3.9. Options Trading Strategies: How to Level Up Your Trading

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Options trading strategies are a powerful tool in the financial markets, offering traders the flexibility to take advantage of different market conditions and risk profiles. Unlike trading stocks or bonds where the goal is typically to buy low and sell high, options trading is unique in its ability to profit from market moves in either direction, or even when there’s little movement at all. Options are derivative instruments, meaning their value is derived from an underlying asset, usually a stock or an index.

They give the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell the underlying asset at a predetermined price before a specific date. This unique characteristic makes options a versatile but complex financial instrument. Trading them requires a deep understanding of the strategies involved and robust risk management practices to navigate potential pitfalls. This article will explore the strategies used in options trading and delve into how traders manage the inherent risks.

In This Article

  1. Basics of Options Trading
  2. Options Trading Strategies
  3. Risk Management in Options Trading
  4. Real-World Examples
  5. What is the Most Successful Options Trading Strategy?
  6. Which Strategy is Easy in Options Trading?
  7. Can I Trade Options with $100?
  8. Conclusion

Basics of Options Trading

Options are contracts that provide the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell an underlying asset at a predetermined price, known as the ‘strike price‘, on or before a specific date, referred to as the ‘expiration date‘. There are two types of options contracts – call options and put options.

A call option gives the holder the right to buy the underlying asset. Traders buy call options when they anticipate the price of the underlying asset will increase. Conversely, a put option gives the holder the right to sell the underlying asset. Traders buy put options when they expect the price of the underlying asset will decrease.

Now, let’s touch upon some key concepts. An option is considered ‘in the money’ if exercising it would result in a profit. For call options, this means the current price of the underlying asset is above the strike price. For put options, it’s when the current price is below the strike price. An option is ‘at the money’ when the current price equals the strike price, and ‘out of the money’ when the current price would result in a loss if the option were exercised. Understanding these concepts is essential for any options trader.

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Options Trading Strategies

There are numerous strategies that traders use in the options market, each designed to exploit different market conditions. Let’s delve into a few popular ones.

Covered Call: This is a strategy where an investor sells a call option while owning the underlying asset. The aim is to generate additional income from the option’s premium, especially when they believe the asset’s price will stay relatively stable.

Protective Put: In this strategy, an investor owns the underlying asset and buys a put option. This is essentially an insurance policy, protecting against a significant drop in the asset’s price.

Bull Call Spread: This strategy involves buying a call option and selling another call option with a higher strike price but the same expiration date. It’s a bet that the asset will increase moderately in price. The sold call helps offset the cost of the bought call but caps potential profit.

Bear Put Spread: Similar to a bull call spread, but with put options. The trader buys a put and sells another put with a lower strike price. This strategy is used when the expectation is for a moderate decrease in the asset’s price.

Straddle: In a straddle, a trader buys both a call and a put option on the same asset with the same strike price and expiration date. This strategy is used when the trader expects a large move in the asset’s price but is unsure of the direction.

Strangle: Similar to a straddle, but the call and put have different strike prices. This is a bet on a large price move, and it typically costs less than a straddle because the options are ‘out of the money’.

Iron Condor: This is a more advanced strategy that involves four options: a bull put spread and a bear call spread. An iron condor is a bet that the asset’s price will stay within a specific range. The trader profits if the asset’s price is between the middle two strike prices at expiration.

Butterfly Spread: This strategy involves three options with three different strike prices. The aim is to profit from low volatility. Maximum profit occurs if the asset’s price equals the middle strike price at expiration.

These are just a few examples of the many strategies used in options trading. Each strategy has its own set of advantages and disadvantages and is best suited to certain market conditions. It’s also important to remember that all options strategies involve risk, and it’s essential to thoroughly understand a strategy before using it. Trading options can be complex, but with a solid understanding of the basics and the strategies available, you can begin to navigate the options market.

Risk Management in Options Trading

Risk management is crucial in all types of trading, and options trading is no exception. Given the complexity and leverage inherent in options, understanding and effectively managing risk is paramount. Here are some risk management techniques specific to options trading:

Setting Stop Losses: This is a pre-determined level at which a trader will close a losing position to prevent further losses. With options, stop losses can be set based on the option’s price or the underlying asset’s price. However, given the time decay in options, stop losses based on the option’s price can often be triggered prematurely.

Limiting Position Size: One simple way to manage risk is to limit the amount of capital invested in any single trade. A general rule of thumb is to risk no more than 1-2% of your trading capital on a single trade. This limits potential losses and prevents any single trade from wiping out a significant portion of your trading account.

Using Defined Risk Strategies: Some options strategies have defined risk, meaning the maximum possible loss is known when entering the trade. Spreads, such as bull call spreads or bear put spreads, are examples of defined risk strategies. Using these strategies can be an effective way to manage risk, especially for beginner options traders.

