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Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
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Hypno Offline
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Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
This is a thread about investing using options to reduce your risk and increase your returns.

This method is not glamorous – its not something you will brag about at parties or on message boards. But its safe, reliable, and the results can make you location independent after several years of compounding.

Realistically, you can expect 12% to 20+% returns annually. If you get those results, the rule of 72 means you will double your money in 3-6 years!


(The rule of 72 is just a short hand calculation to figure out how long it takes to double your money if you assume a certain interest rate. For example, if you earn 10% a year, compounded it will take you approximately 7.2 years to double your money.)

To use this method successfully, you have to understand why it works and why you should use it.

Why it works.

If you have gambled at a casino, you know that the house has a slight statistical advantage. Yet casinos are full of gamblers who want the thrill of beating the house. The smart money instead tries to change the odds in their favor by counting cards, etc.

This method works by becoming the house. Instead of buying an option on a stock, you sell it. The person buying the stock is gambling that the stock is going much higher. You collect an immediate payment from the gambler called the option premium. If you do this with the right stocks, you can reliably earn 20% a year! And the fact that you have money in your hand immediately reduces your risk.
Here is an actual example of a trade I put on Monday of this week:

Trade No. 1:
Bought UnderArmor (UA) for $14.33.
Sold the $15.00 May 25 call for $.88.

In plain English, I sold the right to buy my UA stock from me for $15. I got paid $0.88 per share to do that. Why did I do that?

Well three things can happen.

First, if UA is above $15 on May 25, roughly 39 days from when sold the option, the option buyer will exercise the option. That means I effectively sell my shares for $15, resulting in a $.67 profit. I also get to keep the $.88 option premium. Together, that’s $1.55 on an investment of $14.33, or 10.8%. But realize that I got that result in less than one-eighth of a year. Annualized, this is a return of more than 86%!

Second, and more likely, my stock will be less than $15 when the option expires. If this happens, then I keep my stock and I keep the option premium. So I earn $.88 on an investment of $14.33, or 6%. But annualized, this a return of 48%! In fact, this is what I hope to happen, because then I can put on the same trade after the option expires.

Third, UA could decline. In fact, as I write this, its declined about 3% from where I bought it at. Lets assume on May 25 it is still down 3%. If this happens, then again I keep my stock and I keep the option premium. So I earn $.88 on an investment of $14.33, or 6%. But annualized, this a return of 48% before the 3 % loss. I think the best way to think about this is to subtract 3% from the 48%, but that is still a return of 45% per year!

Now, is my result typical? Yes and no.

First, if you do this, you should diversify and have a basket of 10-15 stocks. I cherry picked this one because the result was so high.

Second, keep in mind that you are always going to be at risk of the price of the sock going down so you want to pick a company that is solid. Most of the companies I do this with are dividend payers, boring companies. Low beta if you know what that means.

Third, the return in this case is about twice what you would expect for two reasons. One, volatility in the market is high right now, so as the casino-owner you get paid more to sell your option. Second, there is a lot of optimism about this particular company, so gamblers have bid up the price of its call options. In baseball terms, everyone is swinging for the fence. What we want to do is play small ball and try to hit singles (or in this case a double or triple).

Before you pull the trigger on a trade like this, you have to realize a few things. These prices were earlier in the week, and you may not get the same prices. The value of an option decreases as the time run short, so as an option seller (the casino) you can’t expect to get as much.

Also, you are giving up all the upside above the strike price. So set the strike price where you are comfortable selling. If Nike buys UnderArmour for $29, double the current price, I'm only going to get $15. But I'm fine with that because a buyout is unlikely and we are playing for singles and doubles - $.88 per share guaranteed - and not swinging for the fence gambing on a buyout.

I aim for 2-3% above the current price. If I get 2%, and I can do this trade 8 times a year, that is effectively 16% on an annual basis. Anything less than 2% and you increase the chances that the stock is called away from you, and at a less attractive return. And the higher you set the strike price, the less the gamblers will pay you for the option because it makes it harder for their bet to pay off. So you need to balance things a little.

