The Martingale is a betting system that originated in and was popular in 18th century France, but still exists today.
Casino game players, both in a brick and mortar venue or those trying their luck at an online casino will often employ the Martingale betting system as they believe it is one of the few systems that guarantees a win. While it is true, the Martingale system could guarantee wins, there are two major factors that prevent Martingale users always winning: the player’s bankroll and table limits. More on this later.
What is the Martingale System
We would bet our bottom dollar that almost everyone reading this article will have tried the Martingale system at some point in their casino game career, perhaps without knowing its name.
The Martingale was designed for a game where there is a 50-50 outcome, such as tossing a coin. In more recent times, players have used the Martingale system for roulette because betting on red or black is close to 50 percent, and sometimes in Blackjack.
Using the Martingale is easy. All that is required is you double your bet each time you lose. Doing this ensures that your first win recovers all previous losses plus you win a profit equal to your original stake. Seems like a great system, does it not? Remember we told you previously to steer clear of betting systems. Stay clear of this one too!
Does the Martingale System Work?
We said at the start of this article that the Martingale system guarantees a profit. This is true. In an ideal world, using the Martingale system would yield you profits. There are two constraints that prevent this ideal world from existing.
Your bankroll has a major role to play in whether the Martingale is successful or not. If you had infinite wealth you would stand a chance of winning because you are almost surely going to flip heads at some point, right?
Where the martingale first falls down is the bets you place increase exponentially, leading to you being able to lose your entire bankroll much faster than you think.
A Martingale Example
Let us take a look at an example. Pretend you have decided to Martingale roulette and are betting on red each time (we will also pretend there is no Zero in this game to make the odds exactly 50-50). Each time you lose, you double your bet as the system dictates. Your bets are going to look like this after a string of consecutive losses:
$5, $10, $20, $40, $80, $160, $320, $640, $1,280, $2,560
Within 10 losses, you are betting $2,560 on a spin of the roulette wheel, which is madness when you think about it. Even after seven consecutive losses, you bet will be $320, and you will have already lost $315 getting to this point. This is on a table where the outside bets are $5 minimum.
There is some very boring mathematics that show a player with a 63 unit bankroll using the Martingale system would go broke with six consecutive losing spins. The same calculations show while there is only a 2.1256 percent chance of this player going broke, when they do it is catastrophic as the Martingale can no longer be followed. Each application of the Martingale in this example has a negative expected value of 0.36 units of the player’s bankroll.
Huge Losses Are Possible If You Martingale
You should be able to see that you are quite likely to run out of money if you endure a poor run and lose several 50-50s in a row, which is far more common than you think. Losing four 50-50 scenarios in a row happens one in eight or 12.5 percent of the time, losing seven in a row is still only 128/1.
Now think of the other hindrance to the Martingale; the table limits imposed on the bets. You are going to be hard fetched to find a casino that allows you to put $2,560 on an outside bet. Table limits are imposed to protect the casino and also the player.
Some gamblers attempt what is known as an anti-Martingale, that is doubling their bets after a win before reverting back to the original bet when they lose. Players do this to win more when they are on a hot streak and lose less when they are running cold. The problem here is that winning and losing streaks like this are an example of gambler’s fallacy and this system will not win you any money!