On The Turtle Myth: Michael Covel vs. Curtis Faith

If you’re a fan of trading literature, the chances are good that you have encountered the term “Turtle” before. What's the big deal about the "Turtles?" I won't attempt to duplicate the already voluminous information found on the web and books about them (I listed tons of links below). But in a nutshell, the “Turtles” are a group of commodity traders who were taught by Chicago speculators Richard Dennis and William Eckhart back in the 1980s. These traders were just people from all walks of life who were recruited and trained by Dennis and Eckhart as part of an experiment to answer the question:

Can trading skill be learned, or is the ability innate to a person?

I first encountered the Turtle story when I read the book: Market Wizards, by Jack Schwager in a university library back in my college years. The book contained an interview of Richard Dennis and some details on their experiment. I later also read Jack Schwager’s sequel: The New Market Wizards, which had interviews on William Eckhart and two of the Turtles, which explored the Turtle topic further, although after those two books, very little else was revealed about the Turtles until later.

Evidently the Turtles became a very a successful group of traders who practiced a straightforward trendfollowing system method taught to them by Dennis and Eckhart. It’s now nearly a decade since I first read Market Wizards, and more than twenty years since the Turtle experiment, and suddenly greater public awareness is being generated on this due partly to the efforts of two individuals.

Outside of the Market Wizards books, Michael Covel was one of the first to bring widespread awareness of the Turtle story and their trendfollowing methods to the public, through his website Turtletrader (http://www.turtletrader.com). He was also selling the turtle system through the website for USD900++. He was never part of the original Turtles, and has never been confirmed as ever being a trader himself, but he has provided access to a wealth of information on trendfollowing trading and the Turtles as well as other notable Wall Street personalities.

The other individual that has brought attention to the Turtle story is Curtis Faith, who was a member of the original Turtles under Dennis and Eckhart. He first gained public attention through a website (http://www.originalturtles.org) which originally criticized Covel’s website for profiteering by peddling on the turtle system. He countered by providing the system for free, with Dennis’ permission. Although he later retracted his public criticism of Covel on the website, this was the beginning of a rivalry that continues to this day.

Critics of Covel stress that his lack of trading experience does not qualify him to run a website and write a book on trendfollowing. Critics of Faith (especially Covel himself) meanwhile, maintain that Faith’s claims of being the most successful Turtle are exaggerated and that actually Faith lost money since none of Faith’s trading records could be located, unlike the other Turtles. What is not in dispute is that both of them have greatly contributed to trading literature and public awareness of the Turtle story.

Both Faith and Covel have recently released their own books on the subject, and both are getting good reviews and acclaim.

Covel’s book: The Complete Turtle Trader, is a compilation of the research found on his website and a couple of interviews with some of the Turtles themselves. I’ve read the book and it is very in depth and detailed, although you can immediately tell that Covel had reserved space in his book to challenge Curtis Faith’s reputation as the most successful turtle.

Faith’s book: Way Of The Turtle, was released shortly before Covel’s book. I’ve read the book as well and it as many details on system design, and features other trading systems apart from the original Turtle System. The main difference with Covel’s book is more on the writing style: Faith’s book reads like a system design manual, while Covel’s book is more journalistic—despite much criticism of some of his facts

Apart from reading their books the best way to appreciate the rivalry between Covel and Faith is to experience their communication first hand. The two are active posters on the Elite Trader forum, and one particular thread has both of them posting about their individual sides of the Turtle question (Curtis Faith’s screen name is “Inflector” while Michael Covel’s name is “Trendfollowing”):

http://www.elitetrader.com/vb/showthread.php?s=31eb73afa691daffa7ba7593a73f8242&threadid=92696&perpage=6&pagenumber=2

Curtis Faith blogs at http://www.wayoftheturtle.com (as a side note, his most recent entry is that he is filing libel charges against Covel for stuff Covel wrote in his book and a recent SFO magazine article). The turtle rules he released for free to counter Covel’s efforts can be downloaded at: http://www.robbooker.com/woodchuck/training/turtles/turtlerules.pdf (courtesy of Rob Booker)

Michael Covel blogs at http://www.michaelcovel.com. The SFO magazine article he wrote that has Faith all riled up can be found at: http://trendfollowing.com/whitepaper/TM_NovDec2007_ShellShock.pdf

Howard Lindzon’s great website: Wallstrip (http://www.wallstrip.com) also featured interviews with Covel and Faith, and it’s particularly interesting to hear them both explain their sides and about turtle trading and trendfollowing:

Michael Covel’s Wallstrip Interview
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQwXXm2SNQg

Curtis Faith’s Wallstrip Interview
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3pGf_yuyBA

As a final note, all of the books I mentioned above (Market Wizards, The New Market Wizards, TurtleTrader, and Way of the Turtle) are all available at Fully Booked as of the time of this writing.

All of the above are good stuff and recommended reading for all traders.

Comments

  1. any short synopsis on what is the turtle trading style?

  2. Turtle trading is basically trend following: Entries and exits are breakout entries (e.g. breakout of 20 day high or breakdown of 20 day low). Positions are entered partially as the trend progresses based on a volatility calculation (i.e. ATR). Position sizes are also sized on volatility vs. size of equity. For more info, check the PDF link above.

    A criticism of turtle trend following is that a very low percentage of trades are successful (less than 30%), and the system banks on an outsized trade to make up for all the losses–by pyramiding into the position.

  3. Michael Covel says:

    Readers would be well advised to read Chapters 11, 12, and 13 of my book “The Complete TurtleTrader”. My book is the only complete and factual outline of the Turtle story. I challenge readers to show where the “facts” are wrong.

  4. Turtle trading sucks. Warren Buffett rocks ! Dennis Richards went bankcrupt after several years. Benjamin Graham would be smiling when he reads about this. Value investing is still the best way to go !

  5. Turtle trading sucks. Warren Buffett rocks ! Dennis Richards went bankrupt after several years. Benjamin Graham would be smiling when he reads about this. Value investing is still the best way to go !

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