Martingale basics: The Martingale Betting System 101 Course
Posted on August 26, 2020 | 11:45 am
There is a natural tension in any gaming establishment, whether online or a brick-and-mortar space: players want to win big at the expense of the house, and the house wants to get the better of the punters. This is part of the reason why the ‘house edge’ is such a well-known phenomenon.
As punters try to find the way to success, a world of strategies, systems, and superstitions have sprung up: some are esoteric, some are more analytical. One of the older, simpler, and more famous betting systems is known as the Martingale. So what is it, and how does it work?
This article will explain the Martingale, its application and its history, and will offer a clear recommendation on whether it’s a winning or a losing strategy.
What is the Martingale betting system?
As far as betting systems go, this one is quite straightforward…
…to follow this system, after a losing bet, simply double the size of the bet and repeat. Or to rephrase: double up until you win. It’s as simple as that.
What about the math behind it?
The central idea is that, so long as the bet continues to double in size with every loss, the player will eventually end up with the same profit as the original bet.
It doesn’t matter if it takes 2 rounds of betting, or 20, or 200 – the result will ultimately be the same.
How might this look in practice? Let’s look at an example, starting with a bet of $2 (though any betting currency would work).
Gaming session breakdown: The Martingale System
In the above table, a player loses seven consecutive bets, doubling his or her wager after each one. Then eighth bet is a winner. How does this work out?
Exactly as predicted! In the end, there is a profit of $2.
Great!! It’s easy to see the appeal of such a simple system. Indeed, some gamers swear by it, including some high-profile individuals.
What’s the problem?
There’s a catch, and it’s a big one: casinos have unlimited bankrolls. Players don’t.
As the above example shows, the punter has to withstand losses of over 125x the initial bet (a loss of $254) before gaining a profit. The loss amount is exponential, and eventually the player’s bankroll will run out. And what is the payout for this massive risk? A measly $2.
Viewed in this light, the Martingale system looks less like a fool-proof, mathematically-proven way to beat the house, and more like a fool-proof, mathematically-proven way to go bankrupt!
The truth is that any system claiming to offer foolproof, proven ways to beat the house that mean strategy isn’t important?
No way! Strategy in absolutely essential in gaming – whether in roulette, where the Martingale is most famously used, in Blackjack, or in other games.
But anyone promising players risk-free wins is telling tall tales….
…the truth is, with the occasional example of promotions, the house always has the edge over the long term. If the gaming establishment didn’t have good reason to expect a profit over the long term, they wouldn’t offer the game in the first place!
Or to put it another way, there’s always a house edge.
A brief history lesson
We said before that the Martingale is one of the older betting systems around…
… and it is, dating all the way back to 17th and 18th century France. The gaming tables were always packed in those days, with everyone from the high nobility to paupers placing bets left and right.
It is believed that the Martingale name is derived from John Henry Martindale, an 18th century London casino magnate.
He supposedly suggested this betting system as a way for his clientele to make money at his tables! It was a kind of Enlightenment-era advertising.
That’s right – this supposedly surefire way to beat the house was invented by a casino owner as a marketing ploy. What bigger, redder flag could there be?
So is using the Martingale betting system a good idea, or not?
This is an interesting question… it may well be that for some players, the notion of ‘a sure way to beat the house’ is just too appealing to lay aside. It is indeed a powerful fiction! What’s more, the system’s simplicity makes it easy to apply.
For many players, though, the unpredictable nature of gaming is part of the fun! We wouldn’t trade it for certainty if we could.
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