The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- This week kicks off the truly exciting portion of earnings season. It does not get much better than Netflix (NFLX - Get Report), Apple (AAPL - Get Report) and Amazon.com (AMZN - Get Report) all reporting in the same week.
Investors really need to start treating these conference calls like soccer matches and Stanley Cup Playoff games. Invite over some friends. Stock the fridge with beers. Order up a few pizzas. Sit back, relax and enjoy what truly amounts to suspense and excitement.As Jim Cramer mentions on a regular basis, if you're a current or prospective shareholder, you need to listen to these calls, entertaining or not. Even if you have no stake, even a ho-hum earnings call can provide a worthwhile learning experience. There's nothing more unsettling than being in an options trade, particularly a directional one, ahead of earnings. That makes the release of the report as well as the conference call all the more meaningful. It probably should not be nerve-racking, but, let's be honest, most traders and investors do not have the emotionless, cool and disciplined head you need to have when making inherently risky and relatively speculative trades. Moreover, most folks who dabble in short-term speculation do not have a statistical "edge" and, worse yet, they tend to enter the lowest of low-probability trades during the most volatile times (e.g., earnings). Follow TheStreet on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook. There's an easy answer to all of this: Do not get yourself into low-probability options trades ahead of earnings. Even though they're a disaster waiting to happen, people pile into them on a quarterly basis. Why? The allure of the "cheap" out-of-the-money option is just too much to resist. In this article, I discuss trades not to make ahead of Netflix, Apple and Amazon earnings. I consider ones that make more sense. Some involve covered calls, a topic I expand on in Tuesday's issue of my Options Investing Newsletter. Covered calls often represent the best way to use options for beginners and experienced investors alike.