Short Straddle (Sell Straddle) Explained

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Contents

Short straddle

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To profit from little or no price movement in the underlying stock.

Explanation

Example of short straddle

Sell 1 XYZ 100 call at 3.30
Sell 1 XYZ 100 put at 3.20
Net credit = 6.50

A short straddle consists of one short call and one short put. Both options have the same underlying stock, the same strike price and the same expiration date. A short straddle is established for a net credit (or net receipt) and profits if the underlying stock trades in a narrow range between the break-even points. Profit potential is limited to the total premiums received less commissions. Potential loss is unlimited if the stock price rises and substantial if the stock price falls.

Maximum profit

Profit potential is limited to the total premiums received less commissions. The maximum profit is earned if the short straddle is held to expiration, the stock price closes exactly at the strike price and both options expire worthless.

Maximum risk

Potential loss is unlimited on the upside, because the stock price can rise indefinitely. On the downside, potential loss is substantial, because the stock price can fall to zero.

Breakeven stock price at expiration

There are two potential break-even points:

  1. Strike price plus total premium:
    In this example: 100.00 + 6.50 = 106.50
  2. Strike price minus total premium:
    In this example: 100.00 – 6.50 = 93.50

Profit/Loss diagram and table: short straddle

Short 1 100 call at 3.30
Short 1 100 put at 3.20
Total credit = 6.50
Stock Price at Expiration Short 100 Call Profit/(Loss) at Expiration Short 100 Put Profit/(Loss) at Expiration Short Straddle Profit / (Loss) at Expiration
110 (6.70) +3.20 (3.50)
109 (5.70) +3.20 (2.50)
108 (4.70) +3.20 (1.50)
107 (3.70) +3.20 (0.50)
106 (2.70) +3.20 +0.50)
105 (1.70) +3.20 +1.50
104 (0.70) +3.20 +2.50
103 +0.30 +3.20 +3.50
102 +1.30 +3.20 +4.50
101 +2.30 +3.20 +5.50
100 +3.30 +3.20 +6.50
99 +3.30 +2.20 +5.50
98 +3.30 +1.20 +4.50
97 +3.30 +0.20 +3.50
96 +3.30 (0.80) +2.50
95 +3.30 (1.80) +1.50
94 +3.30 (2.80) +0.50
93 +3.30 (3.80) (0.50)
92 +3.30 (4.80) (1.50)
91 +3.30 (5.80) (2.50)
90 +3.30 (6.80) (3.50)

Appropriate market forecast

A short straddle profits when the price of the underlying stock trades in a narrow range near the strike price. The ideal forecast, therefore, is “neutral or sideways.” In the language of options, this is known as “low volatility.”

Strategy discussion

A short – or sold – straddle is the strategy of choice when the forecast is for neutral, or range-bound, price action. Straddles are often sold between earnings reports and other publicized announcements that have the potential to cause sharp stock price fluctuations.

It is important to remember that the prices of calls and puts – and therefore the prices of straddles – contain the consensus opinion of options market participants as to how much the stock price will move prior to expiration. This means that sellers of straddles believe that the market consensus is “too high” and that the stock price will stay between the breakeven points.

“Selling a straddle” is intuitively appealing to some traders, because “you collect two option premiums, and the stock has to move ‘a lot’ before you lose money.” The reality is that the market is often “efficient,” which means that prices of straddles frequently are an accurate gauge of how much a stock price is likely to move prior to expiration. This means that selling a straddle, like all trading decisions, is subjective and requires good timing for both the sell (to open) decision and the buy (to close) decision.

Impact of stock price change

When the stock price is at or near the strike price of the straddle, the positive delta of the call and negative delta of the put very nearly offset each other. Thus, for small changes in stock price near the strike price, the price of a straddle does not change very much. This means that a straddle has a “near-zero delta.” Delta estimates how much an option price will change as the stock price changes.