This works best with low volatility stocks. Look at boring companies like AT&T or Hershey;. It works best when you can roll the trade over without having to repurchase the underlying stock. It works best when you collect the option premium, the dividend on the underlying stock, and a gradual capital appreciation in the underlying stock.
04-19-2018 01:11 PM
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SamuelBRoberts Offline
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RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
What do you use to do this?
Like tdameritrade or something?
04-19-2018 01:13 PM
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Omad Offline
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RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
Or you could just sell an out of the money put, use less capital, lower commissions, lower breakeven and you have a higher probability trade.

Covered calls are a neutral to bullish strategy, what will you do in a bear market?
(This post was last modified: 04-19-2018 01:36 PM by Omad.)
04-19-2018 01:35 PM
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Hypno Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
I have used TDAmeritrade but now use Fidelity.

You generally need to fill out an application to get approval to trade options, and there are different levels of approval. Covered calls is the lowest.

Yes, you can also sell naked puts but not in an IRA. Also, the fact that it uses less capital. I konw for most equities the margin requiremetn is only 20%. But you need to stand ready to buy 100% of the stock with a naked put strategy, so thinking about your return on margin is not useful to me. Also, the point it to collect the dividend and the premium and capital appreciation, its not to swing for the fence. So 20+% is good enough for me.

To make an analogy, if you were an NFL coach and you had a running back who is guaranteed to get 4+ yards everytime he touches the ball, why would you pass? There is a value to reliability and predictability that only is appreciatged when your returns compound.

Yes, selling calls puts you at risk of a bear market. This strategy mitigates the risk by selecting low beta stocks, collecting a dividend, and collecting option premiums. If this stock goes down 10% this year, but I can pull this trade off 8 times, then I"m still up 30% because I have the dividends and the option premium in my pocket.
04-19-2018 02:00 PM
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Running Turtles Offline
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Post: #5
RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
I'm sorry for asking a stupid question because I don't think I completely understand this.

As far as I understand, annual returns of 12% are very good relative to the general stock market indexes. With your strategy it seems like you make money no matter if the stock goes up or down within the specified timeframe.

If this is the case, why isn't everyone doing it?
04-19-2018 02:53 PM
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DJ-Matt Offline
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Post: #6
RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
Robinhood has options trading for free now if you want to go that route. I signed up for it and got approved but my eyes glazed over trying to figure out how options trading works

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04-19-2018 04:47 PM
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Tail Gunner Offline
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RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
(04-19-2018 02:53 PM)Running Turtles Wrote:  I'm sorry for asking a stupid question because I don't think I completely understand this.

As far as I understand, annual returns of 12% are very good relative to the general stock market indexes. With your strategy it seems like you make money no matter if the stock goes up or down within the specified timeframe.

If this is the case, why isn't everyone doing it?

No, for example if you sell a vertical bull put credit spread, which is somewhat different than the covered calls discussed by Hypno (where you own the underlying stock), the price must remain neutral or increase. Here is a good explanation. Do not trade spreads unless you understand these articles completely, at a minimum. You will see that there is a break-even point.

http://www.optiontradingpedia.com/free_b...spread.htm


Here is the covered call (discussed by Hypno):

http://www.optiontradingpedia.com/free_covered_call.htm


I traded vertical bull put credit spreads for a number of years. It really does work and it can provide a decent income. I no longer trust the financial system or the stock markets, so I deleveraged from the markets last year. I know that I am in the minority, but I now sleep far more soundly investing in real tangible things that everyone needs to survive -- regardless of what happens in the financial system (e.g., agriculture and housing).

As someone already asked: "what will you do in a bear market?" That is a real concern, because the markets are now months away from becoming the longest bull market in history. The answer, for credit spreads, is that you continue to roll your positions and buy lower spreads just to break even, which could take years after a severe market downturn. Not many people have the patience and perseverance to do that. Could you sleep at night with all your trades underwater for several years? Everything is peaches and cream when the market rises for nine years in a row. But when will the ride end? We are already in uncharted territory with interest rates lower than in 5,000 years of recorded human history, stock prices that go up on bad news and go down on good news, massive valuations on tech companies that have never turned a profit, huge debt levels by both corporations and governments, etc.

