It isn’t a real $50,000, of course. It’s virtual money and you risk it in virtual trades, learning how the software works and how to use it and then making trades until (or this is the hope) you feel sufficiently secure to start trading for real. Once that happens, you’ll be covering your own losses, but you’ll also be able to draw out your profits, which, of course, isn’t possible with any virtual money you win by getting the trades right.
I found this correspondence especially fascinating because the writer is a professional online poker player—a gambler by trade. Yet here he is trying to convince his dad that online gambling is a bad thing. I agree, it is. But it's understandable if the father is skeptical about advice from a son who does the same sort of thing, albeit in a different form.
Binary options advocates have been fighting for years to clear up the status of options as a trading market and not a gambling game. Still, many traders enter the market in this belief and treat it as a game where they hope to gain money on random trade picks as if they are at the bookmaker’s. As someone who wants to make options their profession, you have to see it as it is, trading which requires brains, thinking, estimations, and assessment. In order not to cross the fine line between trading and gambling, you should make a deposit plan and stick to it, e.g. you invest the precise amount you planned and not a single cent more. Traders often get caught up in the moment and want to regain their lost investments with a single winning trade, and exceed their budget limits, and that is exactly what you should avoid. Distribute your deposit as planned and do not fall into the temptation to trade beyond your means.
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Binary options are often considered a form of gambling rather than investment because of their negative cumulative payout (the brokers have an edge over the investor) and because they are advertised as requiring little or no knowledge of the markets. Gordon Pape, writing in Forbes.com in 2010, called binary options websites "gambling sites, pure and simple", and said "this sort of thing can quickly become addictive... no one, no matter how knowledgeable, can consistently predict what a stock or commodity will do within a short time frame".