The Martingale System: A Betting Strategy to Avoid?

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The Martingale System is an easy to understand gambling system based on simplicity and logic. It is so well-known that almost every player has either heard of the concept or utilised a version of the Martingale System in their play.

The question always asked of the Martingale System is, should you use it?

For as long as gambling has existed players have looked for ways to beat the games and make winning a formality. We all want to push the edge in our favour and guarantee riches and winnings.

Whether it’s attempting to card count at a live casino or table selection in poker, our endless search for +EV situations leads us to consider anything and everything that could give us an edge.

Despite thousands of articles being written about it, the Martingale System remains a topic of gambling debate. It has never been irrefutably disproved, other than to note its inherent limitations regardless of whether you're playing at quality casinos or not.

Where Did the Martingale System Originate?

The system is believed to have originated in France during the 18th century. Due to its use, the rules of the games had to evolve to push the edge definitively back towards the casinos.

The game of Roulette has the green zero number on their wheel. This ensures that the player never plays “red or black” with a true 50% chance of winning. The casinos also employ table limits to give the Martingale players only a limited number of chances to win.

How Does the Martingale System Work?

In a game with only two possible outcomes, for example spinning a coin, simply double your stake each time you lose until you win. That’s it! When you win, you return to your original stake and continue.

With only two possible outcomes per game, you have a 50% chance of winning each time you spin the coin. Logically, it shouldn’t be too long before you guess correctly and you win. If you double your stake each time you lose, when you win you recoup your losses and go ahead by a point.

Here’s a quick example. A friend challenges you to flip a coin for £1 per spin. You decide to use the Martingale System, cunningly expecting to gradually win £1 every time you win with your use of the Martingale System rendering the inevitable losses irrelevant.

It starts badly, with you guessing incorrectly 4 times in a row before winning. At £1 per point you would have four losing spins of £1, then £2, £4 and finally £8. Betting £16 on the fifth spin you win. You had lost £15 on the first four spins before winning the fifth spin for a £16 profit, putting you ahead by £1. The game continues.

WATCH: 5 Minutes of Pure Martingale System Roulette Play

Is the Martingale System Profitable?

Each time you use the Martingale System you may feel the odds are in your favour because you have a 50% chance of winning, so you should win half the games, right?

Well, wait a moment. That’s the glass half full mentality, however, there is also the 50% chance you will lose too. Each time you play with two possible outcomes, your chances of winning, or losing, remains at 50%.

Losing runs do occur and the longer you play the more likely you will encounter a losing run. The stakes get high quickly and in the real world, casino betting limits and the size of your own bankroll limits your opportunities to play for that elusive win. The betting Gods can be cruel sometimes!

After 9 losing bets at £1 per point, the Martingale System player would need to bet £512 to win £1. Not many gamblers would be comfortable with this sort of risk for so little reward and it is worth noting that even with 9 losses, the chances of winning this bet obstinately remains at, you guessed it, (only) 50%.

Whilst you may possibly make small profits using Martingale, when you encounter a losing streak your losses can grow very quickly.

The Martingale System Risk Management

Despite its inherent risks, the player might correctly note that managing risk is a key part of developing a betting strategy. Armed with the knowledge of the Martingale System and what can go wrong in the worst-case scenarios, players can still use a progressive system to give structure to their betting.

Here is an example of a “reverse Martingale System” adding fun to someone’s betting:

A friend of mine has £100 each month he is happy to spend on betting. He employs strict bankroll management, allowing himself 10 bets per month at £10 stakes.

Once the money has gone, he does not bet anymore until the next month. He wagers on sports matches where there are two outcomes at odds of 1.5 (1/2).

Each time he wins, he reinvests the £10 stake plus the profit from the previous bet into another match at the same odds. If he has six successful bets in a row at odds of 1.5, he wins roughly £115 and returns to his next £10 stake bet.

If he loses at any point in the six bets, his net loss is the profit he won plus his original £10 stake. One winning run of six bets sees him profit for the month and also gives him more bets to follow and cheer on.

Should You Use the Martingale System?

The Martingale System looks good on paper, but your search for that significant edge is not over just yet. Remember the structure of Martingale is about chasing losses, which is always risky. For this reason, we wouldn’t recommend using the Martingale System as a part of your long-term betting strategy.

However, if you have the bankroll, and you’re looking for a bit of excitement, there is room for a little Martingale play in a carefully thought-out plan where you can level out the swings and give luck the chance to come out in your favour.

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