Lesson Overview

High Probability Trading Defined

If you're new to options trading you've likely heard from either us or someone else the concept of making high probability trades. But sometimes this concept can be hard to grasp and understand when it's actually applied to making trades.

In this quick video tutorial we'll define high probability trading with regard to your possible win rate and probability of success based on the types of strategies and strike prices that you select.

You'll actually be amazed at how easy it is to find and execute high probability trades that give you an opportunity to see a win rate of more than 70% on average long-term.

More Discussion

Was This Helpful? Add Comments/Questions

  • Hey OC – If the spread is ITM then you have to close it before expiration or you’ll get assigned. If the spread is OTM then you can still close it or you can let it expire worthless.

  • Hey Eduardo – thanks for the question. Yes that would be true if IV was always perfected stated. We know however that long-term IV tends to overstate the expected move so if you are looking at an 84% chance of success trade, long-term it might actually end up being a 90% chance of success trade or higher. Plus we suggest closing trades early which also helps you win-rate and prevents you letting good trades go bad.

  • Hey Linda! Yes commissions play a big part but more so than that is just focusing on highly liquid stocks. You’ll lose much more in slippage over the year if you are not trading liquid securities than you would with higher commissions. But the key here is that you get the concept down that you have to make high probability trades. There are also larger securities you can trade to maximize your credit – SPX vs SPY for example.

  • Sure just sent it to you via email since I cannot attach it here.

  • Injo

    Hi Kirk, Is there a Bloomberg terminal indicator which works the same as thinkorswim’s “probability itm” ?

  • BL Kmobile

    Kirk, following the description of high probability trading, I note that you are basing the definition only on the ITM probability as approximated by the delta. However the direction of various indicators is not at all mentioned. Does this imply that a the Short Strike ( put or Call) with a 0.15 delta has an equal probability of ending up ITM. If so, why would we even bother with looking at the direction of the market, EMA’s etc. And to take it one step further, why ever trade only one side of an Iron Condor, if the gross revenue can be more or less doubled by playing both sides at the same time?

    • Yep exactly. A short call at 0.15 and a short put at 0.15 have the exact same likelihood of success. And I 100% agree that direction is meaningless as long as your overall portfolio is neutral. That’s why you’ll only find 1 short video on technical analysis in our training because it has very little to do with options success. In fact, we are just completing a huge backtesting project covering 17.5M different trades and technical indicators which we will publish in the coming weeks.

  • Great I think you’ll really like TOS.

  • Wow, excellent visual at the end to explain it all with relation to XLE. Thank you!

  • Because the difference in the spread price would mean a net credit of $5 before commissions – just not worth it.

  • Rachit Jain

    Hi Kirk, Do we have this software available for Indian Stock Exchange? And how do we find Prob. ITM for Other options available in India?

  • Great question but not true IF you price your trades correctly. See here: https://optionalpha.com/members/tracks/intermediate-course/correctly-pricing-options-strategies

  • Michael

    Very nice tutorial! What is the software you were using in the video? Thanks.

  • Nope they are different but IV helps determine the Prob of ITM.

  • This was just an example to show high probability strikes so I just picked something that day.

  • Paper trade a little first so you learn how to place orders and how they get filled etc.

  • 1) Yes comments here are public – use the support center link to email me directly if needed. 2) Yep you’ll start to see our trading activities each day/week.

  • Ethan Tan

    Hi Kirk,

    why not buy call option itm or atm?

    my reason being is that any small increase in the stock price, will increase your profit.
    unlike buying call otm where the stock price has to reach your strike before you are safe and can consider earning

    please let me know what do you think

    • Because it costs a lot more money to buy the ITM or ATM call option.

      • Ethan Tan

        Agree and noted.

        thanks for the help Krik, appreciate your help always!

  • Nope you don’t need a margin account – you can do all options trading in an IRA or retirement account as well.

  • Yep for sure.

  • High probability trades are easy to find – they are a factor of just looking for the right strike prices and pinning your probability. See here: https://optionalpha.com/members/video-tutorials/entries-exits/pinning-your-probability-of-profit

Show Video Transcript +

In this video, I want to help define a little bit more this concept of high probability trading and how we can find trades that are a high probability. I’m sure you’ve heard us say it before, but it’s worth saying over and over again.

Unlike stocks which theoretically have a 50/50 chance of going either direction at any one point in the future, with options trading, you can pinpoint the probability of success that you would like to have on a particular trade.

We favor option selling as a general strategy, so what we like to do is sell options that are far out of the money and give ourselves an opportunity to make a small credit should the stock not go that far out of the money and stay range bound wherever we decide to choose our strike prices.

