Martingale Betting System
The Martingale betting system is one of the most popular amongst gamblers, in large part due to its simplicity. It’s a relatively basic strategy that anyone can use without the need for research or for any complex calculations.
It can also be used with almost all casino games, but it does tend to be associated far more with roulette than any other game. For this reason, we’ll be using roulette examples. However, the same principles apply to other games.
How the Martingale Betting System Works
The Martingale betting system, also called the roulette double-up strategy, is a negative progressive system. It sounds fancy but what it actually means is that you increase your bets – the progressive part – with every loss – this is the negative part. It is sometimes also referred to as a regressive betting system.
So, a player makes an initial bet of $10 on a sector with an even chance of winning, like red or black. The latter is actually the most frequently used, but the choice of bet isn’t important from a statistical viewpoint.
If the player gets lucky and wins, they place the same bet of $10 again. However, if a loss occurs, then the player doubles their bet, wagering $20. If they lose again, they double up again, betting $40, and so on. This continues until the player wins, after which they go back to their initial bet of $10.
The Martingale betting system works in phases, which differ in terms of length. However, they all have one of two results, namely in the player winning $10 or wiping out completely.
Let’s take a look at some examples in which a player wins.
The simplest is, of course, when the player incurs a win straight off.
So, they bet $10 and the ball lands in their favor, meaning they win $20. In other words, they made a profit of $10.
Another example would be with a loss.
So, the player bets $10, but the ball isn’t on their side, so they lose. The next bet they place is $20 and this time, they win. Their total winnings are $40. However, since they lost $10 earlier, their actual total wager was $30, meaning the profit was $10. Now, they go back to the beginning of the cycle and bet $10 again.
The last example is one where the player incurs multiple losses.
The player starts off with a $10 bet. They lose, so they bet $20. Once again, the ball is not on their side, so they lose. Their next bet is $40, then $80, then $160, then $320, then $640 and they are all losses. Finally, the player bets $1,280 and they win a total of $2,560. However, they bet a total of $2,550, meaning that they only made a profit of $10.
In all of our examples, the player won in the end. However, the final case was the worst seeing as the player lost so many bets and had to wager $2,550 to win a mere $10.
The Limitations of the Martingale Betting System
At first glance, the Martingale betting system should work. The idea is that, eventually, the ball will fall in your favor at some point and you will win.
When you’re betting on sectors with even odds, it’s virtually impossible for you to never win if you have an unlimited number of attempts. Note the word “unlimited” as that is the key. If you have an unlimited amount of money you can bet and the casino will let you keep trying and allow you to place the wagers you want to, at some point, you will win.
However, the reality is that you’re never going to have an unlimited amount of money to gamble and the casino is never going to let you do whatever you want.
Let’s take a closer look at each issue.
In real life, every player has a limited budget. Even whales – those players who gamble huge amounts of money – stop at some point. So, if you decide to use the Martingale betting system, you will eventually lose all of your gambling money and won’t be able to place another wager to finish a phase with a win.
Let’s look at an example. Say you have a budget of $5,000 and you start the Martingale betting system with a wager of $10. With $5,000, you can place the following bets one after the other, $10, $20, $40, $80, $160, $320, $640, and $1,280. At this point, you can’t continue the Martingale strategy because you’ve already bet a total of $2,550, which means you don’t have the $2,560 necessary to double up again.
Now, you might say that it’s impossible to lose 8 times in a row on an even chance bet, but that’s not true. It’s actually far more possible than you realize.
For example, in American roulette, the probability of losing 8 times one after another is 0.39%. It might not sound like much, but, statistically speaking, it means that 1 out of 256 Martingale phases will lead to you losing 8 wagers one after the other. This will bring you to the point where you can no longer continue betting.
Of course, you could bet your balance of $2,450, but even if you win on this ninth bet, you won’t make a profit. In fact, you will win $4,900, meaning that you have incurred a loss of $100. However, it does mean that you can start a new Martingale phase.
The other option is that if you won before hand and had, for example, $5,010, then you could continue the cycle with one more bet, and since losing 9 times in a row is even less likely, you might have a chance at winning.
Still, to make significant winnings with the Martingale strategy, you have to keep repeating the system over and over. Remember, every phase nets you a maximum profit of USD/EUR/GBP 10. So, to win a mere $100, you have to repeat the phases ten times. The more you repeat the system, the more likely you are to lose. Furthermore, if you keep at it, statistically, you will lose your entire budget.
Limitations on Size of Wager
Besides budget limitations, there’s also the issue of the size of your wager. Casinos aren’t going to let you wager unlimited amounts of money. While this differs across casinos, generally speaking, the maximum bet is approximately a few hundred times the minimum bet. So, if the minimum bet is $1, for example, the maximum bet will probably be around $300 or so.
If you’re playing online, one way to get around this problem is to play on different tables with different bet size allowances. So, you might start on a table with a $1 minimum and $300 maximum and then move to a table with a $10 minimum and a $3,000 maximum once your bets surpass $300.
However, even if you had an unlimited budget, you would still end up at a point where your bet is far too large for any casino to accept.
Another problem with the Martingale betting system is related to personal limitations, namely not knowing when to stop. Yes, this is a common issue, regardless of the betting system being used. However, it’s more of an issue with the Martingale system because it seems to work really well at first.
As you’ve seen, the chances of losing 8 bets one after the other are pretty low. Furthermore, losing 100 phases one after the other is also highly unlikely. In fact, if your budget permitted you to start with a bet of $10 and wager 10 times in a row losing all other bets and your goal was to win $1,000, you’d have an 88% chance of success.
However, if you wanted to win $2,000, your chances would be 77.5%. For $5,000, it would be 52.8% and for $10,000 it would be 27.9%. In other words, the more you keep playing and the higher your goal, the less likely you are to win.
While the Martingale strategy can be effective, the problem is that if you keep using it, you will eventually lose your entire budget. This is because of overconfidence.
Ideally, you would stop playing at a certain point. However, you don’t really know when the right time to stop playing is because you have no way to predict when you will start losing. Plus, there’s also the chance that you lose everything on your first run.