However, if the stock price “rises fast enough” or “falls fast enough,” then the straddle rises in price, and a short straddle loses money. This happens because, as the stock price rises, the short call rises in price more and loses more than the short put makes by falling in price. Also, as the stock price falls, the short put rises in price more and loses more than the call makes by falling in price. In the language of options, this is known as “negative gamma.” Gamma estimates how much the delta of a position changes as the stock price changes. Negative gamma means that the delta of a position changes in the opposite direction as the change in price of the underlying stock. As the stock price rises, the net delta of a straddle becomes more and more negative, because the delta of the short call becomes more and more negative and the delta of the short put goes to zero. Similarly, as the stock price falls, the net delta of a straddle becomes more and more positive, because the delta of the short put becomes more and more positive and the delta of the short call goes to zero.

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Impact of change in volatility

Volatility is a measure of how much a stock price fluctuates in percentage terms, and volatility is a factor in option prices. As volatility rises, option prices – and straddle prices – tend to rise if other factors such as stock price and time to expiration remain constant. Therefore, when volatility increases, short straddles increase in price and lose money. When volatility falls, short straddles decrease in price and make money. In the language of options, this is known as “negative vega.” Vega estimates how much an option price changes as the level of volatility changes and other factors are unchanged, and negative vega means that a position loses when volatility rises and profits when volatility falls.

Impact of time

The time value portion of an option’s total price decreases as expiration approaches. This is known as time erosion, or time decay. Since short straddles consist of two short options, the sensitivity to time erosion is higher than for single-option positions. Short straddles tend to make money rapidly as time passes and the stock price does not change.

Risk of early assignment

Stock options in the United States can be exercised on any business day, and the holder of a short stock option position has no control over when they will be required to fulfill the obligation. Therefore, the risk of early assignment is a real risk that must be considered when entering into positions involving short options.

Both the short call and the short put in a short straddle have early assignment risk. Early assignment of stock options is generally related to dividends.

Short calls that are assigned early are generally assigned on the day before the ex-dividend date. In-the-money calls whose time value is less than the dividend have a high likelihood of being assigned. Therefore, if the stock price is above the strike price of the short straddle, an assessment must be made if early assignment is likely. If assignment is deemed likely, and if a short stock position is not wanted, then appropriate action must be taken before assignment occurs (either buying the short call and keeping the short put open, or closing the entire straddle).

Short puts that are assigned early are generally assigned on the ex-dividend date. In-the-money puts, whose time value is less than the dividend, have a high likelihood of being assigned. Therefore, if the stock price is below the strike price of the short straddle, an assessment must be made if early assignment is likely. If assignment is deemed likely and if a long stock position is not wanted, then appropriate action must be taken before assignment occurs (either buying the short put and keeping the short call open, or closing the entire straddle).

If early assignment of a stock option does occur, then stock is purchased (short put) or sold (short call). If no offsetting stock position exists, then a stock position is created. If the stock position is not wanted, it can be closed in the marketplace by taking appropriate action (selling or buying). Note, however, that the date of the closing stock transaction will be one day later than the date of the opening stock transaction (from assignment). This one-day difference will result in additional fees, including interest charges and commissions. Assignment of a short option might also trigger a margin call if there is not sufficient account equity to support the stock position.

Potential position created at expiration

There are three possible outcomes at expiration. The stock price can be at the strike price of a short straddle, above it or below it.

If the stock price is at the strike price of a short straddle at expiration, then both the call and the put expire worthless and no stock position is created.

If the stock price is above the strike price at expiration, the put expires worthless, the short call is assigned, stock is sold at the strike price and a short stock position is created. If a short stock position is not wanted, the call must be closed (purchased) prior to expiration.

If the stock price is below the strike price at expiration, the call expires worthless, the short put is assigned, stock is purchased at the strike price and a long stock position is created. If a long stock position is not wanted, the put must be closed (purchased) prior to expiration.

Note: options are automatically exercised at expiration if they are one cent ($0.01) in the money. Therefore, if the stock price is “close” to the strike price as expiration approaches, assignment of one option in a short straddle is highly likely. If the holder of a short straddle wants to avoid having a stock position, the short straddle must be closed (purchased) prior to expiration.

