After more than 1300 trades, the 0DTE Breakeven Iron Condor remains my most profitable options trading strategy. This is what I have learned after more than one year of trading.
In January 2022 I wrote a blog post describing what has been my most profitable options trading strategy: The 0DTE Breakeven Iron Condor.
I received a massive response to this article, and many have asked how it did during the turbulent first half of 2002, with huge swings and the markets dropping.
So here is the summary:
- After 16 months of trading – only one month (January 2022) has seen a loss.
- The strategy is showing an annual profit of more than 70 – 80 % as measured against the maximum buying power I am allowing myself to put at risk
- 38.3 % of the trades have been winners so far. That is a bit down from the 41.6 % I reported in January, and for sure a result of the turbulent first half-year of 2022.
This article is only to describe my own experience with this strategy, and should not be interpreted as financial advice in any way. Remember: Any options strategy carries great risk – and this particular strategy has the potential to blow out your account if you do not use stop losses or manage the risk well.
This is the 0DTE Breakeven Iron Condor strategy
Let us summarize the 0DTE Breakeven Iron Condor strategy before we move on.
- It is a day trading strategy on SPX – the index option for the S&P 500 index. 0DTE = Zero Days to Expiration.
- It consists of selling Iron Condors on SPX – with expiration the same day – collecting approximately the same premium on both sides. The Iron Condors are typically sold with a delta of 5 – 8. Usually, I collect a premium of 100 to 200 dollars. I typically set the wings between the shorts and the longs to 30 points. Usually I will do 5-6 such trades during the day, but rarely have more than 3-4 open at the same time.
- The trades have a very tight stop loss – set separately for each side equal to the total premium collected for the Iron Condor. This limits the potential loss on each trade.
Iron Condor: An options trading strategy where you sell both a call credit spread and a put credit spread at the same time. The trade profits if the underlying stays within a defined range when the options expire.
The results so far
I started trading the strategy at the end of April 2021 – and have put on trades on most trading days since then. On most days I risk a maximum of 12 000 dollars in buying power. On some occasions, when I feel a couple of the positions are very safe, I might go up to 15 000 dollars. My individual trades are always only one contract.
- During the last year (August 2021 to July 2022) I made 12 681 dollars on this strategy (after commissions and fees). That is 84,5 % of the max buying power of 15 000 dollars I use. In total I have made 16.814 dollars on the strategy. NB: All numbers in this article are after commissions and fees.
- The average trade made 0.46 % of the capital at risk for that trade. That may seem little – but remember that the same capital is used again and again each day. (Annualized over 250 trading days it becomes 121 %)
- The premium capture rate has been 9 % – and the trade keeps having a positive expectancy.
- The average win is 2.4 times as big as the average loss.
What I have learned
These are some of my key learnings so far:
- This strategy can be consistently profitable – and is suitable for traders who do not like big drawdowns on their accounts.
- Although many parts of the strategy, such as the tight stop losses, are mechanical, the strategy requires quite a bit of flexibility in how it is executed.
- Risk management is alpha and omega for whether you have success with 0DTE Breakeven Iron Condor. Especially it is important to try to avoid double stop losses.
How I trade 0DTE Breakeven Iron Condors
My trading has evolved since I wrote the original article. Not least, I am even more focused on my total risk at any time.
- I usually put on the first trade around 5 – 10 minutes after the market has opened. I try to get around 200 dollars in premium for this one. The premium should be about the same on both the put side and the call side.
- Before I do anything else, I immediately set the stop loss for my trade. The market can move so fast, that it is essential to have this in place with no hesitation.
- Because of the volatility crush in the first hour of the market, this trade will sometimes get profitable very fast (or sometimes lose equally fast). If it has reached more than 50 % of its profit potential within the first hour, I will usually take it off to pocket money to pay for any later losses in the day.
- I will add new trades later – but there will always be at least 30 minutes between them. I do not have any strict rules for when I add trades. Rather I look at my total risk, and whether a new trade will balance it. For instance, if I already have two trades going against me with a high negative or positive delta, adding a neutral new Iron Condor might be a good idea. Likewise, if my active trades are already in solid positive territory, adding a new trade is safer.
- I will try to reduce risk as much as I can during the day. I do this in several ways. Sometimes I take off trades early to lock in some profit. Often I tighten stop losses to guarantee a profit if some trades are in positive territory. And if stop losses hit on one side, I will often close the other side as well once it can be closed for 5 or 10 dollars. This is again to reduce my total risk.