I am not saying not to trade option spreads. It provides a nice, consistent, relatively-safe income -- as long as the market continues to remain neutral or rises. I am just saying that there are many issues to consider before taking the plunge.
(This post was last modified: 04-19-2018 06:05 PM by Tail Gunner.)
04-19-2018 05:37 PM
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Razor Beast Offline
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RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
(04-19-2018 01:11 PM)Hypno Wrote:  Trade No. 1:
Bought UnderArmor (UA) for $14.33.
Sold the $15.00 May 25 call for $.88.

You still have a directional bet on. It looks to me like you are selling upside vol ahead of an earnings report (5/1). You still have naked downside exposure. If the stock moves to the downside more than the implied upside move ($.88) by the options market net of round trip execution fees you will lose money.
(This post was last modified: 04-19-2018 06:23 PM by Razor Beast.)
04-19-2018 06:22 PM
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The Father Offline
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Post: #9
RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
(04-19-2018 02:53 PM)Running Turtles Wrote:  I'm sorry for asking a stupid question because I don't think I completely understand this.

As far as I understand, annual returns of 12% are very good relative to the general stock market indexes. With your strategy it seems like you make money no matter if the stock goes up or down within the specified timeframe.

If this is the case, why isn't everyone doing it?

Because it's not going to pay 12-20% year in year out in a mean-reverting market that has averaged about 10% return per year (including dividends, which options don't pay) for the past 100 years.

It's like a guy saying "use my coin-toss strategy and you'll get 6-7 heads on every 10 tosses, every time". Ok. Sure. Maybe on the first 10 coin tosses. But over time, you're going to revert to the mean.

The only way of beating the broader index returns, over time, in a systematic way, is to have a portfolio tilt towards tech, healthcare, and sectors that have generated returns of 12-14% or so. And that's assuming those sectors continue to outperform the market, which is far from guaranteed.
04-19-2018 07:51 PM
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The Father Offline
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RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
(04-19-2018 02:00 PM)Hypno Wrote:  To make an analogy, if you were an NFL coach and you had a running back who is guaranteed to get 4+ yards everytime he touches the ball, why would you pass?

For the same reason only a fool believes you'll consistently earn 20%...because no running back is going to do that. He may average that - in an offense where there are other threats. But he's not guaranteed to get that every time, or even on average, if you give him the ball every play: Defenses adapt, just like the market adapts; it is weak-form efficient. And it adapts to trading and option strategies too.

But hey, if you can earn 20% "guaranteed", by all means, continue to do so! In about 3 years you'll have the largest hedge fund on earth, be richer than Buffet, and can throw wild parties to which i hope you'll all invite all your RVF pals!! At this party, i personally will suck your dick.
(This post was last modified: 04-19-2018 07:55 PM by The Father.)
04-19-2018 07:55 PM
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The Father Offline
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RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
(04-19-2018 06:22 PM)Razor Beast Wrote:  You still have a directional bet on. It looks to me like you are selling upside vol ahead of an earnings report (5/1). You still have naked downside exposure. If the stock moves to the downside more than the implied upside move ($.88) by the options market net of round trip execution fees you will lose money.

No!! He will earn 20%, "realistically"! Aren't you reading??
(This post was last modified: 04-19-2018 08:05 PM by The Father.)
04-19-2018 07:56 PM
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Omad Offline
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Post: #12
RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
(04-19-2018 02:00 PM)Hypno Wrote:  I have used TDAmeritrade but now use Fidelity.

You generally need to fill out an application to get approval to trade options, and there are different levels of approval. Covered calls is the lowest.

Yes, you can also sell naked puts but not in an IRA. Also, the fact that it uses less capital. I konw for most equities the margin requiremetn is only 20%. But you need to stand ready to buy 100% of the stock with a naked put strategy, so thinking about your return on margin is not useful to me. Also, the point it to collect the dividend and the premium and capital appreciation, its not to swing for the fence. So 20+% is good enough for me.

