Working with Market Orders in Orderflow: A Trader’s Guide

Real-World Dynamics: Large Market Orders and Order Book Interaction

Today, let’s dive into the world of market orders and limit orders in orderflow analysis. 

By definition, limit orders, also known as resting orders, sit at one place and function as liquidity providers. On the other hand, market orders are the ‘movers and shakers’ who give you the fast moves you see on your charts. Market Orders are executed orders which execute where the market is trading currently. Limit orders are resting above or below the trading price of the instrument and are not triggered at that moment.

Think of market orders as you wanting to travel immediately by flight/train and you will pay the price to get a seat as long as you are assured you will be in the flight/train.

For those who want to have a quick refresh on Orderflow concepts go here –

The Key to Faster Price Movements: Market Orders

Dall·e 2023 12 10 15.18.25 A Split Image Illustrating Two Different Concepts. On The Left A Bustling Marketplace Full Of Activity To Represent Market Orders. Picture A Crowded Working With Market Orders In Orderflow: A Trader'S Guide Orderflow Trading

On the left we have a bustling market place full of enthusiastic buyers and sellers and on the right a calmer market volume wise.

When you see a market moving quickly up or down, know that there are a large many market orders in that market. 

A calmer marketplace will have many limit orders and less market orders.

What if?

Imagine a marketplace devoid of market orders. Prices would only move when a limit buyer and a limit seller miraculously met at the same price, leading to slow and deliberate price changes. Volume would be low, and liquidity would disappear, creating a stagnant trading environment.

But then, enter the market order. Suddenly, the market explodes with activity. Limit orders are filled, volatility increases, and prices start galloping. With each market order executed, the price takes another leap, creating the dramatic movements we witness on our charts.

This is why understanding how to track market orders is crucial for navigating the fast-paced world of trading.


The Birth of Delta Analysis:

Back in 2002, a revolutionary change happened – the Footprint chart was introduced by MarketDelta. It was like suddenly having x-ray vision into the market’s soul, revealing the intensity of market orders at each price level.

This innovation was the brainchild of MarketDelta and Linnsoft, who made it possible for traders like us to see the market in a new light.


In the context of order flow charts, particularly in derivative trading, “delta”  refers to the difference between the volume of market orders buying and market order selling at each price level.

The key word is Market

The delta for each price level is calculated by subtracting the volume of sell market orders from the volume of buy market orders. The formula looks like this:

Delta=Volume of Market Buy Orders−Volume of Market Sell Orders

If more market buy orders are executed, the delta is positive, indicating buying pressure. Conversely, if more market sell orders are executed, the delta is negative, indicating selling pressure.

The Trade

 Delta is typically calculated using only the market orders, as they are the ones that actively drive the price movement by seeking immediate execution. Limit orders, while they facilitate these transactions, are passive and do not represent immediate market action in the same way.

Imagine a scenario in the market where you’re observing the trading of a particular asset. Here’s how the orders are placed:

  1. Market Buy Order: A trader places a market order to buy 100 contracts. This is an “aggressive” order because it’s executed immediately at the best available selling price.

  2. Matching Limit Sell Orders: To fulfill this market buy order, there are limit sell orders already in the order book. Suppose there are limit orders totaling 100 contracts at the price the market buy order is executed.

Now, let’s talk about the Delta calculation and why including limit orders would be duplicative:

  • Delta Calculation with Market Order: When you calculate Delta, you include the 100 contracts from the market buy order. This shows a buying pressure of 100 contracts.

  • If Limit Orders Were Included: If you were to also include the limit orders in the Delta calculation, you would add the 100 contracts from the limit sell orders. However, these 100 contracts from the limit sell orders are the exact same contracts bought by the market buy order.

So, if both the market order and the matching limit orders are included in the Delta calculation, you end up counting the same 100 contracts twice:

Beyond Delta: Unveiling the True Power of Market Orders

Whilst delta provides a snapshot of buy versus sell volume, it fails to capture the true power of market orders and their impact on price movements. This is where the concept of Initiative Buyers (IB’s) and Initiative Sellers (IS’s) becomes crucial.

IB’s and IS’s represent aggressive market orders that execute at the best available price, pushing the market beyond the current bid/ask spread, and leave a significant imprint on the entire price bar, not just the execution price.

Cumulative impact

A cluster of IBs within a price bar indicates aggressive buying pressure

We look for IB +IB patterns to indicate the new excessive demand. This can be seen in any 1 minute, 3 minute , 5 minute or 30 minute bar.

The appearance of IB bars quickly in shorter time frame bars has a large effect on price moving higher

A cluster of IS’s within a price bar indicates aggressive selling pressure

We look for IS +IS patterns to indicate the new excessive supply. This can be seen in any 1 minute, 3 minute , 5 minute or 30 minute bar.

The appearance of IS bars quickly in shorter time frame bars has a large effect on price moving lower

You can see the IB and IS getting executed in live markets at

Practical Tips for Traders:

Here’s a pro tip – look for patterns like IB+IB in upward moving markets or IS+IS in downward ones on your short time frame charts. It’s like having a secret signal that a big move is coming.

And remember, in a fast-moving market, don’t just stand there with a limit order; be bold, go for a market order. The market waits for no one.

Dall·e 2023 12 10 16.12.58 A Vivid Scene Depicting Traffic Lights Turning Green Symbolizing The Go Signal In Trading. The Traffic Light Should Be Prominently Displayed In An Working With Market Orders In Orderflow: A Trader'S Guide Orderflow Trading

So, fellow traders, understanding market orders in orderflow is crucial. It’s not just a strategy; it’s the science of the markets. Our tools at can help automate and simplify this for you. We also have 12 explainer videos for those who are looking for more information on this

Next time you see a market zooming, remember, it’s the market orders driving the show. 

Stay sharp, trade smart!

Dall·e 2023 12 10 16.16.15 A Dynamic Image Of A Rocket Launching Representing The Rapid Movement In Markets Driven By Market Orders. The Rocket Should Be Depicted Mid Launch W Working With Market Orders In Orderflow: A Trader'S Guide Orderflow Trading