July 1, 2024

The 30-20-50 Options Strategy: Selling High-Probability Vertical Credit Spreads

The 30-20-50 Options Strategy: Selling High-Probability Vertical Credit Spreads

Are you looking for a systematic approach to options trading that aims for consistent profits with managed risk? Let's explore a popular strategy among options traders that involves selling short-term vertical credit spreads. We'll call it the "30-20-50" strategy. Here's how it works:

Key Strategy Components:

  1. 30: Sell spreads with approximately 30 Days To Expiration (DTE)
  2. 20: Choose a short option with around .20 delta
  3. 50: Close the trade when it reaches 50% of maximum profit

Let's break this down:

  1. 30 Days To Expiration (DTE)

Why 30 days? This timeframe strikes a balance between:

  • Enough time for the trade to develop
  • Rapid time decay (theta) in the last month before expiration
  • Adequate liquidity in the options market
  1. .20 Delta Short Option

The .20 delta serves two purposes:

  • Probability: A .20 delta suggests roughly an 80% chance the option will expire out-of-the-money
  • Premium: It provides a reasonable amount of premium while staying out-of-the-money
  1. 50% Profit Target

Closing at 50% of maximum profit allows you to:

  • Realize gains more quickly
  • Reduce risk exposure
  • Free up capital for new trades

The Strategy in Action:

  1. Choose your underlying asset (stock, ETF, etc.)
  2. Identify the option chain closest to 30 DTE
  3. Sell a vertical credit spread:
    • For bullish outlook: Sell a put spread
    • For bearish outlook: Sell a call spread
  4. Select the short strike near .20 delta
  5. Choose a long strike to define your risk
  6. Set a closing order at 50% of maximum profit


Let's say XYZ stock is trading at $100, and you're bullish:

  1. Sell the 30 DTE $95 put (approximately .20 delta) for $1.00
  2. Buy the 30 DTE $90 put for $0.40
  3. Net credit received: $0.60

Maximum profit: $0.60 (the credit received) Maximum loss: $4.40 ($5 spread width minus $0.60 credit) 50% profit target: $0.30

Benefits of this Strategy:

  1. High Probability: The .20 delta suggests an approximately 80% chance of success.
  2. Defined Risk: Your maximum loss is known and limited.
  3. Efficient Use of Capital: Credit spreads often require less capital than buying options outright.
  4. Quick Realizations: 50% profit target often allows for faster cycling of capital.
  5. Capitalizes on Time Decay: Selling options benefits from theta decay.

Risks and Considerations:

  1. Limited Profit: Your gain is capped at the initial credit received.
  2. Early Assignment: While rare at .20 delta, it's possible, especially with dividend-paying stocks.
  3. Gamma Risk: As expiration nears, the position can move quickly if the underlying approaches your short strike.
  4. Transaction Costs: Frequent trading can incur significant fees; consider this in your profit calculations.

Managing the Trade:

  • Set a stop-loss: Consider exiting if the loss reaches 100% of the credit received or 25% of the maximum risk, whichever comes first.
  • Roll if needed: If the trade moves against you, you might roll to the next expiration to give yourself more time.
  • Adjust for volatility: In high IV environments, you might go further out-of-the-money (e.g., .15 delta).

The 30-20-50 vertical credit spread strategy offers a systematic approach to options trading that balances probability, profit potential, and risk management. By focusing on short-term, high-probability trades and taking profits quickly, this strategy aims to generate consistent returns while limiting exposure to any single trade.

Remember, while this strategy has a high probability of success on individual trades, it's crucial to manage your overall risk. No strategy wins 100% of the time, and a string of losses can occur. Always size your positions appropriately and never risk more than you can afford to lose.

As with any trading strategy, it's essential to paper trade and thoroughly understand the mechanics before committing real capital. Consider your own risk tolerance, market outlook, and trading goals when implementing this or any options strategy.