To make an analogy, if you were an NFL coach and you had a running back who is guaranteed to get 4+ yards everytime he touches the ball, why would you pass? There is a value to reliability and predictability that only is appreciatged when your returns compound.

Yes, selling calls puts you at risk of a bear market. This strategy mitigates the risk by selecting low beta stocks, collecting a dividend, and collecting option premiums. If this stock goes down 10% this year, but I can pull this trade off 8 times, then I"m still up 30% because I have the dividends and the option premium in my pocket.

Ok, IRA is a little different, you can sell puts in an IRA as long as they are cash secured. I don't trade in an IRA.

I've got nothing against covered calls, I trade them occasionally. I've got one on at the moment, it didn't start as a covered call, it was originally a short put that was part of a straddle. I got assigned early on the put so I've been selling calls against the long stock to get back to breakeven.

However, strategy diversity is just as important as portfolio diversity, if not more so. If you have a portfolio of covered calls you've got neither strategy or portfolio diversity and you'll get crushed in a big down move.

As Running Turtles said, "Everything is peaches and cream when the market rises for nine years in a row. But when will the ride end?" A blind monkey throwing darts could of made money being long, that shit won't last forever and it's already a different market in 2018.

Like I said, i've got nothing agains covered calls, they're a good introduction to option trading and cost basis reduction, which is what option trading is all about. But they won't work in all markets.

Any active traders should check out Tastyworks, cheapest commissions ($1 per contract, capped at $10 per leg and no closing commissions) and best platform in the business, and it will only get better.
04-19-2018 08:26 PM
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Bacchus Offline
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Post: #13
RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
I'll preface this with an admission that I've never touched an option in my life. But this quote immediately sprang to my mind:

Quote:"Option sellers, it is said, eat like chickens and go to the bathroom like elephants

Taleb in Fooled by Randomness
04-19-2018 08:33 PM
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TheFinalEpic Offline
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RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
Yes, we all have gotten into options at one time or another in our lives and were amazed at how covered calls supposedly are super riskless yet yield a decent return. Until you get shit on by tail risk or a black swan, lose all your winnings, and come up completely the same as before you started. Keep selling that premium once the stock you are holding gets fucked in the ass, and hold on to your loser... oh wait, that's completely against what real traders do. Or worse, were your stock to go to 20, you're losing out on tremendous gains.

If you want to actually make money, start by buying or selling an option, then actively managing the position by creating spreads, condors, etc. This is not passive in the slightest mind you, and can get super math heavy. I always laugh at people that sell options (either covered or uncovered) and get destroyed even though it was such a "safe" play because they don't know how to manage a position.

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(This post was last modified: 04-19-2018 08:59 PM by TheFinalEpic.)
04-19-2018 08:49 PM
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RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
I follow the tastytrade YouTube channel. Lots of options insight. I highly recommend it for educational purposes.

The robinhood promotion is only for Australia and the USA so far. That is awesome. The so called "discount brokerages" in Canada charge ridiculous fees. Cannot wait till Canadians get a real discount brokerage like our neighbours to the south enjoy.
04-19-2018 09:10 PM
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Hypno Offline
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Post: #16
RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
Responding to questions above - the strategy works well in an up or flat market. In a down market, your underlying stocks will go down. But it still is better than most alternatives for two reasons. First, you are locking in a certain return. If I sell a 45 day option for 2% of the value of the underlying stock, that money is in my pocket. Yes, I remain at risk that the underlying declines in value. But most people in the market have that risk. Second, you want to do this with low beta stocks. By definition, those will go down less than average if there is a market decline.

As for Black Swans, etc. Yes, they occur, rarely, but that is why you diversify among 10-15 positions.

The Father's criticism above is valid to a point. This stock is not low beta, so the option premium is high. Also, option buyers - the gamblers - have bid up prices and The Father is right that premiums will eventually return to the median. So instead of 40% you can expect 10-20%. But this beats the buy and hold strategy most people pursue, and beats trying to swing for the fence by buying overpriced tech and healthcare stocks and hoping that someone will come along and buy them from you at a higher price.
04-20-2018 05:14 AM
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DrugAdvisor Offline
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Post: #17
RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
OP,

Please highlight the importance of fees when running this strategy.

