Easy(ier) Options Strategy

I have traded stocks and options for many years (decades), at one point perhaps a decade ago, doing it full time, watching the market every minute it was open and trading on advanced computer platforms with many monitors. I was mostly successful, but eventually couldn’t stand the stress and got out of everything active and got a real job (unrelated to the markets). Today I trade options when I think there will be movement (such as on FOMC days) but I do it in a way where I don’t have to think very much.

I particularly like to use what I call out of the money straddles where I simultaneously buy an equal number of calls and puts. The idea here is that they balance each other out so that risk (potential loss) is managed but if there is a big move then I make a nice profit. I don’t care which way it moves, it doesn’t matter to me in the least. Either way makes me money, and the worst case scenario is that it doesn’t move at all, but you can still get back some of your money by selling your positions which will have gone down in value a bit due to time. Not caring which way it goes allows me to trade without feeling like I need to watch it constantly.

This past FOMC, I decided to wait until the next morning to take my position because often the initial reaction that afternoon is the opposite of the actual reaction in the days that follow. I used SPY (S&P 500) as the basis for my options. 471 Call Aug 4 and 447 Put Aug 4. The market gapped up to start on Thursday, after which I bought my positions, then went down all day. My puts made great profits and I closed half of them at the end of the day. I made enough profits to pay for the remaining half of the puts plus all my calls. There was not very much movement on Friday so I still have half my puts and all my calls. If SPY decides to take the next week going exactly sideways and they all expire worthless I still will have made a profit. Meanwhile, I currently am holding options that are totally paid for so I’m looking at the possibility for free profits. If the market decides to tank next week, I’ll make a great profit on my puts. If the market decides to take off I’ll make even greater profits on my calls (because I have twice as many). If the market does nothing I still made a profit because I already closed positions that paid me more than I paid to open all these positions Thursday morning.

SPY is generally the best vehicle that I have found, mostly because the options are cheaper than most of the options for individual stocks. Now, there are some stocks with inherently low volatility where the options are pretty cheap, but the problem here is that if the volatility is too low then you’re not likely to get enough motion to profit.

But there is one sector that I am looking at to possibly do similar straddles. I notice that large telecoms (T and VZ, in particular), have low volatility and relatively inexpensive options, but they recently experienced a shock that could give us movement. Both of these very recently gapped down to 52-week lows due to findings of toxic lead in older wiring. That was ~10 days ago and they popped back up immediately but I’m wondering if we might not see a recovery on the upside, or continued trending on the downside. Is this the bottom, or are we looking at the downtrend continuing? If I trade this, I really don’t care which one it is. I would just need for it to go up or go down. I could be wrong, but I kinda feel like the price will move significantly up or down. Given how little these guys move, I would likely get options that will run for multiple months. Maybe October.

Wish me luck!


What if instead of buying those options, you sold (wrote) them? That way, you get to receive the time decay value instead of paying for the time decay value. Obviously you need more margin, but the returns over time should be higher.


I’m not so sure I like that idea. The problem is that in my scheme the potential profit is unlimited. In yours, the profit is capped by what I sold the options for. And if the stock moves drastically up or down I’m stuck having to satisfy one of the contracts at an unlimited loss. Yes, I’m paying for the time, but I try to keep it down by going way out of the money. Ideally less than $1 for both call and put (x 100 x number of contracts). I’ve looked at going more in the money or even equal strikes and found that all this does is increase your cost without significantly affecting the % return or required break-even movement.


You have to look at the relevant ranges, and the probability of each range occurring. Over time, your net return is based on your average results, not the rare outliers.

