probabilistic advantages in order to win more than they lose over time, using high-odds entries and sensible money management strategies to maximize wins / minimize losses) and there are traders (who do the same).

          • Well said, Dakao. I always knew this post would garner quite a bit of attention as it’s a controversial topic, to say the least.

          • Frank says:

            Don’t worry Justin, I support your input here and those definition easily in any public domain!

            Those people do not admit that even a well managed investment is a kind of gambling, it’s simply because they don’t want to admit they are gambling but considering they are using their well educated knowledge, skills, technique even expertise strategically trade in an investment. But folks, if you can loose, it is a gamble, period!

          • Justin Kouakou says:

            Justin.

            I am surprised that we are arguing over this. Tell me. If you are a trader, tell me if your results have improved from the last time we had this exchange.

            You see, to become a good doctor, students are required to go to school for almost 10 years. Well, why do people think that trading, which when done well can make you a billionaire, does not require any formal training? In fact it does, but nobody will provide that training because once you are good at it, you keep the knowledge to yourself. Go and tell David Tepper, a hedge fund manager who has averaged 40% ROI over the past 20 years plus that he is a gambler. And if you were right then all the investment banks that have trading desks are also gambling. Is that what you think?

            How do you not realize that any human endeavor at which one can become better over time is not gambling? Did you read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outtliers? If you have not, please do. And once you have. Sit down, get yourself a good computer and start learning to read price movements. Get familiar with Elliott Wave theory. Develop some good common sense. Trade only 20% of the time.

            If you are really serious about it, you will soon develop a different mindset. Until you do though, I am afraid you will continue to lose your hard earned dollar because in fact before you get a serious training you are nothing else but a gambler. And those who are not in it to gamble will take your money.

          • Uranti says:

            LMFAO :))

    • chris says:

      I want to know and have skills of forexcan you help me thanks

    • Jack says:

      Married is gamblers?
      You must bet your life on a stranger, haha

  • Alex Chestnutt says:

    Investing, trading, to me is not gambling, as you own shares in the company concerned. You put your money in a Bank or Building Society and get a fixed rate of interest. You invest in the stock market hoping to make more than in a Bank or Building Society knowing that you are taking on greater risk. Investing in a share one takes into account the fundamentals of the company, how well it is run etc.. Gambling is like E G throwing a dice or a game of roulette, where you have no control at all.
    If we did not have Banks and private people investing in companies, our civilisation would not be so far advanced.

    • Alex, this post is about trading, not investing. Those are two very different things, especially when referring to fiat currency.

      • percy says:

        hie Justin , what Alex is simply trying to tell you is :
        gambling is done on the basis of probability whilst forex trading is done on the basis of facts [technical and fundamental analysis.

  • Yhaceed says:

    I wouldn’t gamble my money in the forex market but to even begin the firm I want to trade with says you have to make at least 20,000 a year which I don’t. Is there anyway around this?

  • Elias says:

    Hey there,

    I have one important question regarding Forex Trading. If it is like gambling, how come there are Forex Trading Funds that are succesful and given 10% per week, for 50 weeks+ already?

    Are those Forex Traders just lucky, or how do they mantain to have that 10% edge?

    Please take your time to answer, Iam really curious to your explanation

    • Elias, the point of this post is that you need to trade like the casinos (by stacking the odds in your favor). By its very definition, trading is gambling (so are many things in life), but that doesn’t mean you can’t profit consistently. I’m living proof of that.

      • stezosparadise says:

        Thanks, many things in life is gamble, I appreciate that honestly

  • Rajesh says:

    Trading is not gambling, it is possible to make money in the market, only those who know the market how it is moving.the market always not work in the same way some time you have to away from market.i know that, I done that, I made money

    • Rajesh, of course it’s possible to make money consistently. It seems you missed the point of the post, which is to trade like a casino by stacking the odds in your favor.

  • Paweł says:

    The similarity to gambling is that the outcome of one individaul trade is unknown and ramdom. You can try to increase proabilities with more confluencies, but it is still ramdom. Serious traders make money via a series of trades with proper Risk Reward

  • Lucas says:

    Absolutely true article. There is no way to guarantee your trade will be a profit. Every time you enter in a trade(doesn’t matters your strategy, indicator, news, etc) you must be prepared for a potential loss.

  • Heinrich Bosch says:

    I’m a good forex and stock trader and at the end of the day its a gamble because no one knows if it’s going up, down or in fkn circles thats why we use stop loss.

  • Mohamed says:

    Yes is gambling

  • Andrew says:

    I agree, I’mm not sure why people are getting so serious about the technicalities of the word. I’d say its an investment more than gambling but at the end of the day you’re risking A for a greater B.