Other considerations

Short straddles are often compared to short strangles, and traders frequently debate which the “better” strategy is.

Short straddles involve selling a call and put with the same strike price. For example, sell a 100 Call and sell a 100 Put. Short strangles, however, involve selling a call with a higher strike price and selling a put with a lower strike price. For example, sell a 105 Call and sell a 95 Put.

Neither strategy is “better” in an absolute sense. There are tradeoffs.

There is one advantage and three disadvantages of a short straddle. The advantage of a short straddle is that the premium received and maximum profit potential of one straddle (one call and one put) is greater than for one strangle. The first disadvantage is that the breakeven points are closer together for a straddle than for a comparable strangle. Second, there is a smaller chance that a straddle will make its maximum profit potential if it is held to expiration. Third, short straddles are less sensitive to time decay than short strangles. Thus, when there is little or no stock price movement, a short straddle will experience a lower percentage profit over a given time period than a comparable strangle.

The short strangle three advantages and one disadvantage. The first advantage is that the breakeven points for a short strangle are further apart than for a comparable straddle. Second, there is a greater chance of making 100% of the premium received if a short strangle is held to expiration. Third, strangles are more sensitive to time decay than short straddles. Thus, when there is little or no stock price movement, a short strangle will experience a greater percentage profit over a given time period than a comparable short straddle. The disadvantage is that the premium received and maximum profit potential for selling one strangle are lower than for one straddle.

Short Straddle Payoff and Break-Even Points

This page explains short straddle profit and loss at expiration and the calculation of its break-even points.

Short Straddle Basic Characteristics

Short straddle is non-directional short volatility strategy. It is composed of a short call option and a short put option, both with the same strike price and expiration date – which is the inverse of long straddle (long call + long put).

Short straddle has limited potential profit, equal to the premium received for selling both legs, and unlimited risk. As a short volatility strategy it gains when the underlying doesn’t move much and it loses money as the underlying price moves further away from the strike price to either side.

We will illustrate the profit and loss profile and the various scenarios on an example.

Short Straddle Example

We will use the same options that we have used in the long straddle example – the only difference is that now we are selling them rather than buying. A short straddle position is the exact other side of a long straddle trade.

Let’s set up our short straddle with the following two transactions:

  • Sell a $45 strike put option for $2.85 per share.
  • Sell a $45 strike call option with the same expiration date for $2.88 per share.

Like with a long straddle, the strike closest to the current underlying price is typically selected, unless the trader has a directional bias.

Initial cash flow from this trade, assuming one contract for each leg, is $285 received for the put plus $288 received for the call, which is $573 in total. More generally:

Initial cash flow = put premium received + call premium received

Maximum Profit

Because we are short both options, there is no way to earn more than the premium received in the beginning – it can only get worse. The objective of a short straddle trade is to defend the premium received.

Because the call and the put have the same strike price, as soon as the underlying price moves a cent away from that strike, one of the options will have positive intrinsic value – which is our loss, as we are short.

The best case scenario is that underlying price ends up exactly at the strike price at expiration. In such case both the options expire worthless, there are no additional losses from option assignments, and the trade’s total profit equals the initial cash flow, or $573 in our example.

Maximum profit from a short straddle equals premium received. It applies only when underlying price ends up exactly at the strike price at expiration.

If Underlying Goes Up

If underlying price ends up above the strike at expiration, the short call is in the money and total profit declines as underlying price rises.

For example, with the underlying at $48.50, the call option’s value at expiration is $48.50 – $45 = $3.50 per share = $350 for one contract. This is more than premium received for the option in the beginning ($288), so the call alone makes a loss of $62. However, the put is out of the money and by itself makes a profit equal to premium received for it, or $285. Combining the two legs, the short straddle makes a profit of $223.

If underlying price end up much further above the strike, the call option’s value exceeds premium received for both options and the trade’s total P/L turns to a loss. For example, with underlying price at $57 the call option’s value is $1,200 and total P/L is $573 – $1,200 = – $627, a loss.

