The Martingale Betting System

A roulette wheel with the ball on 00
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The Martingale is quite possibly the very first wagering system known to man. Since it's inception, many a day's wages have been doubled and even tripled, before being lost. That's the end game of every wagering system used on games of chance where the casino retains an edge. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but in the long run, your money will flow to the casino at whatever rate of house percentage you are playing against!

The Martingale system is simple to use. You make a bet and if you lose, you double your wager. If you lose again you double your wager again. You keep doing this until you win and then go back to your original bet. Remember, this is a betting system, not a money management system.

Let’s assume you are playing on a five-dollar minimum table with a maximum bet of $500. If you bet using the martingale where you double after every loss the progression would look like this:

You bet $5 and you lose, so:

Your next bet is $10. If you lose:
Your next bet is $20. If you lose:
Your next bet is $40. If you lose:
Your next bet is $80. If you lose:
Your next bet is $160. If you lose:
Your next bet is $320. If you lose:
Your next bet is $640, getting the picture?

At most casinos, a $5 minimum table has at most a $500 maximum bet allowance, so It would only take eight losses to exceed the table maximum bet. Even if you could exceed the $500 maximum bet, on the eighth bet you are risking $640 to win $5. You have already invested $635 for your previous seven bets. 

Some people who try the Martingale system have initial success with it. They'll win consistently for many sessions and swear the system is fool proof, but sooner or later reality will kick in and they'll get proof of who the fool is.

One of the most popular bets for players using this system is to bet black or red at roulette. Now anything can happen in a casino, including streaks that last longer than you would ever think were possible. At roulette, the standard North American wheel has zero and double zero pockets, so to start with you are bucking 18-20 odds of picking the right color. That gives the house an edge of 5.26 percent. And, it means a streak of non-winning spins is more likely than a streak of wins. 

About Streaks in Gambling

Streaks happen in all aspects of life. You can drive your car and miss a dozen lights in a row, right? Think you lose a dozen straight spins on roulette? How about 8, which would cost you more than $1,200 and put you past the maximum wager on even a $5 to $1000 wager game. 

While the Martingale isn't designed for anything but even-money payoffs, some systems do rely on beating streaks. Even using the Martingale at blackjack will produce better results overall than using it at roulette, for several reasons. Firstly, at blackjack, there is always a chance to catch a 21 and get paid 3-2 on one of your wagers. Secondly, you could also catch a double-down or split, and really rack up the cash. Just keep in mind that you might have to have a pretty good bankroll if you do have to double a big wager!

At craps, the Colonel's System uses a double-up system but also gets the added bonus of catching a roll of 1-1 or 6-6 in the Field. Overall, the house edge is 2.78 which is much better than double-zero roulette!

So, the Martingale, like all house-edge betting systems, is rejected as a long-term money winner. Give it a try if you want, and enjoy those winning sessions, but know that eventually a streak of losing spins or hands will happen, most likely wiping out all of your previous wins.