In today's video, we’re going to look at XLE and just going to use an index ETF as a good measure because it doesn’t have earnings and it’s highly liquid.

You can see today as I'm doing this video towards the close of the day, it’s got about 28 million shares that were traded today and the options on the underlying stock have pretty good liquidity as well, so lots of contracts to choose from have strikes, dollar wide strikes, there’s a lot of activity in the market.

One of the things that we like to do is we like to trade at about the one standard deviation level. We’ll explain more about that later on as we get through this course and these modules. But basically, what that means is we like to have on any one side of our trade about an 85% chance of success.

Sometimes that means that we come a little bit closer to the market and we trade with a 70% chance of success, sometimes we go a little bit further away and maybe trade with a 90% or 95% chance of success, but we like to target most of our trades around an 85% win rate.

That means if we make 100 trades, we should win 85 of those times if we make 100 trades. Here’s how we bring definition around that. With XLE, the stock is currently trading at about 73.5, and it's live market right now, so it’s moving around, but it’s 73.39 right now.

What we want to do is we want to go out to February in this instance, and you can see the February options have about 38 days to go, so this is our timeline of our trade, just about 38 days and we want to make a trade that gives us a very high probability of success.

And just quickly before we look at that trade, it's important to know here that this trade in and of itself may or may not be a winner, but it’s making this same type of trade over and over and over again, the same type of high probability trade that leads to a long-term consistency in your account and a lot of winners.

With the February options about 38 days to go, we are going to go down to about the 64 strike price level, and you can see we already have a working order in here for this spread. A 64 strike means that we’re going to go down below the market. Remember, XLE is trading at 73.5 and we’re going to trade and make our strike price down here at 64, so almost $9 below where the market is currently trading.

In this case, what we’re going to do is we’re going to sell a credit put spread, and I just want to go through that action of just selling that put spread real quick, so you can see what that looks like. In this case, we sell the 64/63 credit put spread. Don’t get too confused on this.

We’ve got tutorials and modules about how to do credit spreads, but just go with me on the logic here as we go through this part of the course. I just want to open up this order dialogue box here. With this spread, you can see that we can get at most make $16 which is the difference between buying the 63 and selling the 64.

The difference between those prices is $16. Because it's a $1 widespread, we can lose about $84. In this case, we have a loss that could be much higher than what we sold the spread for. But that's not the point here.

The point here is that we have a very high probability of success on this trade and as I’ve said many, many, many times, if you are willing to cap your win at $16 or some small amount and increase your risk, you have a much higher chance of success long-term trading the markets than you do doing anything else.

In this case, we’re risking $84 to make $16 and what’s cool about this trade is that we have a super high probability of success. When we look inside of our platform here on Thinkorswim, we have this column that says “probability of being ITM” or in the money.

What this probability means is that this is the likelihood that XLE goes from where it’s at right now at 73.5 and trades all the way down to and below 64 between now and February expiration which is 38 days. This probability is only 16.5%.

What that means is that we’re trading with about 84% chance of success on this trade because there’s only a 16% chance. Right here, we can visually see it. We know exactly what it is.

Based on the entire trading history of XLE, there’s only a 16% chance that the stock in the next 38 days goes from where it’s at right now at 73.44 and closes all the way below 64. That adds a lot of definition to how we make high probability trades and why it's so easy to make high probability trades, you just have to know where to look.

In this case, we can be more conservative or less conservative if we want. As you can see on the chart here and I’ll just drop that, we have probabilities that range from 50 which is right on the money, 50% probability, all the way to a 95% chance of success.

If you wanted to say let's take a 30% probability level which would be the 68.5 strike puts, then what this means is that you would have a 70% chance of success, so a 30% chance that the stock closes below this level and about a 70% chance that the stock closes anywhere above that level.

You can see right now; we can pinpoint our exact probability of success wherever we want when it comes to trading options. We'll talk more about these different strategies and how to select the strike prices, but this has hopefully been helpful in just adding some definition and context to this idea of high probability trading.

As we go to the chart here of XLE, (and let me just make this the base chart here, and we'll just take away most of the stuff) what you can see here on XLE is that it's trading at a low level already, so 73.46.

Remember, our strike was all the way down here at 64. This means that we have distance between ourselves in the market, XLE can drop all the way down to 65, it can drop all the way down to 64, and we still make money on this trade.

We want XLE trading anywhere 64 and above, and that is the perfect definition of a high probability trade. We’re not making a big directional bet on the stock, the stock can go sideways, up or down and we still make money on this trade, and that's why options trading is so powerful.

As always, if you have any comments or questions about high probability trading or this video, go ahead and add them right below on the lesson page. I’ll make sure I get all of the answers to you guys promptly. Happy trading!

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