  • yousef says:

    if some body open a restaurant.and he expect people to come to him. is he gambling,if he is.it is means every thing in our life is gambling.forex needs skills so its akind of a jop

    • If you define gamble as taking on risk in the hope of a desired result, then yes, opening a new restaurant is a gamble. Most life endeavors are gambles if you stop and think about it. But as I’ve stated before, that doesn’t mean you can’t have an edge and win in the long run.

    • Frank says:

      Yes, absolutely! It’s a big gamble! It is a big gamble in running any business. I am a business owner myself and I have made a huge lost before in running a restaurant. There are situation that you have either no control or little control or lost control. A lot of other factors can affect your business – minimum wage jump 30% this January because of political factor for example. If you can make a lost in a game or bet or anything else, yes it’s a gamble. Again, back to the definition, with skills and knowledge and educated trade strategy, you are only having a higher probability of winning, that’s all!

  • Palo says:

    Trading means a supply and demand cycle. You get the supply so if there is a demand you sell your supply. If you have business, e.g. selling fruits etc., if a businessman gets 5 cartoons of apple, how sure he is that all 5 cartoons of apple will be sold? of course he is not sure if all will be sold, perhaps some will be rotten and that is his loss. is that gambling? maybe gambling in a sense that you have to take the loss, but that’s how business is, a probability.

    • Very true. I think some folks get the literal definition of gamble confused with the idea of gambling. Each trade is a gamble to some degree, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an edge and win in the long run.

      • Caleb says:

        Well we should all have been in farms.. harvesting crops!!!

    • junah says:

      the analogy confuse me. how come selling is gambling ? of course if i have 5 apples, i already know i will get profit for 5 apples, if i am succeeded selling it. but definitely not if i only sell, say less than 3 apples. the lost and profit is countable. and selling is not about probability. that’s about going out there and try to find a buyer, because the product is there. it’s real. so i don’t understand how come business or doing investment is consider as gambling ? and some people even going to far to make raising your own child consider as gambling ?

  • Lesego Motsweta says:

    yes I still think forex trading is gambling, I tried it before though I did not understand much of what I was taught and loosing a lot of money made me realize I was just like a punter in a different platform of betting

  • Lesego Motsweta says:

    can I make a career out of Forex trading?
    I do not want to work a white collar job all my life

  • abir says:

    Forex reminds me of establishing privately controlled central bank by making public fool or hypocrite. Its Gentle form of Gambling. It pushed many religious and moral people in gamble by confusing them, Those wouldn’t try forex if they knew it clearly. I know many muslims including me gambled in forex without knowing that its gamble. Its more unethical than gamble because its based on hypocrisy. I think only hypocrite or illiterate will call it trading rather than gamble.

  • Larrio says:

    So Justin, you are not in anyway discouraging anyone from looking at this (forex trading) as a stable income generating venture to embark upon….Right? As for your definition, life choices in themselves, are gambles. They are accompanied with the possibility of positive or negative consequences.That said, I am just beginning out on trading,.,…. are the prospect good?

  • Zoa says:

    Yes it is. Because simply not anyone can tell what tomorrow will bring, eventually trading is a game of GUESSING with some kind of probabilities along.

  • […] like the casinos. A casino makes business decisions based on probabilities, not possibilities. By thinking in terms of probabilities, you will inevitably begin stacking the odds in your favor. That’s how a profitable Forex trader […]

  • Steven " Ghatto" says:

    I think Justin hit it on da spot. If we could just undastand da meaning of da word gamble we’d vividly comprehend what he emphasis concerning diz topic. In simple, gamble means to bet with in a game or play with intention of predicting da unknown outcome. Da same is what people do with forex irrespective of technicalities and whatsoever analysis used. Bear in mind its a “game” with rules entailed. That’s it, all forex traders are gamblers. Oh by da way, next time when someone ask u if u are a gambler or not just say “yes” but i do it with ma gadget or @ home in ma room not in a casino. Thanx justin u just hit it on da spot and I bliv diz will aid also those who do not wan2 involve themselves in gamble.

  • Guest says:

    But what i wonder is how did the “Forex” company have a lot of money that can be withdrawed by millions of “traders”

    • M+Qadir+Khan says:

      All the brokers giving them!

  • M Qadir Khan says:

    Forex is completely gambling as like you are doing it in Casino, but Casino is better than forex because Casino is based on your luck but forex is man made machine which want you to loose only…. (hungry of SL and opposite trend to your order)!

  • Luckybest says:

    I don’t agree Forex is gambling, because nothing is 100% in life. If you consider Forex as gambling meaning all business and investment are gambling

    • M+Qadir+Khan says:

      We can understand all the other business but Forex is a machine where someone control the trend!!! (Some one is driving like a car)

  • Delad says:

    I want to believe whatever you have control over is not gambling. Therefore, I am of the opinion that casino owners, except casino players, are not gamblers. Otherwise casinos will be shutting down often.

