1. Multi-candle patterns are more reliable
The more candles a specific pattern contains, the more reliable it usually is. 3 candle patterns are better than single candle patterns. 30 candle patterns are usually better than 3 candle patterns.
Here’s an example:
2. Wait for confirmation
Confirmation means that instead of entering when the pattern completes, it’s often helpful to see if the price will follow through. To make sure that I get confirmation, I enter just a little bit above or below the pattern, depending on which direction I suspect the price will go. This way, you can avoid fake-outs where price reverses on you, leaving the inexperienced traders in the cold.
Seasoned traders know to wait for confirmation.
Also don’t get into the habit of entering trades before the pattern completes. It’s tempting to want to enter when the last leg of a head and shoulders pattern is almost complete as you would get a better price, but it’s just as likely that the price reverses before the price action pattern completes, leaving you with a loss instead of the result you hoped for. Waiting for pattern completion shows patience, which is a personality trait every trader should have.
Here’s an example:
These are the candles that follow:
Now which scenario do you prefer?
3. Know where to place your stop loss
Knowing where to place an order is just the beginning. Where do you place your stop loss? Fixed pips stop loss levels are hardly a good approach since the market volatility can change and every trade should be looked at within the context of the recent market history. There are a few strategies to place stop losses like a boss, and I’m going to share them with you.
This is the easiest (and in many situations the best) option. When you see a price action pattern, you take the high of that pattern, add a few pips (± 5) and place your stop loss there. This is a good strategy because many times, the price will not go further than the high or low that the price action pattern created.
Stop loss half-way the pattern
It often happens with pin bars with a very long wick. It is riskier than our previous option though, since there is more of a possibility that the price will actually retest certain levels, as long as it stays within bounds of the pattern. But taking into account R:R, this can still be a good approach.
4. Always look for confluence
This is absolutely one of the most important secrets you have to know about. Confluence is everything.
So you’ve found a sweet price action setup. Great! Now make sure it has confluence, meaning that it coincides with other valid signals that support your trading idea. Here’s a triple top and previous high confluence:
Price action pattern happens at a meaningful support or resistance zone
Divergence on RSI
The pattern happens at a fibonacci retracement level
The pattern happens at a pivot point
It’s a break and retest setup
The very simple rule is: the more confluence you can have, the better the setup is.
5. Tell a story of what happened
Every chart tells a story. It might be a story of clear direction or a story of messy back-and-forth battling between buyers and sellers. In a similar way, we can talk about clean price action vs messy price action. It is up to the trader to find the story and better understand what the market might do.
The buyers were initially in control and pushed the price quite high. Eventually, they hit a resistance zone and had trouble keeping the price at this level. Sellers regained control and violently pushed price back down. But the buyers won’t just give up! In the second wave, they move the price back up until – you guessed it – sellers blocked their path and regained control.
This goes on for a couple of times and is characterised by lots of strong up and down moves, lots of candles with long wicks combined with candles with large bodies and – most importantly – a general lack of clear direction. You can define some resistance and support zones, but the price action is rather messy and it is not something I would trade.
Clearly, in the left part of the chart snapshot, the buyers are in control. We see large green candles pushing upwards with very little counterweight from the sellers. There is a slight pause on the way up, this is what we would call a consolidation. The buyers catch a break, so to speak. After this consolidation period, we again see a strong push upwards. Candles are mostly defined by large bodies and relatively small wicks.
Now I want you to focus on the sequence of 4 candles at the top of the structure. At some point, we can see a large bullish candle, followed by a small bearish pin bar followed by a rather large indecision candle (the one with the long upper and lower wicks) and finally a strong bearish candle. This should already ring the alarm bell.
Let’s go through it step by step: the large bullish candle is a so-called exhaustion candle. The reason this candle is the largest of them all is that at this point, the most buyers finally are aware of this uptrend and so the most buyers are in the game. The imbalance between buyers and sellers is the largest here.
Next we see that at some price level, sellers start to push the price down, but don’t yet succeed (the bearish pin bar). There are still too much buyers that believe this will go higher, so it takes some more time. The next candle is what you could call an indecision candle candle, but I would call it the squeeze candle. Buyers are “squeezed” to keep their position and a lot will sell at a loss. At the same time, sellers see the price going down and are more convinced they are on the right side of the move. There is no victor yet and the battle continues until the last candle, where we see a strong move down and the sellers take control. The tide has turned and they will push the price further down.
What would you prefer to trade? The first or the second scenario?
I know what story gives me the most confidence on the direction of the price.
Clean price action and being able to tell a convincing story about what price is doing will help you in making better trading decisions. While it may take some time to be able to read charts like this, it is done purely by interpreting price action.
