Remember the days when, in order to place a trade, we called our brokers on the phone? We told them something such as, "I want to buy 10 contracts of a CSCO FEB call at the 60.00 strike." The brokers would ask how much you wanted to pay and whether you wanted to trade on margin or cash and then would repeat all that information back to you for confirmation.
No? You can't remember ever calling a traditional broker to place a trade, and, moreover, you can't remember when CSCO was anywhere near $60.00?
Then you're probably wondering how anyone traded that way, how many missed opportunities evaporated while you were conveying all those details to your broker, and tapping fingernails against your desk in frustration while you waited for the details to be repeated back to you. However, you also may not know the hidden benefit of listening to your broker repeat the particulars of your trade back to you. "Oh, no, did I say calls? I meant puts!"
Before you hit that confirm button on your online trades, it pays to repeat the particulars of that trade out loud to yourself, just as an old-time traditional broker would have done. I am buying 12 RUT JAN13 790/800 call verticals @ 5.10, and I will be paying $6,150.00, including commissions. Oh, no, you meant to be entering a bearish trade, selling 12 RUT JAN13 RUT 790/800 call verticals @ 5.10 and collecting a credit of $6,090.00 after commissions? Good thing you repeated that confirmation order out loud to yourself and caught yourself before you bought what you meant to be selling, paying a debit instead of collecting a credit.
Do you think repeating an order out loud is silly? Can't imagine yourself placing any wrong order, much less the opposite order to the one you intended? I never had trouble believing that could happen to me. After I switched to an online trading platform and started placing my own order, my heart thundered the first few times my finger hovered over the send button. I was probably safer those times, when I was so worried, than later, when I was more used to dashing off a quick order.
Through the more than a decade that I've been using an online platform, I have sold verticals I meant to buy and vice versa. I've done each at least once. I've bought single options I meant to sell. I placed a good-till-cancelled order to buy-to-close a credit spread I'd sold for $0.75 to lock in profit. Unfortunately, I'd placed the limit for that order at $2.00, thinking that I'd put the GTC order in for my standard $0.20. I got a nasty surprise at the open the next day when the order filled immediately and I realized what I'd done. I'd bought back those spreads for $2.00 when I'd sold them for only $0.75. That was a $900 mistake.
Think I'm just a bit dippy? I'm actually fairly cautious, but our attention wanes when we're used to placing a certain kind of trade over and over. I've talked to a trader who intended to break a big trade up into three separate tranches that would fill when certain contingencies were met. Instead that trader placed three sets of the big trade that all filled when those contingencies were met. That was a nasty surprise for that trader, too, when saddled with three times the number of contracts that had been intended.
These stories aren't isolated. I talk to lots of active traders. These mistakes occur all the time.
What happens if you make a mistake like one of these? Take a deep breath. It doesn't help if you rush to reverse your error and compound the error by making another. If you're lucky enough to be trading in a liquid vehicle that isn't moving much at that moment, you may be able to exit the trade you never meant to enter none the worse except for commission costs or perhaps a little slippage. If your vehicle is a more thinly traded one or the market is moving big, the damage may be bigger, too. I've known some traders who elect to stay in such a trade and "work it." I don't do that. In my normal trading, I won't stay in a trade if the premise under which I entered the trade is proven wrong. Why would I stay in a trade I never intended to enter, the opposite of the one my premise told me was the right one?
So, repeat after me, or, rather, repeat the parameters of your trade out loud to yourself. One trader I know and respect writes a list of questions to ask herself with each trade. Is this the right number of contracts? Is this the right expiration cycle? Am I getting a credit or paying a debit, and is the amount about what I expected? Is the margin too much for my account? She tailors her list to the types of mistakes she's made in the past when placing orders.
Perhaps put the intended trade on analyze graph. Verify that it will perform the way you intended it to perform.
Day traders may argue that they don't have time to repeat these orders to themselves this way. I say you're going to pay one way or the other, in missed opportunities because you didn't get your order in fast enough or in mistakes made when you don't take the time. We all make these mistakes. We're human.