What Happens When You Use the Martingale System?

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A Hand Placing Poker Chips Next to a Martingale Betting System Graph

The Martingale is a betting system that dates way back before Las Vegas and gambling was a twinkle in Bugsy Siegel’s eyes. 

In fact, this strategy dates all the way back to 18th Century France. It is rumored to be the brainchild of the ruthless casino owner John Martindale. 

As you may have guessed the name of the Martingale system is a play on Mr. Martindale’s surname. 

It is worthwhile to note that Mr. Martindale did not use the system himself, but did strongly encourage its use among his gambling patrons. He would regularly suggest to his players that other gamblers had consistently won large sums of money using the system. 

Sadly, because most successful gambling systems fly in the face of conventional logic, they would buy into this idea. 

Today, I will share the ups and downs of the Martingale and in what specific situations it may work and why. I’ll also define and evaluate the Anti-Martingale variation of the system.

The Basics of Martingale

The Martingale system is one of the most popular betting strategies implemented by recreational players around the world. This is because it has a straight forward and seemingly rational approach. 

Players believe in the easier the better philosophy and it is certainly that. The player does not have to commit to memory any complex equations or quickly calculate wager amounts in their heads. 

A Martingale System Sample Graph

The system can easily be applied at online casinos as well as in the traditional brick and mortar establishments.

Over the years there have been dozens of variations on the Martingale system. All of these variations orbit around the central idea of increasing or decreasing a bet after a loss. 

In most cases, the system is applied to games of chance that have a near 50/50 win to loss outcomes, such as the Roulette black and red bets or the pass and don’t pass lines at the craps tables. 

A less common but without question applicable game that the Martingale system can be applied to is Baccarat.

The traditional Martingale system simply doubles the next bet after a loss occurs. When a win is achieved a new cycle begins. The strength of the system is that the player wins the highest bet of the cycle. 

Consider the following hypothetical:

If a player were to start with a $1 bet and, loses that bet, their next bet would be $2 dollars, and if the player loses that bet, their next bet would be $4. If that bet is won the cycle starts over and the player starts there bet at $1 again.

This approach guarantees that the player will win the largest bet of each betting cycle.

At first glance and to the mathematically challenged, the Martingale system seems to be a winning approach to games with a coin flip outcome. The novice player sees this as essentially having a license to print money. 

However, much like the perception of a parking space near the door at the shopping mall on Black Friday, the Martingale too, is an illusion.

The system opens up the player to an unlikely but very high-risk approach and for a very minimal reward. 

The Martingale system plays on the statistical probabilities of chance and lures the player into a false sense of security. 

Providing an illusion where the approach shows that the player has a very high chance of winning several small amounts and has a very low chance of losing a very large sum of money. 

Because the player is winning small amounts often, the player falls into the false perception that winning more often means winning more total dollars. 

This, I can assure you, is not the case. 

Lastly, because most of the games that the Martingale system applies to are subject to the mathematical law of trials, which inherently states that each event is independent of the last, there is no way for the player to feel secure in their play without some additional hedging.

I’ll circle back to that shortly. Next, I want to address some of the major flaws with the Martingale system.

Fuzzy Math

There are unfortunately many problems with the Martingale system. 

The first concern the player needs to understand is that the longer the player plays the more likely they are to experience a bankrupting losing streak. 

Statistical Mathematics dictates that there is approximately a 0.1% chance of losing a 50/50 bet more than nine consecutive times. 

Math on a Chalkboard Next to a Plush Bear

This translates into 1 time in every 1000 wager sequences. And because the player doubles their bet after every loss, the player loses more than $500 for the 9 bet sequence. The total loss on a 1 dollar bet Martingale for a 9 bet sequence is $512. 

This eliminates any gains the player would have achieved by the max bet of the cycle. In its simplest form, the betting strategy is exposing the player to relatively devastating losses on an average of 1 time in every 1000 sequences.

The second and, third concerns that the player has to consider, is the constraints of the betting limits that are imposed by the casino and, the limited bankroll of the player. 

The betting limits of any casino ensure that the Martingale system will not be beneficial to the player. 

Most roulette tables have an outside bet table max of $1000; and, after only a few bets the table max is reached. The player is then prohibited by the rules of roulette from increasing their next bet.

Baccarat has some very large table limits and employing the Martingale method at these super high limits gets the player closer to an even game. Ultimately a 15-20 loss streak will catch up with the player wiping out any gain achieved prior to the losing streak. 

Before you even consider this approach an enormous bankroll has to be available for you.

In theory, if a table max was reached, the player would have the option to move to a table with higher limits. The problem with this approach is that it is entirely possible that the player could continue losing several more times.

Again after every loss, the player has to double their bet. For the system to be plausible the player must possess an infinite bankroll, and the table limits must also be infinite.
 
Both of these requirements are never the case and therefore the Martingale collapses under mathematical scrutiny.

The Anti-Martingale System

A popular variation of the Martingale system is the Anti-Martingale system. The premise here is to half the bet after every bet and double the bet after every win. 

This variation is betting on streaks but again over the long term, the player will see a steady decline of their bankroll. 

Like the traditional Martingale system, the law of independent trials causes this to fail. The player will sooner or later hit a streak where losses will eliminate all wins.

There is a way to hedge your bets while using the Martingale betting system that gives the player positive expectation, but they can only be used over a very short time and do not have any long-term possibilities. 

The way a player does this is with the use of promotional chips. These are chips offered to a player by a casino that can be wagered but have no cash value. 

So, if the player wins they get the money but if they lose the wager it does not cost them anything. 

It is essentially a free bet. It shifts the percentages because there is no negative edge on the bet. It’s literally playing with “house money.”

The Martingale is a not system that leads to a positive expectation for the player, and should not be treated as such. To even consider using the method to make money hedging methods like promotional chips must be used.

Fools Gold

While the Martingale System seems like a wonderful method to win some money playing blackjack or roulette, it’s in no way a solution to all your gaming problems.
 
In pure mathematical terms, the system is bulletproof. However, in the reality of the gaming world, it’s full of holes that will sink your bankroll. 

The main issue with Martingale is that it requires an extremely large bankroll.

Fools Gold

To illustrate this, consider an example where $10 is the opening wager. In this situation, you’d need to bet $640 as your opening stake after just six losing hands. This is obviously far beyond the finances of many players and the main reason why this betting strategy doesn’t work in the real world.

What if you have an unlimited bankroll?

In this situation the Martingale System would certainly work; however, it’s at this point the casino’s rules will cause this strategy to implode. 

Every live and online casino will have a maximum betting limit and this makes it impossible to correctly implement the Martingale system. Just because you can afford to constantly double your bet until you hit a winner, a table’s betting limits will prevent you from doing this repeatedly and this is what kills any potential profit.

Conclusion

The Martingale Betting System can only succeed when its main principle is upheld. You absolutely must continue to double your bets until you win. 

If this pattern is interrupted at any point or limited by external factors, it falls down in both theory and practice. 

Therefore, if you’re looking for bigger blackjack or roulette profits, then you should look beyond this strategy. 

Although there is some merit to it if used in small doses, to rely on it as a complete betting system would be a costly mistake. One that would eventually force you to break any bankroll management rules you may have set for yourself.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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