Book Review: The Bull, the Bear, and the Baboon by Winsor Hoang

The Bull, the Bear, and the Baboon: FX Lessons Learned the Hard Way is a unique book in the Forex industry. Unfortunately, it gives an ambiguous impression. Still it is one of the most useful books that a newbie trader may decide to read.
The Bull, the Bear, and the Baboon combines fiction (of a mediocre quality) with lessons on the FX market. You get a rather interesting story to follow, with several believable characters, which are based on real-life people. At the same time, you will be learning about the most important aspects of modern retail currency trading — both from the stories directly and from the summary bullet point lists presented by author after each chapter.
The Bull, the Bear, and the Baboon was written by Winsor Hoang — a Canadian computer engineer turned trader, who is currently running CTS Forex managed fund. The author himself is presented in the book as one of the story’s characters, so the book is partially autobiographical. Although Winsor had some media attention as a trader before the release of the book, it is his first publication related to trading. The book was published rather recently (September 2013), but it already features quite a few positive reviews online.
I will try to describe the book without getting into too much detail. It starts off by describing a career path of Harry, a successful stock trader and broker who loses everything in 
dot-com crash. Harry soon learns about Forex trading and, failing as a trader, decides to become a “Forex expert” and teach others how to trade. Then the story centers around seven of Harry’s students who possess their own personalities, trading styles, weak and strong sides. Somewhere in-between, a story of Robert, a head of an offshore brokerage company, is introduced to readers.
The main ideas of the book according to my understanding are listed below:

  • The industry is full of false experts and gurus who, while acting completely legally (or close to that), deceive wannabe traders into believing that Forex is a quick road to riches and independence. At the same time, these mentors have nothing original to teach. They sell the same information that is freely available online.
  • A trader has no chance at beating the market unless he works hard for years to get enough experience, to develop his trading strategy and to master own self.
  • A small retail trader cannot stand against a crooked broker (and all brokers are more or less crooked, especially when dealing with the mini and micro accounts).
  • A significant capital is required both in trading money and money for living in order to become successful in Forex. One should have enough money to “restart” own trading accounts and to sustain oneself while pursuing such a risky and unpredictable career.
  • You should find your own trading edge (your advantage over other traders) or stay out of the FX game.
  • Automated trading is one of the most plausible ways to success in Forex as it can definitely serve as your edge against the market.
  • As you see, Winsor Hoang offers a rather refreshing view on the process of profiting in Forex market compared to what you usually read from books or brokers’ websites. He not only does not advertise Forex as an easy road to financial freedom, he also warns that it may be a very harmful endeavor for the vast majority of people. The following quote summarizes the book pretty well:

    Therefore, despite being a nice fantasy, trading on the beach remains a dream for virtually all novice traders.

    Let me point out some of the book’s advantages that I really liked:

  • Straightforward criticism of the industry’s marketing tactics, broker techniques and the poor understanding of Forex functioning in general. In my opinion, Hoang manages to tell us about all the possible pitfalls in this field.
  • While providing a lot of warnings to prevent inflow of unsuspecting FX marketing victims into the game, the author offers a lot of useful information to those who persist on the path to becoming a profitable trader. Although he does not teach any particular strategy, he writes about what is important in trader’s approach to the market.
  • A great overview of the ways used by brokers to cheat small-time traders. The author includes those brokers based in offshore zones and in the over-regulated United States.
  • The fictional part of the book is good enough to keep those completely unaware of financial trading interested in the whole story.
  • It is very cheap relative to the value you can potentially gain from it. Elsewhere, you are told that Forex is great for you for free, but with this book, you are paying Winsor Hoang to be told that Forex is not for everyone and that you will most certainly fail at it.
  • Disadvantages
    As for the disadvantages, The Bull, the Bear, and the Baboon is not an exception from many other books on currency trading — it has enough of them:

  • The biggest disadvantage, in my opinion, is that the book is basically an ad for the author’s managed Forex accounts. Yeah, he talks about how foreign exchange trading is bad for you during first 200 pages and then offers a solution — his managed accounts with a nice performance record and no need to spend years on mastering the trading skills on your own.
  • The second biggest disadvantage is that, while claiming that it is important to demand proofs for everything, Winsor fails to provide any proof for his own statistical claims. For example: 92 percent of traders fail to succeed in Forex; a trading system requires at least ten thousand backtest trades and at least one thousand live trades for the results to be considered reliable. Not that I cannot believe in those numbers, but they really look like they have just been made up.
  • Summarizing the chapter 6, where he describes the broker’s cheating techniques, Winsor warns that brokers “may also try to discredit this book and its author.” While he is in his right to worry about such things, the whole passage looks like an excuse to turn down any critique of his work as a broker’s attack.
  • As you can see, there are not too many cons in Hoang’s book, but they are quite significant and you should consider if they are important to you when deciding to buy and read it.
    One the one hand, I would call it one of the most important trading books released so far, and the most important one for beginner traders. Reading The Bull, the Bear, and the Baboon is literally the best thing that can happen to you if you are new to Forex trading.
    On the other hand, if you are easily irritated by the not so good fiction and prefer your Forex books technical and well-referenced, then you should probably skip this one.
    A necessary disclaimer: I have received a free review copy of this book, so my opinion could be affected by this fact.

    If you have any questions, comments or opinions about The Bull, the Bear, and the Baboon by Winsor Hoang, please feel free to submit them using the commentary form below.

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