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What are unusual options?

Unusual Options Activity involves option contracts being traded at a much higher volume than their daily average. Large volume on option contracts can indicate that someone is making a bet based on transparent or non-transparent catalysts.

A transparent catalyst is a public event like an earnings call, company conference, or a product launch event. These events are known by the general public and traders may have proprietary information that they use to place an unusual option order.

Non-transparent catalysts involve events that are not scheduled or made known to the public. These can be an early release of earnings, a company acquisition, an executive leaving, etc. Traders and investors that have this non-public information may be making a large bet using unusual option activity.

Significance of Unusual Options & Order Flow?

When smart money is ‘flowing’, this can indicate that the stock is going to move, likely due to a catalyst. The trick is to ‘drown out the noise’ and know which trades to follow, and which trades to ignore. Institutional investors are professionals at drowning out the noise and predicting future price action. This is due to being able to read order flow at a high skill level. They can decipher which trades are material, likely executed by other institutions, and which trades are likely being executed by speculative retail traders. By being able to read order flow at the same level as an institutional trader, you too can learn how to decipher which trades are material, possibly due to industry knowledge, for example, and which trades are retail speculation.

  • Unusual options activity involves option orders with large relative volume

  • They can represent a bet on the direction of the underlying stock in the short term

  • Unusual options activity can also be used as a hedge, therefore it’s best to use in combination with other indicators to understand the potential direction of the stock


Option Order Flow Components

  1. Ticker - Located in the top left, the ticker is the underlying asset of the options flow order.

  2. Order Sentiment - Located to the right of the ticker, the order sentiment is displayed as bought (order sent at ask), sold (order sent at bid), Bought AA (order sent above the ask), or Sold BB (Order sent below the bid).

  3. ‍Expiration - The expiration date of the options contracts, located below the ticker

  4. Strike - The strike price of the options contracts, located below the contract expiration

  5. ‍Spot - The price of the underlying asset at the moment the options flow order was sent into the market. Located to the right of the strike price.

  6. ‍Date and Time - Located across from the ticker, displays the exact date and time the options flow order was sent into the market.

  7. Total Premium - The amount of money the options flow order costs, located below the date and time.

  8. Contract Price - The bid or ask price the institution has sent the order at. Located to the right of the total Premium.

  9. ‍Volume and Open Interest - The total volume for the option contract on the day at the time the options flow order is sent is displayed as Vol. The amount of contracts that existed in the market heading into the current trading day is the Open Interest. Both of these are displayed below the premium and contract price on the right side of the order.

  10. ‍Contract Type and Status - The contract status is defined as either out of the money (OTM) or in the money (ITM). The contract type is defined as a call or put. Both are located below the volume and open interest.

  11. ‍Order Type - Located to the right of the contract type, options flow orders are either multi-exchange transactions on the public market (sweep) or single, privately negotiated transactions (block).



  • Sweeps – Large orders across various exchanges, paying the market price. Sweeps indicate a sense of urgency to get into a position, and are considered aggressive and directional.

  • Splits – Like sweeps, splits are orders that are often broken down and executed into smaller orders, however, only on a single exchange. They are not considered as aggressive as sweep orders.

  • Block – A large privately negotiated order executed by institutions with major financial backing.

  • Dark pools – A large share trade executed on a private exchange that is not accessible to the public.



  • Option Orders bought Above ask means, conviction buys by trader willing to pay more than market price

  • Avoid Orders part of Spreads – Many times a order is part of spread, usually the Option Flow tools provide that information so you can avoid Spreads

  • Short Term Expiry- I like to see Short term expiry like in 2 months or even lesser as it shows urgency of the trader expecting a bigger move soon enough rather than later

  • Far Out of Money Strikes- If Option Flow is coming for very far out of money call with huge premium means they are confident about bigger move and that is why spending lot of money in those; they will buy far out of the money strikes which are cheaper than in the money and at the money strikes.

  • Volume Greater than Open Interest-When volume or a trade is higher than the open interest for the options contract, that can also sometimes depict urgency and confidence.

  • Combine flow with Technical – Use technical skills to combine with flow. I personally like to see Unusual Calls on a Technical Breakout rather then calls on a Bearish Stock. Similarly unusual flow on stock breaking support or on downtrend , I would like to see lot Puts  rather than calls


Unusual options activity occurs when there is significantly higher than average trading volume in an options contract. Unusual options activity can be driven by widespread interest in a stock or by a few large trades placed by institutional traders. You can track unusual options activity using free or premium scanners. When monitoring unusual options activity, be sure to look for a catalyst and only trade if there is a setup that suits your trading strategy.

Some Platforms Providing Unsual Flow

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