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The Complete TurtleTrader: How 23 Novice Investors Became Overnight Millionaires Paperback – February 24, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 295 customer reviews

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  • The Complete TurtleTrader: How 23 Novice Investors Became Overnight Millionaires
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Covel (Trend Following) revisits a famous financial trading experiment conducted by Wall Street trader Richard Dennis and extracts its lessons with mixed results. Dennis, who quickly learned how to trade after starting as a runner at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in 1966 at age 17, had made a reported $200 million by 1983. To settle an argument with fellow trader William Eckhardt about whether trading ability was innate or could be taught, he put an ad in the Wall Street Journal offering to teach candidates how to trade in two weeks, and then backed them with his own money. Of the thousands of people who who applied, 23 turtles were accepted. Their trading made $100 million for Dennis, leading some to become highly successful traders in their own right. Having tracked down most of the people involved, Covel describes the turtle training, including rules for entering and exiting trades as well as Dennis and Eckhardt's personal lessons, and speculates on why some turtles succeeded more than others. However, there are too many characters with competing interests, and many missing facts. Covel's own strong views can also get more emphasis than the voices of the principals. Still, the book is a useful training manual distilling the lessons of a fascinating experiment. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Tells the ‘real stories’ rather than just the glossy good bits—a thoroughly good read.” (Your Trading Edge)

“This warmly written book brilliantly captures the formation and evolution of the legendary Turtle investment program. It is loaded with wonderful anecdotal insights plus lessons on trading, risk, and life we should all follow. It should be on any novice or seasoned trader’s bookshelf alike. A must read!” (Michael Shannon, Original Turtle)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; 1/25/09 edition (February 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061241717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061241710
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (295 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The first impression one gets from The Complete Turtle Trader is quite favorable. It is an attractive format, and a pretty easy read, though well written and detailed. The primary text is about 200 pages, which I got through in a single afternoon (though I do read faster than most). And the price tag is extremely reasonable for a hardcover trading book, much lower than what you often see.

This book definitely continues along the path of the trend trading subject of Covel's earlier book, Trend Following, but does so through the story of the famous Turtles. Readers of Jack Schwager's book, Market Wizards, and it's follow-up, The New Market Wizards, will be familiar with the Turtles. They are the result of a nature vs. nurture running debate between famous futures trader Richard Dennis (a Market Wizard) and his partner William Eckhardt (profiled in The New Market Wizards).

The Turtle program was an effort to determine whether traders can be created, developed through training as opposed to having some innate talent for it. This topic has been the subject of debates in trading circles for probably as long as there has been traders. To a certain degree, the classic movie Trading Places, which was released very near the time of the first Turtle program, has at it's core the same theme.

In The Complete Turtle Trader, as the subtitle suggests, Covel tells the story of the Turtles from the selection process which brought together two very diverse groups of people in 1983 and 1984 all the way through to where they are today. It includes a discussion of their training program, their performance, and of course the ideas underlying the system they employed, one based on trend following.
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Format: Hardcover
In The Complete TurtleTraders, author Michael W. Covel tells the riveting account of a group of investors who were led by one remarkable man, Richard Dennis (with the help of his partner, William Eckhardt). Dennis was somewhat of an iconoclast, not brought up through the ranks of Fortune 500 company grooming programs, figuring out his own methods for making money.

Dennis was a successful investor who believed that investing
principles could be taught to anyone. His partner, William Eckhardt, disagreed, tending to believe that the talent was inborn. Their differing views formed the basis for a bet between the two men and led to one of the more remarkable experiments in investing history.

Basically, Dennis agreed to find a diverse group of individuals, give each recruit $1 million dollars, put them through two weeks of intensive training, teach them specific investing principles and methods and see how well they'd do after that. To add to the challenge, Dennis and his partner (who agreed to help teach the recruits) hired people from all walks of life.

Exactly how diverse was the group? Well, there was a security guard, a restaurant manger, an unemployed student, a bartender, kitchen cook, teacher and even a prison worker. Covel describes in detail how Dennis
interviewed and selected each recruit, nicknaming them "The Turtles". He also chronicles their 14 days of intensive training. It wasn't easy but the potential rewards were great.

While the account of the Turtles' experiences is reason enough to buy this book, I want to stress that it is more than the story of that remarkable group of individuals.
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Format: Hardcover
"The Complete Turtle Trader" details the story of an experiment to determine if traders were born, not made (or vice-versa), as well as provide a basic foundation in pattern trading. Fundamental analysis (eg. Warren Buffett) is seen as pointless - value is already reflected in an item's price. Instead, trading is based on mob psychology, and is clearly not income-averaging either.

System I: A four-week price break-out was a signal for market entry, and a two-week breakout in the opposite direction a signal for exit. System I was also combined with "filters" to reduce the number of entries. System II instead used an eleven-week breakout to enter, and a four-week signal to exit. There were also a few add-on rules to cover markets that increased over a sustained period of time.

Traders typically used 2% of their funds for each "bet," and were also warned to avoid correlation within their portfolios (increased overall risk). Another risk-limiting rule was to limit themselves to 4-5 "units" of 2% for any one market.

The experiment demonstrated that most anyone could be taught to be a successful traders, and most made considerable profit for both themselves and their funders.

The "bad news" about "The Complete Turtle Trader" is that most of the book is taken up with minute and largely irrelevant details of initial trader selection, personality differences, etc.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1983, Richard Dennis and William Eckhardt set out to settle the nature-vs-nurture debate insofar as it applied to commodities trading. One of the most successful and iconic traders of the early 1980s, Richard Dennis believed that the skills required to trade profitably could be taught. William Eckhardt, his partner at C&D Commodities, thought a trader's success relied on innate ability. They placed an advertisement in financial periodicals seeking trainees for the position of Commodities Futures Trader, no experience required. From over a thousand applicants, they chose eight, provided 2 weeks training in Dennis' trend-following technical trading system, gave them each an account of $1 million, and set them loose to trade. They were called the Turtles.

"The Complete Turtle Trader" is a history of the Turtle Trader experiment and its legacy. Author Michael Covel gives us some background on Richard Dennis, an eccentric, famously liberal man who started out trading by proxy on the Merc as a teenager. He then takes us through the Turtles selection process, including the questionnaire that prospective Turtles were asked to complete. For those interested in their trading system, there is a chapter on "The Philosophy" and one explaining "The Rules". This is a basic trend-following system: Buy/sell when it makes a new high/low over a designated period. Set stops at 2 times average daily volatility. Pyramid your winners. For every 10% drawdown, cut size by 20%.

The story really became interesting to me in chapters 6-8, which talk about the dynamics between the traders and the realities of the Turtle program for its 4-year duration.
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