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The Ultimate Guide to the Martingale Betting System

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The Martingale Betting System is one of the most sure-fire ways to win at the casino. But unfortunately, this system isn’t a guarantee, and when you lose, you lose big.

We’ll explain what we mean below.

The Martingale strategy, tracing its roots back to the 19th century, is one of the most iconic betting strategies in the world of gambling. Even if you never use it, you need to understand it.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about this simple and powerful gambling strategy.

What Is the Martingale Betting System?

The Martingale betting system is a simple set of rules for making bets. In theory, it’s an easy way to make money during a short betting period.

You can use the Martingale strategy anytime you’re playing a game with near even odds. You’ll see it used most often in games of roulette, but it’s also useful in games such as blackjack and baccarat.

So how does it work?

Let’s say you start with a bet worth X amount of money. You then follow two simple rules:

  • If you win, you bet X again.
  • If you lose, you double your previous bet.

For example, let’s say you’re playing a game of roulette and you start with a bet of five dollars. You put five dollars on red, and it comes up black.

You lost. So next time, you bet ten dollars. And it comes up black again.

You lost again. So now you bet twenty dollars. And so on until you win.

When you finally win, you start the sequence all over again, beginning with a bet of five dollars.

The idea is that once you win, you make all your money back along with your original bet.

In the example above, if you won your twenty dollar bet, you would win forty dollars after betting a grand total of thirty-five dollars (5 + 10 + 20). So you’d walk away with a five dollar win.

In theory, you always cover your losses. And every time you win, you win your original bet. So what’s the catch?

The Catch

If you were paying attention, you might have already seen the problem with this strategy. Although the probability of winning is high, you don’t win very much. And although the probability of losing is low, losing means you go bankrupt.

To lose, you have to keep doubling your bet until you run out of money. You might think you have so much money that this will never happen. But imagine you start with a five dollar bet and lose fifteen bets in a row.

You’d have to bet over $160,000 on your next bet to continue with the strategy. And on top of that, you only have a 50% chance (or worse) of winning that next bet. If you lose, you’re now looking at a bet of over $300,000.

Before you know it, you’re spending every penny you have just to win your money back. Things can get out of hand quickly.

Of course, it’s not likely that you’ll lose that many bets in a row, but if you do, it’s catastrophic. On the other hand, if you win a bet, you still only win five dollars.

In fact, you can do a mathematical calculation to find the expected value of a single round of betting using the Martingale betting system. A round, in this context, is a sequence of bets that ends with either a win or bankruptcy.

We’ll spare you the mathematical details, but the result says that if the chance of winning a bet is less than 50% (which it will be for any casino game), the expected winnings are less than zero. In short, the Martingale strategy is a losing strategy.

Table Limits

The issues with the Martingale betting system don’t end there.

Many, if not most, tables in major casinos will have bet limits. Oftentimes, these bet limits will be relatively low; $1000 is a common limit.

This means that once you reach $1000 you can no longer effectively follow the strategy. You’ll no longer be able to win all your money back in one bet.

If you’re able to find a table with high bet limits, it will almost always have high bet minimums as well. This isn’t much better, as you’ll start with a higher initial bet and your bets will climb faster.

With so many downsides, should you ever use this betting strategy?

When to Use the Martingale Betting System

The most obvious reason you would use this system is if you had a lot of money, especially if there is no bet limit. If you have millions of dollars, the chances are pretty low that you’ll lose enough times in a row to go bankrupt.

But, if you have that much money, you probably want to be winning more than five dollars (or whatever your initial bet was) at a time.

The other reason to use this system is if you don’t plan on playing for a long time. Maybe you’re passing through Las Vegas, and you only want to spend an hour on the floor. With this method, you’ll almost definitely leave with more money than you arrived with.

Obviously, there’s a chance you’ll lose much more, but with such a small amount of play, it’s very unlikely.

For example, imagine you make a five dollar initial bet, and the table maximum is $1000. You would need to lose eight times in a row to go over $1000. There’s a 0.2% chance you lose eight times in a row.

It’s much more likely you’ll win a few bets and have a good time.

On the other hand, if you play for days in a row, that 0.2% probability starts to look more frightening.

Is the Martingale Strategy Right For You?

Basically, the Martingale betting system isn’t for long-term gamblers. And, while it’s effective for short time periods, it’s not a great money-making system.

That being said, it has its place and you should understand how to use it. But always be careful.

If you found this guide useful, be sure to head to our gallery to check out all our other in-depth gambling guides.

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