    Mastering the Forex trading is like having control over the trade which can effectively mitigate against losses. And oh, there are risks everywhere and in everything we do. If you drive a car, there are risks.

    If you are a learner in driving a car, you will definitely crash the car before you get anywhere, cos you have no control – (this is likened to newbies in fx trading).

    And if you’re an expert and a master in driving, you can drive from new york to carlifornia without a scratch, cos you have control – (this is likened to pros in fx trading).

    With skills, the pros are able to maneuver so that at the long run, profits far outweigh losses.

    On the other hand, when you stake your moneys into playing games involving cards and dice (for which you have no control of the outcome) then that is gambling. Just my own candid opinion, and my perspective.

    • Qadir Khan says:

      Shark can eat us anytime and anywhere, I tested everything it is not base on supply and demands, but It is like a physiological gambling. “Some one controlling trend because why it is going up and down so fast i don’t think world is changing that much fast economically means fundamental wise”. Anyway there must be a way i can understand this but again it is base on your luck.

  • Cletus Albert says:

    Yes it is a little gamble as I think…most of the things we do in life which we are unsure of their outcomes are merely gambling..
    But what makes us not to name them so is nothing More than “our attitudes towards respective deals on the table.”

  • Idrees barney says:

    I started trading forex less than 3 months learning from a 3 years in experience friend, yes he wasnt ok finacially but myself always think what to put money on so I reach out to him, it wasnt comfortable but I had to endure to learn I made more money from my business so I funded his broker account, open a new trading account for my self funded that too change his gadget to give a perfect chance of a good trading opportunity even get more trading gadget he never had.

    Well he still needed more to get a better trading point but thats all I could do.

    His imagination is big just as mine so I belived every process, I realised we make a lot of profit but we end up in loss in the same position. I didnt realised it was a big problem but I thought what made us see so much profit if I can invest larger sum we can start making enough to take our profit early so I orchestrated a friend and he agreed to invest a larger sum the when open a well reliable broker in my name and funded the account to start the trading. Then I made a mistake on the second position using a larger lots size we both agreed to leave the position and it leads to 30% loss, instead of feeling depressed we learnt our lesson and he entered few position we gained 20% of the loss in two days but we he didnt encourage us to close the position so I didnt until the same trade went back to over 70% of the funds here was his mistake:

    he mastered and know the trend direction so well because he had dedicated so much time to trading, but he always believe hes right and expect the profit to continue.

    Even at loss he still believe it will still move back to profit and he move the stop loss

    He enters multiple position because he wants to recover loss on the same trade that he thought had retraced to continue his predicted direction

    Afterall he quited or some time now I still have less than 10% of the fund in the account waiting for the perfect time to gamble with it.

    We should just make it black or white same thing wont work for all it depends on how you learn your lesson

    Nothing like (semi gamble)
    Just believe in what you believe wont hurt your future

    Tomorrow is a mythical land that we journey into nobody knows what it holds we can only assure a good outcome by making best of today, so make the best of your odds

    Instead to feel like I learnt nothing and all my sacrife to gain is wasted. I learnt from his mistake and yes I will gamble with a very good odd.

    Thanks for reading but am not a writer.

    • Hayden says:

      Idrees
      I like your wisdom which is true payment for experiences wether positive or negative.
      regards
      Hayden

  • william c says:

    Sure is gambling

  • Hayden says:

    I love your post but even with your amazing insight, you and others will not accept logic and common sense and I say this with the greatest of respect.
    You do not get to see the dealers hand because there are millions of dealers plus the economies tug of war for say GBP USD in this example.
    Traders think that studying the post graph movement will help them but I ask why as that movement is an average or accumulative effect of the unknown.
    The infinitesimal variations of all the associated underline reasons become useless by the time they create the post mono graph movement. Traders are fascinated and deluded enough to apply strategies training mentoring signals and skill to the post graph and pay good money to be able to do so which in turn creates other unfortunate byproducts in the forex scenario.

    You are quite correct, forex is gambling which is fine but there are two salient points which are as follows.

    One
    Traders are not leaving their money in long enough to give fluctuation a chance of success and setting stop losses when your only loosing is plain stupid because would you invest £5000 in whatever and stop when your loosing £300, of course not.

    Two
    Traders do not have any insight into what all the underline factors in future accumulation will do to the graph because they do not know ever what those underline factors are and how they ever will come together on going.

    Thanks for this opportunity to state logic and common sense, though not as dynamic as the fascinating claims out there, never the less, are the truth.
    Hayden Harris

  • Beckie says:

    Guest put it out right. Everything in life is a gamble.
    Choose your fight(gamble) from all available options and either make it work or it will work you.
    Everything is about odds!

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