Understanding and Using the Greeks: The Greeks are measures of risk in options trading. They include Delta, which measures an option’s price sensitivity relative to changes in the price of the underlying asset; Gamma, which measures the rate of change of Delta; Vega, which measures sensitivity to changes in the volatility of the underlying asset; Theta, which measures time decay; and Rho, which measures sensitivity to changes in interest rates. Understanding the Greeks can help traders manage their risk and make more informed trading decisions.

Diversifying: Like in any investment strategy, diversification can help manage risk in options trading. This could mean diversifying the underlying assets on which options are traded, or diversifying the types of strategies used.

Risk vs Reward Assessment: Before entering any trade, it’s crucial to assess the potential risk vs the potential reward. This will often involve determining the probability of profit, the maximum potential loss (risk), and the maximum potential gain (reward).

In addition to these techniques, it’s also essential for options traders to have a well-thought-out trading plan, to stick to that plan, and to avoid letting emotions drive trading decisions. Remember, successful trading is not about winning every trade, but about managing risk to ensure survival and consistent profitability over the long run.

It’s also worth noting that while options can be used for speculative purposes, they are also valuable tools for hedging risk in a portfolio. For example, protective puts can be used to insure against a significant drop in the price of assets a trader or investor owns.

In conclusion, options trading offers a wide range of strategies for traders of every level. However, it’s crucial to approach it with a solid understanding of risk management principles. This can help to limit losses, maximize gains, and achieve long-term trading success.

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Real-World Examples

Now that we’ve discussed the strategies and risks of options trading, let’s look at a couple of real-world examples that illustrate how these concepts are applied in practice.

Example 1 – Covered Call: Let’s say you own 100 shares of XYZ Corporation, which is currently trading at $50 per share. You believe the price won’t move much over the next month, so you decide to sell a covered call. You sell one call option (each option contract represents 100 shares) with a strike price of $55, expiring in one month, and receive a premium of $2 per share. If XYZ’s price remains below $55, the option will expire worthless, and you keep the premium as extra income. If XYZ’s price rises above $55, your profit is capped at the $5 per share increase plus the $2 premium.

Example 2 – Protective Put: Suppose you own 100 shares of ABC Corporation, which is trading at $30 per share. You’re concerned about a potential downturn in the market but want to hold onto the shares for the long-term. You decide to buy a protective put option with a strike price of $25, expiring in two months, costing you $1 per share. If ABC’s price drops to $20, you can exercise your option and sell your shares for $25 each, significantly reducing your losses. Meanwhile, if the price stays above $25, your put option will expire worthless, but your shares could still gain value.

These examples demonstrate that options trading can be used for more than speculation. It also offers valuable strategies for income generation and risk management. As with any form of trading, successful options trading requires a clear understanding of the strategies and risks involved.

What is the Most Successful Options Trading Strategy?

The most successful options trading strategy varies with each individual trader, their risk tolerance, market outlook, and personal preferences. However, one consistently popular strategy is selling options, often referred to as “writing” options. This could involve writing covered calls if you own the underlying shares or selling put options if you have the cash to purchase the shares if assigned. This strategy generates income from the option premiums, and while it may limit upside potential, it tends to be more conservative and has a higher probability of profit compared to simply buying options.

Which Strategy is Easy in Options Trading?

For beginners, covered calls and cash-secured puts are often considered the easiest strategies to understand and implement. These strategies involve either selling a call option against shares you own (covered call) or selling a put option with enough cash in your account to buy the shares if assigned (cash-secured put). Both strategies allow you to generate income from the premiums received and are relatively straightforward compared to more complex strategies like straddles or iron condors.

Can I Trade Options with $100?

Technically, yes, you can start trading options with $100, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations and risks. With such a small amount of capital, your options trading would likely be limited to buying options contracts, as selling options requires you to either own the underlying asset (for covered calls) or have sufficient cash in your account to buy the underlying asset (for cash-secured puts). Buying options can offer high potential returns, but it’s also highly risky as options can expire worthless, resulting in a total loss of the amount invested. Therefore, it’s critical to only trade with money you can afford to lose, especially when starting with a small account.


Options trading is a versatile and potentially profitable method of trading that offers a range of strategies for every type of trader. Whether you’re seeking to generate income, protect your portfolio, or speculate on market movements, options can provide the flexibility you need. However, the inherent complexities and risks of options trading necessitate a solid understanding of the mechanics, along with prudent risk management. It’s essential to educate yourself, practice with virtual or small-scale trades, and develop a well-defined trading plan before diving in. Remember, consistency, patience, and a disciplined approach often lay the foundation for long-term success in options trading.