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Almost every trader at one time or another buys calls or puts on a stock or index for pure speculation, betting on direction. I will tell you from the outset that I most of the time take the other side of these trades for one simple reason: almost always speculators pay too much. Betting on the price direction is a tough call and having to be right on timing makes it that much more difficult. I do not recommend speculating with options (unless you have legal, better than market information), but since I know that people do it, let's review a few things that may help improve the odds.

First, in order to effectively trade the position, only buy an amount of option premium that you are willing to totally lose. This does not mean that if your view changes and you can sell the options at a reasonable price you should not unwind the trade. Nor does it mean that if you have a profit you shouldn't sell some of the options or sell other options (spread) to lock in some gains. It simply means that once a decision is made to embark on a speculative, high risk strategy, trading it conservatively will almost ensure never making money. I fully recommend employing a more conservative strategy in the first place.

Second, decide on what strike price and expiration you are going to buy. The perceived price target has actually two components: magnitude and timing. How far the stock moves is only relevant if it moves within a certain time period. It is kind of like the theory of relativity: space and time cannot be talked about separately. In the case of options, it may actually be better to buy a call of a higher strike even if the eventual target price is below that strike. For example, if the expected time period is very short with the expected magnitude of the move very high, it would be more profitable to buy a higher strike call and more of them (buying the same dollar amount and more contracts increases leverage). From this extreme, the less appreciation and the longer it is expected to experience it, the lower the strike and longer the expiration. Notice the more this occurs, the more the option resembles just stock (less leverage). Compare the deltas of the various options and determine the pay-off between the two over the expected time horizon and magnitude of the move. You may even decide just to buy the stock! The number of possible scenarios (paths) is very high, so choosing the right strike and expiration is more art than science.

Third, do not over-pay for the option. Once you start down the slippery slope of price and pay too much, all sorts of things begin to happen. If too many people expect the same thing on a stock, the option premiums will reflect it and it should be a warning sign. Big moves in stocks happen by definition because no one expects them. If everyone expects them it probably won't happen (at least in the time period or to the magnitude expected) because as it happens, those on the right side of the trade begin to take it off and create opposite pressure. Compare the historical volatilities to the implied volatility of the options you are buying to make sure that you are not over paying.

Fourth, only roll options that are in the money and are profitable. There are many nuances to this, but basically if the trade is working and you need some more time, it is viable to roll at least a portion. I would recommend at this point rolling only a portion and taking some money off the table. Rolling worthless options and throwing good money after bad is a losing methodology. You made your bet and it didn't work out; move on to the next trade (see the first rule).
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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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