OAP 075: Portfolio Drawdown Stats From 44,801 Backtested Option Strategies

Download The "Ultimate" Options Strategy Guide

I've been trading publicly on Option Alpha for more than eight years now, and I'm still baffled by the number of investors who get absolutely shocked when option trading portfolio drawdowns occur. I'm talking ALL CAPS emails, mind blown, ripping their hair out shocked that a trading system wasn't a 100% probability of success. And while losing money is by no means "fun" or "exciting," it is, however, part of high probability trading systems.

In fact, you are guaranteed at some point to have a drawdown or streak of losing trades. It shouldn't come as a surprise, and it's why we are so big on balancing portfolios and trading small positions to minimize the impact on your account. Even though we know we'll have portfolio drawdowns from time to time, we also know that we'll end up generating above average returns if we stick with it long enough.

The concept of trading in a positive expected outcome system and being persistent through drawdowns isn't based on my opinion or assumptions; it's backed by math and the 44,801 backtested option strategies I'm going to cover in today's show.

Many of you know that over the last year we've been building and developing options backtesting and optimizing software that is going to be a complete game changer for traders just like you. In this show, you'll finally start to see just a small glimpse of the power behind backtesting and modeling hundreds of thousands of option strategies. It was by far one of the most anticipated shows for me to record and I hope you find incredible value in listening.

Portfolio Drawdown Stats from 44,801 back-tested option strategies.

  • Backtesting was done on 10 major ticker symbol ETFs: SPY, FXE, EFA, FXI, USO, GLD, EWW, TLT, IWM, and QQQ.
  • Took the baseline from the test as all short strangles, pure premium selling.
  • Sold 10 days out as a weekly contract all the way to 80 or 90 days out.
  • Tested varying iterations of deltas, stop losses, profit levels, IVR filters, and more.
  • The software made as many trades as it could within the parameters given - does not factor in the market situation.

The Expectation of Having a Portfolio Drawdown.

  • When trading options you will go through times where it feels like you cannot win on a trade.
  • You should expect to have a portfolio drawdown in your trading career.
  • Drawdowns are not a bad thing; can trade through these situations and still do really well.

Broad Average Results from Backtesting:

  • The average drawdown at any one point in time was 13.88%.
  • Average time to recover from the biggest point of drawdown took 601 days or 1.65 years.
  • The average win rate was 70.38% over all iterations.
  • Average annual return of all the strategies 12.18%.

Worst Performing: Stop Loss Strategies

  • Largest drawdowns were seen in all strategies that had 1, 2, or 3X stop loss levels.
  • The math proves that using a stop loss creates more losing trades over time.
  • Strategies using stop losses had an average of 28.95% drawdown.
  • Time to recover when a stop loss was used was 913 days or 2.5 years.
  • Average win rate with stop loss strategies was 57.45%.

*Using stop losses dramatically decreases your win rate, increases the drawdown and time to recover. See show #67 backtesting results here.

Best Performing Strategies.

  • IVR over 75th percentile/rank. Max average drawdown was 5.48%. Take advantage of high volatility times.
  • Weekly options (10 days on average). Had Average drawdown of 2.27%. However, they do not perform as well on a total P&L basis as a monthly option does over time [see episode 63].

Option Alpha Podcast Show Notes[FREE Download] Podcast Show Notes & Transcript PDF: No time to read the show notes right now? We've made it incredibly easy for you to save time by giving you instant access to the complete digital version of today's show. Click Here to Download Your FREE Copy 

Free Options Trading Courses:

  • Options Basics [20 Videos]: Whether you're a completely new trader or an experienced trader, you'll still need to master the basics. The goal of this section is to help lay the groundwork for your education with some simple, yet important lessons surrounding options.
  • Finding & Placing Trades [26 Videos]: Successful options trading is 100% dependent on your ability to find and enter trades that give you an "edge" in the market. This module helps teach you how to scan properly for and select the best strategies to execute smarter option trades each day.
  • Pricing & Volatility [12 Videos]: This module includes lessons on mastering implied volatility and premium pricing for specific strategies. We'll also look at IV relativeness and percentiles which help you determine the best strategy to use for each and every possible market setup.
  • Neutral Options Strategies [7 Videos]: The beauty of options is that you can trade the market within a neutral range either up or down. You'll learn to love sideways and range bound markets because of the opportunity to build non-directional strategies that profit if the stock goes up, down or nowhere at all.
  • Bullish Options Strategies [12 Videos]: Naturally everyone wants to make money when the market is heading higher. In this module, we'll show you how to create specific strategies that profit from up trending markets including low IV strategies like calendars, diagonals, covered calls and direction debit spreads.
  • Options Expiration & Assignment [11 Videos]: Our goal is to make sure you understand the logistics of how each process works and the parties involved. If you don’t feel confident in the expiration processes or have questions that you just can't seem to get answered, then this section will help you.
  • Portfolio Management [16 Videos]: When I say "portfolio management" some people automatically assume you need a Masters from MIT to understand the concept and strategies - that is NOT the case. And in this module, you'll see why managing your risk trading options is actually quite simple.
  • Trade Adjustments/Hedges [15 Videos]: In this popular module, we'll give you concrete examples of how you can hedge different options strategies to both reduce potential losses and give yourself an opportunity to profit if things turn around. Plus, we'll help you create an alert system to save time and make it more automatic.
  • Professional Trading [14 Videos]: Honestly, this module isn't just for professional traders; it's for anyone who wants to have eventually options replace some (or all) of their monthly income. Because the reality is that mindset is everything if you truly want to earn a living trading options.

