In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Martingale betting system.
First, we’ll have a look at the differences between betting systems and betting strategies. Knowing the differences, you’ll understand the limitations which are inherent to the Martingale system and all other betting systems.
Next, we’ll explain progressive betting systems by means of two well-known types, positive progression systems and negative progression systems. By then, you’ll understand why negative betting systems like Martingale don’t work and carry severe risks when putting them into practice.
We end up discussing the rules and details of the Martingale system, concluding with a sound advice when you nevertheless decide to have a go.
Sports betting strategies versus sports betting systems
Sports betting involves a certain degree of luck, but there is also a significant skill element. Professional gamblers are successful because they are disciplined and know which strategies to use to beat the bookmakers as much as possible.
Sports betting strategies are mainly about understanding the sport you are betting on and knowing how to choose which bets to make, and when. It is not easy to be successful, but it is certainly possible if you are prepared to put in the required effort.
Unlike betting strategies, betting systems only consist of a fixed set of rules according to which you make your bets.
On the internet you will find many sites that advise on gambling systems and strategies, most of them being nothing more than cons. This is true for both sports betting and casino games. Sports betting professionals acquire and use knowledge and skills to develop strategies that make them win. They look for potential opportunities to bet, based on a variety of different factors, and they are able to sort the good opportunities from the bad. In contrast, betting systems will not help you raise your chances.
Progressive betting systems
Progressive betting systems have long been popular with gamblers, primarily because the concept of such systems is simple and they are easy to use.
However, gamblers can get into difficulty when they believe that these systems actually work. The fact is that they don’t. Progressive betting systems can help you to win some money in the short term, but they don’t actually do anything to influence your chances in the long run.
There are two well-known types of progressive betting systems:
- Positive progression betting systems, meaning you increase stakes when you win and you decrease stakes when you lose;
- Negative progression betting systems, working just the other way round: you increase stakes when you lose and you decrease stakes when you win.
When using a positive progression betting system, you increase your stake every time you win a bet. You’d then reduce it when you lose a bet. Systems of this type are not as potentially damaging as negative progression systems.
The theory behind positive progression is that it will help you to maximize your profits if you go on a winning streak, while it will also keep your losses to a minimum when you are losing.
Using positive progression is relatively harmless, but it’s important to note that systems of this type do nothing to affect your overall chances of winning or losing or bet.
They can make you money from the right sequence of spins, but they can just as easily lose you money. The good thing about systems of this type is that you will keep your losses down during losing streaks.
Negative progression involves increasing your stakes when you lose and reducing them when you win. Systems of this type can be a recipe for disaster.
The theory with negative progression is that you should always get a win eventually, and all your wins will come at higher stakes than your losses. This should result in making profits overall.
It’s easy to see why gamblers get tempted to use negative progression, as the theory appears entirely logical at first glance.
But there is no guarantee of when a losing streak will come to an end. This mistaken belief that previous outcomes of random events can somehow influence future outcomes (which is not true), is known as the gambler’s fallacy. Continuously increasing stakes in the hope that you will eventually get a win is quite simply foolhardy.
The Martingale betting system
The Martingale betting system is one of the oldest and most well-known negative progression betting systems. It’s easy to learn, as there are no complicated calculations involved.
As a negative progression system, the Martingale involves increasing your stakes when you lose. It’s based on the theory that there is a low probability of you losing a large number of bets in a row, and that you will always win one eventually. As explained earlier, this theory is not correct.
Unfortunately, like any other progressive betting system, this one comes with no guarantee of success. In fact, it is potentially one of the most dangerous systems you can use. You’ll understand why if you read through this page, covering the system in detail and explaining how it’s used and why it doesn’t work.
How is the Martingale system Used?
The Martingale system is primarily used at casino games which offer even money bets. The outside bets on the roulette table, such as odd or even, are good examples of where players will try this system. It can also be used on the pass or don’t pass bets at the craps table. It could even be used for even money bets in sports betting.
There are basically just two rules to follow:
- Double your stake every time you lose;
- Stake one base unit after every win.
The base unit used can be any amount, although it is a good idea to keep it small for reasons that will become obvious later.
The Martingale system in Practice
As an example, let’s say you wanted to use the Martingale system when playing roulette. You decide that you’re going to use a base staking unit of £5, and bet on odd each time. Your first wager would therefore be £5 on the odd numbers. If an odd number came up, you’d keep the stake at £5. If an even number came up, you’d double your stake to £10. If an even number came up again, you’d double your stake again. So you’d be up to £20.
The principle at play here is that by doubling up, when you do eventually win, you will win back all your losses and make a profit of one base unit. The following example shows this in practice.
- Stake £5, lose. Total – £5
- Double up to £10, lose. Total – £15.
- Double up to £20, lose. Total – £35.
- Double up to £40, win. Total + £5.
It doesn’t matter how many bets you lose in a row, or what your base unit is. If you follow the system, you will always get a profit of exactly one betting unit when you eventually win a wager.
At this stage you may well be getting excited about the prospect of using this system and becoming rich. This is precisely how many people react when they first hear about the Martingale system, as it seems like the perfect way to make guaranteed profits. However…
Does the Martingale System Work?
This system could work in the short term. It could even work for quite for an extended period of time if you avoid any long losing streaks. However, the problems start when you do go on a losing streak. And, realistically, this is bound to happen at some point.
The biggest drawback of the Martingale system is that it doesn’t take many losing wagers in a row for the required stakes to get very high. Let’s go back to our earlier example, where you started with £5, and see what would happen to your stakes if you lost just six wagers in a row.
After losing six straight wagers, which is perfectly possible, you are now required to stake £320 for the next one. This is 64 times your base stake, and you’d already have lost £315. You might think that you’re sure to win the next one, but there’s no guarantee at all that you would. It’s still an even money chance, regardless of what has happened before.
If you did lose the next one, you would be £635 down. And you’d have to stake £640 on your next wager. At this point, there’s a good chance you will have gone through your entire bankroll. Even if you haven’t, another loss or two could prove to be very expensive. You might even hit the table limit, and be unable to make the required stake.
This is where the Martingale system fails. It works only if you have an infinite bankroll and a casino or bookmaker with no maximum stake, but neither of these are possible. If you use this system long enough, you’ll always end up hitting a point where you have no more money or need to stake more than the table maximum.
You may well be reading this and thinking that a losing streak long enough to cause you problems is unlikely. However, let us assure you that in fact it is probably far more likely than you think. As stated earlier, the odds of winning each bet are always exactly the same, regardless of what has come before. The gambler’s fallacy has ruined many gamblers.
As such, the Martingale system is not one that we would recommend. The risk is just too high when compared to the potential profits. Also remember that each winning bet will only ever result in a profit of one base unit.