A 2% yield will easily drop to 0.2% in a small position when one is trading in single contracts if using the wrong brokerage.

For beginners it would be easier if they traded covered call contracts on larger indices as the volatility is relatively less.

All in all, a solid strategy but I found it isn’t worthwhile if one is trading on an account less than $100,000.
04-20-2018 08:41 AM
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Omad Offline
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Post: #18
RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
In a strong bull market buy and hold will out perform covered calls but in other market conditions the covered call will out perform.

10-15 different long positions isn't going to help much in a Black Swan event or even in a good old fashioned market pull back. You'll be losing less than buy and hold, but you'll still be feeling the pain.

I'd suggest taking the next step and learn to trade options, you can put on much smaller positions, use less capital, which means you can have more occurrences. This helps that statistical advantage play out in your favour. You can also control your overall portfolio Delta, you can be long, short or Delta neutral if you prefer.
04-20-2018 02:44 PM
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coverdoc Offline
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RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
Has anyone actually used Robinhood? It's looking tempting to me. I trade options calls/put usually penny ones and capitalize on the growth from 5-8 cent options, but I use Sharebuilder and get raped on the commission fees per trade.

-CD
04-20-2018 06:09 PM
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RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
" First, you are locking in a certain return. If I sell a 45 day option for 2% of the value of the underlying stock, that money is in my pocket. Yes, I remain at risk that the underlying declines in value." - Yes, you are at significant risk that is slightly mitigated by the premium you took. You are locking in a premium, you are not locking in a return. So when the stock you are selling against takes a nose dive, have fun holding on. You will also not want to roll down your call because you are going to literally lock in a loss.

"Yes black swans happen, that's why you diversify" - Dude, you can diversify all you want, market risk will cause you are losing everything. Everything has some correlation on any of the indexes. And, you are likely selling liquid options, not something on some obscure exchange.

There is 0 expectancy when trading options, you learn this very early on. The tasty trade method makes me laugh so fucking hard. You have around 70% chance of making a small amount of money, and 30% chance of losing a larger amount of money. At the end of the day, you are back to square one.

The way you create expectancy is by managing positions, by creating spreads and strategies that lock in profits and mitigate downsides.

Do not buy significantly out of the money options; you need to understand the greeks to sucessfully trade them, and that each strike literally moves with velocity depending on in the moneyness or out of the moneyness.

Use Interactive Brokers.

"Money over bitches, nigga stick to the script." - Jay-Z
They gonna love me for my ambition.
(This post was last modified: 04-21-2018 01:45 AM by TheFinalEpic.)
04-21-2018 01:41 AM
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RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
(04-20-2018 06:09 PM)coverdoc Wrote:  Has anyone actually used Robinhood? It's looking tempting to me. I trade options calls/put usually penny ones and capitalize on the growth from 5-8 cent options, but I use Sharebuilder and get raped on the commission fees per trade.

-CD

I haven't used it. It's probably ok for a smaller account size just don't expect great execution prices in the market. Depends on how much you value platform stability and quality of trade execution.
(This post was last modified: 04-21-2018 01:58 AM by Razor Beast.)
04-21-2018 01:55 AM
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Post: #22
RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
Hey Hypno, what do you do when your running back gets 4+ yards each down but the other team gets a touchdown on their 1st turnover? What's the point deficit for your team after a full game if it takes you 25 downs to get a touchdown while the other team gets a TD every down they have possession?

I think you get the point.
(This post was last modified: 04-21-2018 02:10 PM by ts58.)
04-21-2018 01:59 PM
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Post: #23
RE: Options Investing for Beginners – How to beat the house by playing small ball.
Would recommend some light reading for OP, Options as a Strategic Investment by McMillan is a great introduction to this world, and a steal of a deal at only 1072 pages.

"Money over bitches, nigga stick to the script." - Jay-Z
They gonna love me for my ambition.
04-21-2018 07:36 PM
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