Option Trader Q&A w/ Robbie

Trader Q&A is our favorite segment of the show because we get to hear from one of our community members and help answer their questions live on the air. This week's question comes from Robbie who asks:

How do you calculate the correct pricing on undefined risk trades; straddles or strangles?

Remember, if you’d like to get your question answered here on the podcast or LIVE on Facebook & Periscope, head over to OptionAlpha.com/ASK and click the big red record button in the middle of the screen and leave me a private voicemail. There’s no software to download or install and it’s incredibly easy.

PDF Guides & Checklists:

  • The Ultimate Options Strategy Guide [90 Pages]: Our most popular PDF workbook with detailed options strategy pages categorized by market direction. Read the whole guide in less than 15 mins and have it forever to reference.
  • Earnings Trading Guide [33 Pages]: The ultimate guide to earnings trades including the top things to look for when playing these one-day volatility events, expected move calculations, best strategies to use, adjustments, etc.
  • Implied Volatility (IV) Percentile Rank [3 Pages]: A cool, simple visual tool to help you understand how we should be trading based on the current IV rank of any particular stock and the best strategies for each blocked section of IV.
  • Guide to Trade Size & Allocation [8 Pages]: Helping you figure out exactly how to calculate new position size as well as how much you should be allocating to your each position based on your overall portfolio balance.
  • When to Exit/Manage Trades [7 Pages]: Broken down by option strategy we'll give you concrete guidelines on the best exit points and prices for each trade type to maximize your win rate and profits long-term.
  • 7-Step Trade Entry Checklist [10 Pages]: Our top 7 things you should be double-checking before you enter your next trading. This quick checklist will help keep you out of harms way by making sure you make smarter entries.

Real-Money, LIVE Trading:

  • EWZ Iron Butterfly (Closing Trade): After nearly pinning the stock at our short strikes, and thanks to the volatility drop, we netted a $600 profit on this iron butterfly trade.
  • VXX Short Call (Closing Trade): One of the most consistent and profitable options trades we can make is shorting pure volatility with VXX and today we closed this naked short call in VXX after a couple days for a $420 profit.
  • DIA Iron Condor (Adjusting Trade): This neutral iron condor in DIA is need of a quick adjustment early this week as the market continues to rally. In this video, we'll discuss why I'm adding an additional put credit spread while also choosing NOT to close out of our current put credit spread due to pricing reasons.
  • COP Short Put (Closing Trade): These single short puts in COP acted as a great hedge for our other bearish bets in oil this month and helped smooth out our returns after we closed them for a nice big profit.
  • TSLA Put Debit Spread (Closing Trade): Although many people thought we were crazy for getting bearish in TSLA this pre-earnings put debit spread trade made us $200 today. After the huge run up from $140 to $260 and getting some technical sell signals, we were pretty sure this stock would pull back.
  • MON Iron Condor (Closing Trade): Following a huge drop in implied volatility we worked hard to close this MON iron condor trade adjusting the order multiple times to fill before the end of the day.
  • IBB Call Debit Spread (Opening Trade): We'll show you how I started searching for a new bullish trade and eventually found a low volatility trade in IBB looking for a move higher to hedge our portfolio.
  • TLT Iron Butterfly (Closing Trade): Following the Brexit vote TLT and bonds traded in a nearly $8 range really quickly - even still the drop in implied volatility helped generate a $330 profit for us.
  • XBI Call Debit Spread (Closing Trade): Got lucky picking the exact bottom for our entry in this call debit spread for the XBI biotech ETF which ultimately was closed for a profit of $165 today on the rally higher.
  • COH Iron Butterfly (Earnings Trade): Shortly after the market open we close out of our COH earnings trade for about a $160 profit, leaving just 1 leg on to expire worthless.
  • EWW Debit Spread (Closing Trade): Using some of the technical analysis signals we discovered in our backtesting research, we were able to make a quick $130 profit on this bearish EWW debit spread trade.
  • IBM Iron Condor (Earnings Trade): Shortly after the market opened you'll follow along with me as we watch volatility drop and liquidity come into the market before closing out the position for $250 profit.
  • SLV Short Straddle (Opening Trade): Using our watch list software we decided to continue to add to our existing SLV short straddle position with a new set of strike prices reflective of the move lower in the ETF recently.

Thank You for Listening!

I'm humbled that you took the time out of your day to listen to our show, and I never take that for granted. If you have any tips, suggestions or comments about this episode or topics you'd like to hear me cover, just add your thoughts below in the comment section.

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About The Author

Kirk Du Plessis

Kirk founded Option Alpha in early 2007 and currently serves as the Head Trader. Formerly an Investment Banker in the Mergers and Acquisitions Group for Deutsche Bank in New York and REIT Analyst for BB&T Capital Markets in Washington D.C., he's a Full-time Options Trader and Real Estate Investor. He's been interviewed on dozens of investing websites/podcasts and he's been seen in Barron’s Magazine, SmartMoney, and various other financial publications. Kirk currently lives in Pennsylvania (USA) with his beautiful wife and two daughters.

  • Just because we calculate IV different than TOS does. It’s generally not that big of a different long-term but may be slightly different from day to day.