When underlying price ends up above the strike at expiration, total P/L declines as underlying price rises and equals the difference between premium received for both options and the call option’s value.

P/L above the strike = premium received – call value

P/L above the strike = premium received – (underlying price – strike)

If Underlying Goes Down

The same logic applies when underlying price ends up below the strike price, only the contributions of the two legs are reversed. The call is out of the money and expires worthless. The put is in the money and the further below the strike, the higher its value and the lower the total P/L.

For example, with underlying price at $41, the put option’s value is $400, which is still less than premium received for both options, therefore total P/L is a profit of $573 – $400 = $173.

If underlying price drop to $32, the short put’s value is $1,300 and total P/L is a loss of $573 – $1,300 = – $727.

When underlying price ends up below the strike at expiration, total P/L decreases proportionally to underlying price and equals the difference between premium received for both options and the put option’s value.

P/L below the strike = premium received – put value

P/L below the strike = premium received – (strike – underlying price)

Maximum Loss below the Strike

While potential loss is unlimited above the strike, as for most underlyings there is no theoretical limit on how high their prices can go, below the strike underlying price typically can’t get below zero. As a result, maximum possible loss below the strike is limited, although usually very large.

Maximum loss below the strike = strike – premium received

In our example, it is $45 – $5.73 = $39.27 per share = $3,927 per contract.

Short Straddle Break-Even Points

When considering a potential short straddle trade, it is useful to know where exactly the total P/L turns from profit to loss and how wide the profit window is. There are two break-even points – one above the strike and one below. Their distance from the strike is the same and equal to premium received for both options.

B/E #1 = strike – premium received

B/E #2 = strike + premium received

B/E #1 = $45 – $5.73 = $39.27

B/E #2 = $45 + $5.73 = $50.73

You can see that the lower break-even price is equal to maximum possible loss on the downside.

If you have seen the long straddle payoff tutorial, you can also see the break-even points are exactly the same. This is not surprising, as long straddle and short straddle are just the other side of one another.

Short Straddle Payoff Summary

Below you can find a short straddle payoff diagram (blue line) and contributions of individual legs – the short call (red) and the short put (green).

Maximum profit is exactly at the strike ($45).

Below the strike P/L declines proportionally to underlying price, thanks to the rising value of the short put.

Above the strike P/L decreases as underlying price grows, thanks to the rising value of the short call.

Similar Option Strategies

We already know that short straddle is the other side of long straddle, which is a non-directional long volatility strategy.

Short straddle payoff is similar to short strangle. The difference is that in a short strangle the call strike is higher than the put strike and as a result maximum profit applies for any underlying price between the two strikes. Other things being equal, maximum profit of a short strangle is smaller than maximum profit of a short straddle, because the options you sell are typically out of the money. Nevertheless, thanks to the gap between strikes, the window of profit between the two break-even points is actually wider with a short strangle, making it a slightly more conservative trade than a short straddle.

With the above said, both short straddle and short strangle are quite risky trades. When not carefully managed they can result in large losses if underlying price makes a big move. To limit the potential losses, you can buy an out of the money call and an out of the money put as hedging. This will reduce net premium received and thereby maximum profit, but it will also protect you from large moves. This strategy (short straddle hedged with a lower strike long put and a higher strike long call) is known as iron butterfly. In the same way, iron condor is a hedged version of short strangle.

Multi-leg Options Positions (Part 1 — Straddles and Strangles)

In the previous article we covered single leg positions i.e. just a call at one strike price or just a put at one strike price. Now we’ll move on to defining some multi-leg positions with different combinations of options in them, how to construct them and what they look like in terms of profit and loss (P/L).

Multi-leg option positions allow you to build some quite unusual looking but very useful positions. You can take advantage of sideways ranging markets, trade volatility without having to choose a direction and define your risk on what would otherwise be an undefined risk position among other things.

Before we jump into the straddles and strangles I’ve created a google sheet for building multi-leg options positions that also includes regular longs and shorts. This spreadsheet allows you to enter position combinations and then plots the profit and loss of those combined positions onto charts allowing you to visualise them immediately. It plots this in both Bitcoin and USD.