Look at it this way, the purchase of the 447 put and the 471 call, if the stock stays rangebound, as is most common, those options will time decay and eventually become worthless. Assuming you bought now (Sep 1 options) roughly in the middle and paid about the same for each of them, let’s say $15, then if it stays rangebound, you lose $30m (or sell early at some point to recoup). it needs to hit 501 or 417 to just break even. What’s the probability of lower than 417 or higher than 501? Very low. Maybe that’ll happen once every few years. I know the trade wouldn’t go this way in reality, because it would be traded on the volatility changes over time. BUT that is EXACTLY why it is better to sell those options instead of buy them! The probability of huge loss is very low, sure it’ll happen every few years, but the time value gains for all the other trades will more than overcome that. On average option sellers make a lot more than option buyers.

Actually your estimates for break even are way off. In the case of my recent 447 put, it got down to 452 which made me enough profit selling HALF of my puts to pay for all the calls and puts plus a respectable 19% return. If all the options I’m holding right now expire worthless then I still made a 19% return in one day. And that’s on a 1.5% move in the stock price which is not unreasonable to expect. Options have significant value without needing to go in the money. In fact, while it would be very nice and profitable for any of my options to go in the money, I definitely do not ever expect this to happen because I typically trade way out of the money to save cost.

Okay we had a big down move so I closed the rest of my puts. I still have all of my calls but they expire on Friday and are now WAY out of the money and likely to expire worthless unless we have a massive rally the next day or two. Before today I was sitting at 19% profit after 1 day. Currently I’m sitting at 103% profit after 5 (4.5) days. Theoretically my profit can still go up (fat chance), but my profit cannot go down.

The nice thing here is that SPY is actually down 1.7% from when I took my positions, yet I gained 103% profit. This demonstrates the significant leverage you get trading options versus the underlying stocks. That said, you need to keep in mind that while you can gain outsized percentages, you can also lose 100% of your money very quickly too. You can limit your risk by doing what I have done here (using a straddle). If SPY had gone up 1.7% instead of down I probably would have had 100%+ profit as well. If SPY had not moved at all when my options expire (Aug 4) then I would have lost 100% but no more (not counting commissions). When you buy options, your loss is limited to the price that you paid, but your potential gain is theoretically unlimited.

Good luck to all!


Okay I opened another straddle this afternoon. Aug 11, Call 205, Put 180. Last time I was riding the movement initiated by FOMC. This time I’m anticipating movement due to AAPL and AMZN earnings reports tomorrow. These are two of the top five market caps in the S&P (and NASDAQ) and any strong move by these two tickers should cause the market cap weighted indexes to move. Now the worst case scenario for me is for these two to surprise in the opposite direction canceling each other out and causing little movement. But we’ll see. AAPL has a history of repeated positive surprises, but I have a feeling we might see a negative surprise (or at least negative future estimates) and if this happens the market may experience a shock. AAPL affects the indexes more than any other stock.

After hours activity doesn’t seem to show a gap for tomorrow, so my play can probably be done in the morning for similar prices.

Trade safely!


Hi Dereksas,

thanks for posting this. Could you explain this?

I see you bought the Aug 11 SPY call and put - But what was the strike price…Did you really mean to say Call strike price of 205?

I am assuming you meant to say 205 was the price of the call? if so, what was the strike price?



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It’s called a straddle (actually a “strangle” due to the different strike prices) - Strangle: How This Options Strategy Works, With Example

He bought an Aug 11 put with strike price 180 and an Aug 11 call with strike price 205 on Apple. They’re each trading at about 60 or 65 cents right now. Apple is reporting earnings tomorrow after market close, the idea is to perhaps make some money on one of these options due to the volatility that may occur after the options market opens on Friday or next week.


Thanks Mark! That is what I initially thought but his description seems to suggest he is basing the movt of AAPL and AMZN post earnings to cause the market movement one way or the other ?




What symbol are you referring to? (not SPY) I want to follow this trade…doc


I’m sorry to all. Yes, Mark was right, the 205 and 180 were for AAPL which I also did a bit after SPY so that was what was written on my paper last. My SPY straddle was 462 and 438. All expirations were 8/11/23.