- I will never have more than 5 trades on at any time, usually only 2 – 3. Five simultaneous trades are reserved for situations when I have a great deal of control, for instance that 2-3 of them are already profitable and I have locked in a profit with my stop loss.
My stop losses
Stop losses are crucial to this strategy. The market can change so fast and brutally intraday that I do not understand how anyone dares to do 0DTE trades without stop losses.
This strategy has very tight stop losses compared to most 0DTE strategies. The advantage of that is that you will rarely have very bad days. Most losses are around 25-30 dollars per contract.
MY STOP LOSS STRATEGY
I use a combination of stop limit and stop market orders on my stop losses. The stop losses are set separately on the call and the put side.
On each side I first set a stop limit order. The stop price for each side is the total premium I received for the full Iron Condor + 10 points. The limit price is typically set 15 points beyond that, sometimes 20. I set the stop orders on the spread, not only the shorts.
At additional 15 points further out from the limit price I set a stop market order using the OCO functionality (Once Cancels the Other). This serves as a last line of defence to make sure I do get out of the trade if the market moves so fast that the stop limit order is skipped. However, in almost all the cases it is the stop limit order that triggers.
Late in the day, when the longs have lost almost all their value, I will change the stop losses from being on the whole spread to only cover the shorts.
The biggest risk with this strategy
There is no doubt what is the biggest risk with the 0DTE Breakeven Iron Condor strategy: Double stop losses.
The 0DTE Breakeven Iron Condor assumes that only the stop loss on one side of the Iron Condor will hit. In that case, the loss per contract will be around 20 – 30 dollars, including slippage.
This is true in almost all cases. But every now and then the market suddenly moved in the opposite direction – and the stop loss is hit also on the other side.
How often does this happen?
Well, I can tell you exactly how often it has happened to me! After 1344 trades with this strategy, I have experienced a double stop loss in 3,8 % of my trades. This percentage has stayed quite consistent.
There are two other risks I want to point out with the two-layer stop loss strategy I follow :
- If the stop limit order is skipped and the stop market order is what triggers, I will now and then experience a rather bad fill, making the loss much bigger than normal.
- There is a theoretical chance – and it has happened to me two or three times – that both the stop limit order and stop market order will trigger simultaneously. In that situation, you will suddenly be long the position you were short. This does not need to be bad; if the market keeps moving against your original position, you can actually profit. But at least for me, it has taken a few minutes to understand what happened. And I really don’t like events that were not intended, even though they may be beneficial in the end.
The perfect day with this strategy
The worst day of the 0DTE Breakeven Iron Condor strategy is obviously if double stop losses hit on several of my trades. Then the losses can add up very quickly. This is why I try to take off my risks during the day when opportunities to do so offer themselves.
But what is the perfect day?
It is a day that starts with high volatility priced in, but very quickly develops into a completely flat day, leading to a consistent drop in volatility throughout the day.
On a day like that, you can pick money like fruit from an apple tree. Take off trades, enter new. Take off trades, enter new. Repeat and rinse.
Those days do not happen often. And when they do, you do not typically realize it before it is too late. That is trading!
Most days stick to my average after 16 months with the strategy: I lose 61,7 % of the trades and I win 38,3 %. And because my wins on average are 2.4 times the size of my average losses, the strategy keeps having a positive expectancy.
Win percentages do not really matter in trading. What really matters, is if you have a positive or negative expectancy.
Expectancy is measured in the following way:
Expectancy = (win rate * average size of wins) – (loss rate * average size of losses)
After 16 months and 1344 trades this strategy keeps having a clear positive expectancy. That makes me feel confident. So I will keep going!
My next step with this strategy
So if this strategy has been so successful for me after 16 months, why do I still only trade 1 contract at a time? Is it not time to “up the game”?
There are two answers to that:
- While this strategy has been consistently profitable, I have had losses on other strategies I did, especially weekly trades. So I have not had the capacity to scale it fully yet.
- As for 0DTE trades, I am currently exploring a path where I do four different 0DTE strategies on a single day, this being the “bread and butter”. My hypothesis is that this diversification will give better total results than only following one single strategy.
But most probably I will scale the 0DTE strategy very soon. And I believe that the way to scale is to add more contracts rather than doing more trades.
My first scaling step will be to do the first trade of the day with two contracts, and then take them off one at a time unless they hit a stop loss.
But most importantly: I love the fact that I have found a trading style that fits my personality – chasing the small daily wins without huge losses.
At the end of the day, how we trade has to fit our own personality and style.
Want to learn more about 0DTE options trading. Join the TastyTrade Options Facebook group. I have learned so much from the other members there.