6. Find the major inflection points
Inflection points are areas that mark the beginning of a fundamentally different behaviour of the price. They are the big spikes indicating rejection of a certain price level, the turning points in the direction of the market. It’s characterised by a big concentration of buyers and/or sellers. It’s where the big moves happen. Inflection points often form a part of your support and resistance as well, and you will see that a lot of those inflection points regularly line up to be at the same price level.
These points (or areas) are important because there will be a lot of buyers and sellers looking at them. Lots of buyers and sellers will have orders close by that will trigger. Stop losses and take profits will be around these levels. It is therefore important that you keep an eye on these levels. But how do you find them?
Let’s look at an example:
Basically, all areas where one of the following happens:
A major spike
A lot of increased activity
A major turning point in price direction
It takes some experience to know what the important inflection points on a chart are, but usually, the larger the spike or the stronger the move, the more important the inflection point will be. These points can line up with other inflection points to form support and resistance zones, which brings us to the next item.
7. Identify key support & resistance zones
Support and resistance (or S&R for short) are terms used to denote areas where price reverses at its lowest point (support) and highest point (resistance) on a chart. Often, these zones are “tested” multiple times as traders look for increased buyer and seller activity around these levels. It’s important to note that support and resistance are usually not thin lines, but rather zones. This example should make things clearer:
Trending support & resistance
Support and resistance levels do not have to be horizontal either. Here is an example of support and resistance in an uptrend:
Dynamic support & resistance
Finally, support and resistance can also be defined by dynamic lines, for example using moving averages or Bollinger bands boundaries (see, it’s not forbidden to use indicators – just know when they’re useful).
Here’s an example of dynamic resistance (note that price can still pierce through it sometimes, it’s not an exact science):
Market reaction to support and resistance levels
I’ve found that horizontal support and resistance lines are usually more reliable than trend lines and dynamic S&R, but this depends on the situation and the amount of times a specific support or resistance level has been tested.
On the one hand, the more times a level of support & resistance has been tested, the more people will have eyes on that level so it will hold more easily. On the other hand, you have to consider the amount of buyers and sellers for a certain level. Every time a specific level has been tested, less buyers and sellers will be left to keep the level intact for the next time. This means that after a few tests, price might eventually break through it after all.
All of these things should be considered when defining your support and resistance. The more you do it, the better you will get at it.
8. The best price action is clean to the left
When you look at a price action setup on a chart, you will find that the best setups are usually clean to the left. What I mean by that is that ideally, the candles that precede the price action setup haven’t been around the same price levels that your price action setup is in.
9. Avoid price action in narrow ranges
Price action in narrow ranges is often less meaningful than when price makes a new high or low, or at least goes to a level that hasn’t been touched in a while. In narrow ranges, there is often too much buyer and seller activity going on to make some price action setup valid. This is similar to the previous point about having charts that are clean to the left of the price action, but expands on that.
A better approach could be to wait for a range breakout and look for price action setups there. A good way to measure if the price is in a narrow range is by using Bollinger bands. If the bands contract a lot, there is less and less volatility and price might be ranging. On the other hand, if the bands expand again, you will often see price trending or making bigger moves:
10. Context is everything
Depending on where a price action setup occurs, you should interpret it differently. The same pin bar could be bullish or bearish, depending if they show up at the bottom of a downtrend or top of an uptrend, respectively. Not all patterns are also worth taking if they are not preceded by the right price action and happen at the levels that are in one way or the other of significance. This significance usually comes from confluent signals, which is the topic of secret 10.
This next chart shows exactly what I mean. There are multiple pin bars on the way up, but they’re not really meaningful as they don’t occur at levels that are significant. It’s clear that every single one of the pin bars lacks follow through and instead of a reversal, price keeps grinding higher. Keep in mind that the context of price action is everything.
Employing price action strategies is one of the most fundamental and powerful ways for a trader to become profitable. At the same time, it’s often not well understood and there are a quite a few misconceptions about it. In this guide, I’ve exposed some of the secrets to make price action work for you, providing you with examples to get the most out of your journey into the price action trading world.
It might take some time to get used to, but I believe price action trading is one of the best ways to understand markets. This doesn’t even only apply to forex, but a trader who understands price action can apply this to all kinds of financial markets such as futures, stocks, commodities and more. It’s about describing and understanding what’s at the core of every market.
Although I’ve tried to be as complete as possible in a single article, I might have not covered all topics you wanted. If you have questions about a specific part of this price action secrets guide, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments.
Good luck becoming a successful price action trader!