You can download a free copy here:
Position Builder Google Sheet
(In Google sheets go to File > Make a copy)
Any examples we work through in this article I will leave in the sheet so you have them ready to go and can play around with them.

Straddle Option Positions

A straddle position consists of a call and a put at the same strike price and expiry date. A long straddle is buying both the call and the put, and a short straddle is selling both the call and the put. A straddle is one of the simplest ways to take a non directional trade using options.

This is the basic structure of a straddle and how it looks on a profit/loss chart:

Opening a Long Straddle

  • The current price will typically be at or near the strike price chosen.
  • You are buying a call and a put at the same strike price and same expiry date.
  • As you’re buying two options you’re paying more premium than you would if you were picking a direction.
  • This moves your breakeven points further away from the strike price meaning you need a larger move, but of course now you have two breakeven points as you will benefit from a large move in either direction.
  • The position is fixed risk, so your maximum loss is the premium you have already paid to open the position.
  • You are longing volatility. You want implied volatility to increase once the position is opened as it will increase the value of your options. You want the price to move, the more the better, and it doesn’t matter which direction.

Opening a Short Straddle

  • The current price will typically be at or near the strike price chosen.
  • You are selling a call and a put at the same strike price and same expiry date.
  • As with a long straddle the breakeven points are moved further away from the strike price, but as you are selling this works in your favour.
  • The trade off here is that your risk is not defined in either direction, so your maximum loss is potentially unlimited. For this reason you should avoid shorting straddles until you are more comfortable with options (or you can define the risk by turning it into a butterfly position which we’ll cover in part 2)
  • You are shorting volatility. You want implied volatility to decrease once the position is opened as this will decrease the value of the options you have sold. A sideways ranging market would be ideal for you.

Bitcoin Straddle Example
Using the spreadsheet provided I have constructed here an example of a long straddle at a strike price of $3500, and also assuming a current BTC price of $3500. For this example I’ve assumed both the put and the call cost 0.1BTC each.
So this position is:
+1 call with a strike price of 3500
+1 put with a strike price of 3500

You will notice the USD profit/loss on the bottom looks exactly the same as the basic structure picture for straddles given earlier but the BTC chart looks quite skewed. This is due to the collateral and profit for the option also being paid in BTC. We’ll cover this in more detail in a separate article about the asymmetry of bitcoin profit/loss.

Now let’s add on to the same chart the sellers P/L, i.e. a short straddle with the same parameters:
-1 call with a strike price of 3500
-1 put with a strike price of 3500

The long straddle here is still in blue, with the short straddle added in red.

As a seller’s P/L is just the buyer’s P/L multiplied by minus 1, you can think of this visually as flipping the P/L around the x axis. And so as you can see the breakeven points (where the lines cross the x axis) are the same for both buyer and seller.

The above example will be left in the downloadable version of the sheet under the name ‘Straddle’. Feel free to download a copy for yourself and have a play around with the parameters.

Comparison
Let’s take a quick look at how a straddle compares to a single leg. The following is the same long straddle as above compared with just the call leg, all strikes at 3500.

With the single call (in red) you have chosen a direction so you need the BTC price to increase to profit. With the long straddle (in blue) you can now benefit from a move in either direction but the trade off is the extra premium you’ve paid for the put has dragged the whole P/L line down the chart by the amount of that extra premium, meaning you need a larger move to get to breakeven.

Any increase in the total premium paid will move the P/L line down for option buyers and up for option sellers. We will go into much more detail about this and about option pricing in general in a separate article.

As straddles are normally created with at the money options the premiums can be expensive. A cheaper way to put on a similar position is to move the strikes for the call and the put out of the money. This instead creates a strangle.

Strangle Option Positions
A strangle is very similar to a straddle in that it is non directional and consists of one call and one put, but the call and put are at different strike prices, generally both out of the money. This has the effect of lowering the premium (good for buyers, bad for sellers) and widening the range (good for sellers, bad for buyers).

