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Onyx Trading Education

Understanding Risk vs Reward Ratio in Trading: A Comparative Analysis of 3:1 vs 1:1


In the world of trading, understanding and effectively managing the risk-reward ratio is crucial for long-term success. This ratio helps traders make informed decisions about whether a trade is worth taking. In this blog, we will explore the concept of risk-reward ratios, particularly contrasting a 3:1 ratio with a 1:1 ratio, and discuss the statistical implications of each.

What is Risk-Reward Ratio?

The risk-reward ratio measures the potential reward of a trade relative to its potential risk. It is calculated by dividing the amount a trader stands to lose if the price moves in the unexpected direction (risk) by the potential gain if the price moves in the favorable direction (reward).

The 3:1 Risk-Reward Ratio

A 3:1 risk-reward ratio means that a trader expects to gain three times the amount they are risking. For instance, if a trader risks $100 on a trade, they aim for a potential profit of $300.

  • Statistical Advantage: This ratio is considered more conservative and is favored by many traders because it allows for a lower win rate while still being profitable. For instance, if a trader wins only 30% of their trades, they can still break even, as each winning trade compensates for three losing ones.
  • Psychological Aspect: The 3:1 ratio can be psychologically challenging because it often results in a higher number of losing trades. Traders need a disciplined mindset to cope with these losses and not deviate from their strategy.

The 1:1 Risk-Reward Ratio

Conversely, a 1:1 risk-reward ratio implies that the potential profit is equal to the potential risk. If a trader risks $100, they aim to make $100.

  • Statistical Consideration: With a 1:1 ratio, traders need to maintain a win rate of over 50% to be profitable. It's often used by traders who have a high confidence level in their trading strategy and its ability to produce more winning trades than losing ones.
  • Psychological Benefit: This ratio can be less stressful as it requires a lower win rate to break even. It suits traders who prefer more frequent wins, even if they are smaller.

Risk Management is Key

Regardless of the risk-reward ratio a trader chooses, risk management is vital. This involves setting stop-loss orders to limit potential losses, sizing positions appropriately, and not risking more than a small percentage of the capital on a single trade.

The Potential Edge of a 3:1 Risk-Reward Ratio Over 1:1

When a trader identifies a strategy that consistently allows for a 3:1 risk-reward ratio, it can significantly enhance their trading performance compared to a 1:1 ratio. Here's why:

  • Enhanced Profitability with Fewer Wins: With a 3:1 ratio, you don't need to win as many trades to be profitable. For example, if you win just 40% of your trades, you are still profitable because your winning trades yield three times more than what you lose in the losing trades. In contrast, with a 1:1 ratio, you would need to win more than 50% of the time to achieve similar profitability.
  • Greater Tolerance for Market Volatility: Markets are inherently volatile. A strategy that leverages a 3:1 ratio provides more room to navigate through this volatility. Even if a few trades don't work as expected, the higher profit margin from successful trades can compensate for these losses.
  • Strategic Flexibility: A 3:1 ratio allows traders to be more selective with their trades. Since the required win rate is lower, traders can afford to wait for the best opportunities that align with their strategy, rather than feeling pressured to enter more trades to make up for smaller margins.
  • Compounding Effect Over Time: The impact of a higher risk-reward ratio becomes more pronounced over time. With a 3:1 ratio, the profits from successful trades can significantly outweigh the losses, leading to a potentially exponential growth in your trading account, provided the strategy is consistently applied.

Conclusion with Added Perspective

Incorporating a 3:1 risk-reward ratio into a well-tested trading strategy can offer a substantial edge over a 1:1 ratio. It allows traders to achieve profitability with a lower win rate, offers more flexibility in trade selection, and can lead to greater long-term account growth. However, it's essential to remember that this approach requires strict discipline and a well-thought-out strategy that consistently identifies such favorable setups. As always in trading, there is no guaranteed path to success, but optimising your risk-reward ratio is a crucial step towards achieving your trading goals.


The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute financial, trading, or investment advice. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, nor should it be interpreted as an endorsement or recommendation for any specific trading strategy, including the use of leverage.

Trading in financial markets involves significant risk, including the possible loss of the principal amount invested. Leverage can amplify both gains and losses and may not be suitable for all investors. The use of leverage carries a high level of risk and may not be appropriate for everyone, especially considering the volatile nature of day trading.

Readers are advised to conduct their own research and due diligence and, where appropriate, seek professional advice before making any financial decisions. We do not take responsibility for individual investment decisions, losses, or profits, and we assume no liability for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this information.

This blog does not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation, or particular needs of any specific individual. The laws and regulations regarding financial trading and investing may vary from region to region, and it is the responsibility of each trader or investor to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, or company.


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