By the way, I generally pick all my strike prices based on the price I am willing to pay. I am generally way out of the money to pay the least. I have found that the % return is not significantly better to be more in the money. The Classic straddle uses equal strike prices, but this ends up costing a lot more to play. If you trade way out of the money like I do, then you are forced to get out well before expiration because everything is likely to go worthless if you hold it too long. What you are really banking on is a significant stock price move, one way or another, in a fairly short time. That’s why I generally trade on FOMC (for SPY), or earnings announcements (for individual tickers). Multiple high market cap earnings (like this afternoon) can also work for indexes like SPY.

Lastly, while QQQ might make sense when you are dealing with NASDAQ powerhouses, like AAPL and AMZN today, I have found that the options premium on QQQ is a lot higher than on SPY. I suppose that makes sense since NASDAQ 100 is generally more volatile than S&P 500. I’ve traded QQQ options before, but just prefer SPY.


In the early-mid 80s, I used to trade NYA options regularly. It was very profitable until October 19, 1987. That’s when I stopped trading NYA. It’s not a popular index anymore, now SPY and QQQ are the big ones. Now I usually trade options on stocks only.

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80s?! You’re dating yourself, Mark. LOL

Well, actually, I think that I was most active myself in the very late 90s, roughly 10 years after I graduated from college.

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I was very young, and trading was horrible back then. You had to call on the phone, wait for someone to pick up, and then tell them your trade. Each time. I used Charles Schwab because they only charged $50 or so for each trade compared to a “full scre…ice broker” that charged $150+ per trade.

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Yes, for sure, Mark. I remember that was one of the reasons I really wasn’t interested in my early adulthood. Later in the 90’s, and definitely 2000s online trading was maturing to the point where I jumped in.

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Looking at what happened after hours, I’m thinking that I really should have done my company straddle on AMZN instead of AAPL. That would have paid off big. AAPL went pretty positive early in after-hours, but these were uninformed traders bidding it up on low volume. As soon as the report was issued at 4:30, the stock went straight south. I haven’t looked into exactly why this is, but then again, my philosophy when trading short term is that I really don’t care why. In fact, in my opinion concentrating too much on fundamentals affects your emotions which can kill you when trading. Just my viewpoint…


I noticed that both aapl and amzn beat expectations. What’s your thoughts on SPY? I’m thinking that SPY strangle may generate some profit…doc


Yes, Doc, they both beat EPS estimates. The difference is that AMZN beat every other estimate whereas AAPL fell short in a few places. AAPL was down a bit today, then is currently down more in after hours trading. I will likely close my AAPL straddle tomorrow depending on how it looks in the opening minutes.

I put on a SPY straddle yesterday and it looks like my worst case is currently happening. AMZN and AAPL pulling the market in opposite directions causing less overall movement. I’ll just have to see what happens. In after hours SPY is up to around 150 which is about where it was when I opened my straddle. We’ll see what happens. Overall, I kinda feel like SPY is about to take a longer downturn, but I don’t feel this enough to trade puts.


Hey Doc,

Looked at a potential SPY strangle based on end of day prices (if we gap at all tomorrow morning then things will change). If I were putting one on at today’s close, I would likely have done a 464 Call and 432 Put with an expiration of Aug 18. In this scenario you would need a 5 point move on the upside or 7 point move on the downside in order to profit. By “profit” I mean sell for more than it cost to buy all the calls and puts. Percentage move on SPY would be 1.11% for five points up or 1.55% for 7 points down. Any bigger moves would be more profit.

I do not think it is unreasonable to hope for a less than 2% move in the next week or so. In fact, a 2% exact move on the upside for SPY would result in a 105% profit (2% to the downside = 48% profit).

Now, I say that you can play this for a “week or so” even though it doesn’t really expire until 8/18 because if you hold it all the way to expiration it will all go worthless on you because you are so far out of the money that the likelihood that you would ever hit your strike prices is remote. My recent trades used 8/4 and 8/11 expirations because I fully intended to be out in the short term. If I were putting a new one on tomorrow or Monday I would use 8/18 expecting to be totally out some time next week.