Opening a Long Strangle

  • The current price will typically be between strike A and B.
  • You are buying a put at strike A, and buying a call at strike B
  • As you’re buying two options you’re paying more premium than you would if you were picking a direction, but as both options are OTM this will be cheaper than a straddle.
  • As both your options are OTM you ideally want the price to move significantly but it does not matter which direction.
  • The position is fixed risk, so your maximum loss is the premium you have already paid to open the position.
  • You are longing volatility. You want implied volatility to increase once the position is opened as it will increase the value of your options. You want the price to move, and move a lot, but it doesn’t matter which direction.

Opening a Short Strangle

  • The current price will typically be between strike A and B.
  • You are selling a put at strike A, and selling a call at strike B.
  • The range you now profit from is wider than with a straddle, however you will also receive less premium.
  • Your risk is still not defined in either direction, so although the range is wider your maximum loss is still potentially unlimited. For this reason you should avoid shorting strangles until you are more comfortable with options (or you can define the risk by turning it into a condor position which we’ll cover in part 2)
  • You are shorting volatility. You want implied volatility to decrease once the position is opened as this will decrease the value of the options you have sold. A sideways ranging market would be ideal, but you do have a little wiggle room depending on which strikes you choose.
  • If the price expires between A and B you get to keep the whole premium you received.

Bitcoin Strangle Example
Using the spreadsheet provided I have constructed here an example of both a long strangle and a short strangle . Again for ease I’ve assumed both options are priced at 0.1BTC but you can adjust the prices and strikes in the sheet to suit your needs and current conditions.

The long strangle contains the following options:
+1 put with a strike price of 3000
+1 call with a strike price of 4000

And of course the short strangle contains the following options:
-1 put with a strike price of 3000
-1 call with a strike price of 4000

This example will be left in the downloadable version of the sheet under the name ‘Strangle’. I would encourage you to have a play around with the examples as it’s a great way to learn. Change the prices, add other legs or just enter a totally different position in the second section to see how it compares to the first.

In part 2 we’ll move on to positions that use additional legs to define risk (for sellers) and define reward in exchange for cheaper positions (for buyers). This includes call spreads, put spreads, butterflies and condors.

If you have any questions at all feel free to comment on here, hit me up on twitter @cryptarbitrage or in the Deribit telegram chat here: https://t.me/deribit

If you are new to Deribit you can take a look and sign up here: Visit Deribit

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Key Concepts Options Strategies

Straddle

A short straddle is a position that is a neutral strategy that profits from the passage of time and any decreases in implied volatility. The short straddle is an undefined risk option strategy.

Directional Assumption: Neutral

Setup:
– Sell ATM Call
– Sell ATM Put

Ideal Implied Volatility Environment : High

Max Profit: Credit received from opening trade

How to Calculate Breakeven(s):
– Downside: Subtract initial credit from Put strike price
– Upside: Add initial credit to the Call strike price

With straddles, it is important to remember that we are working with truly undefined risk in selling a naked call. We focus on probabilities at trade entry, and make sure to keep our risk / reward relationship at a reasonable level.

Implied volatility (IV) plays a huge role in our strike selection with straddles. The higher the IV, the more credit we will receive from selling the options. A higher credit ultimately means we will have wider breakeven points, since we can use the credit to offset losses we may see to the upside or downside. At the end of the day, a larger relative credit results in a higher probability of success with this strategy.

Our target timeframe for selling straddles is around 45 days to expiration. Our studies show this is a great balance between shorter and longer timeframes.

When do we close straddles?
The first profit target is generally 25% of the maximum profit. This is done by buying the straddle back for 75% of the credit received at order entry.

When do we defend straddles?
With premium selling strategies, defensive tactics revolve around collecting more premium to improve our break-even price, and further reduce our cost basis. With short straddles, we don’t have much wiggle room because the short options are already on the same strikes. One option is to roll the whole straddle out in time, using the same strikes. This can be done for a credit, and we will hope for the stock price to return to our short strike by the new expiration.

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