The Martingale System

The Martingale betting system has been around longer than any other surviving betting system. It can be used in most casino games, and it follows a progression that can be applied to nearly any other type of gambling.

This is a system that looks flawless on the surface, but to make an accurate evaluation we need to dig deeper. There are a lot of caveats to consider, and the Martingale can only be reviewed after you've decided exactly when and where you want to use it.

What Is The Martingale?

The basic idea behind the Martingale system is that you will double your losing bets until you eventually win. In the end, every win should be large enough to completely offset even the longest string of losses and still be able to give you a small payout.

To make this perfectly clear, let's take a look at an example. Let's say that that a craps player is using the Martingale. He is making $1 passline bets to get started. The table below summarizes his game.

Bet Size Win/Loss Net Winnings
1 W 1
1 L 0
2 L -2
4 L -6
8 W 2
1 L 1
2 W 3

Looking at the example above, we can see exactly how this system works. The player doubles his bet size after every loss, and after every win he goes back to a $1 bet. No matter what kind of peaks and valleys his bankroll goes through, every win gives him an additional $1 (the same as his starting bet).

Using The Martingale Properly

One of the Martingale's biggest strengths is the fact that it is so simple. There is almost no way to mess this system up. When playing, there are the only four fundamental rules that you should keep in mind.

  • Only use even money bets.
  • Make small starting bets.
  • Always double your losing bets.
  • After a win, always revert to the small starting bet.

Since each net win is only as big as your starting wager, some players bite off more than they can chew by making large starting bets. A $20 bet can take you $320 in the hole with only four consecutive bets.

It Has Its Limits

There are two major limits to consider when deciding if the Martingale System is right for you. The first is your bankroll. It might not be too likely to see ten or twenty losses in a row, but it does happen. Every time you double your bet, you get further in the hole, and it becomes extremely costly no matter whether you stop or continue.

On the other hand, you also need to consider the casino's table limits. At a $10/$1000 table you'll only be able to continue betting up until six consecutive losses before the $1000 maximum restricts your play (shown by the scenario below).

Loss # Bet Size Net-Loss
  10 10
1 20 30
2 40 70
3 80 150
4 160 310
5 320 630
6 640 1270

So Does It Work?

In the situation above ($10/$1000 table) you can only lose if you see six losses in a row on an even-money bet. What are the chances of this happening? Well, each pass line wager has a 50.71% chance of losing. So to calculate losing six times in a row, we need to use this formula: 1รท(0.5071)6. The result is 58.8, which means this kind of losing streak will occur once for every 59 rolls!

In the long run this gives the house a significant advantage, which is probably why they don't discourage it. From the player's perspective, it can still be a decent way to make some money in the short term. There is only a small chance you will lose if you only play for a few rolls, but beware that you may still face a devastating loss.

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