Why the Martingale System Doesn’t Work in Gambling
Over the years, a lot has been written supporting or debunking the Martingale System. The original progressive betting system is not a long-term strategy for gamblers, though it has the veneer of credibility. If you use the system, it usually works over a short period of time. But in the age of computers, the Martingale Strategy is proven to hurt your chances over the long term.
In this review of the Martingale System, we will discuss how the system works and why it’s a bad idea. We provide a chart that shows how the Martingale works in 999 out of 1000 cases, then discuss why the system opens gamblers to the risk of ruin. Finally, we’ll discuss Gambler’s Fallacy and the law of averages, then answer the most commonly asked questions about the Martingale System.
The Martingale System at a Glance
- The Martingale System is centuries old. From what we know, it began in 18th-century France.
- It’s the first of many progressive betting systems, where the bet increases after a lost bet.
- The Martingale Strategy is to double the bet after each loss.
- This yields a long string of small winning bet sequences, building up your bankroll in the short term (most of the time).
- Statistical analysis shows that flat betting is better than the Martingale System over a billion roulette spins.
- Thus, it is better to make a $5 bet every time than it is to make a $5 bet and double it each time you lose.
- The Martingale Strategy breaks down when bad luck happens, because of the Risk of Ruin.
- That is an overview of the basic facts. Below is a detailed analysis of why the Martingale System does not work (over time).
How the Martingale Betting System Works
The Martingale System is a progressive betting system. By that, we mean the size of the bet progressive each time you lose a roulette spin (or blackjack hand or craps roll). The idea is the current bet covers your previous losses and gives you a small profit from the sequence of bets. Here is how a typical Martingale strategy works.
- Starting Bet: The player starts with a base bet. It might be $1, $5, $10, $50, or $100. The key is to return to this base bet after a winning roulette spin. For our examples, we’ll use a $5 base bet.
- Even-Money Bets: When using the Martingale betting system, you want to make even-money bets. That is, you want a bet that pays out 1:1. If you make a $5 bet and win, then you receive back a $5 payout (plus the bet). Thus, all bets below assume even-money bets like Black/Red, Even/Odd, or High/Low.
- Winning Sequence: If you make a $5 bet and win on the first spin, then the first sequence of bets is complete. You start a second sequence of bets, and therefore you make another $5 bet on the next spin.
- Losing Sequence: If you made a $5 bet to start a sequence, then you double the bet after a loss. Thus, on the second bet in the sequence, you would make a $10 bet.
- Doubling the Bet: The idea behind the Martingale Strategy is you want to place a bet that wipes away your previous lost bets and leaves you with a small win. If you bet $5 and lost, then bet $10 and won, you would have lost $5 and won $10, then the net profit would be $5.
- Continue Doubling Until You Win: This pattern continues until you win on one of the roulette spins. The bet would go from $5 to $10, then $20, $40, $80, and so on.
- Assuming a Winning Spin: With the exponential increase in bets, each sequence would end with a net $5 profit.
- The Illusion of a Can’t-Miss System: This seems to assure a winning bet sequence. Keep betting until the bet wins and each bet sequence ends with a $5 profit.
So Why Isn’t the Martingale Betting System a Good Idea?
At first glance, the Martingale System seems like a can’t-miss proposition. When you have good luck or average luck, you’ll have a lot of small winning roulette sessions. It’s when you have bad luck that the Martingale System breaks down.
How the Martingale System Works with a $5 Basic Bet
Betting $5 on a roulette spin is standard. Many land-based casinos have $5 minimum bets on their tables. With that in mind, a $5 bet is a fairly standard way to begin a Martingale betting sequence. Let’s see how progressive betting works with the Martingale Strategy.
|Bet Sequence||Bet Size||Bankroll Lost||Final Payout||Total Won|
How the Martingale Strategy Leads to a Risk of Ruin
The table above shows us several things:
- If you eventually win at the end of the sequence, you cover all other bets and end up $5 ahead.
- This produces a lot of small winning sequences. Every sequence ends with $5 more in your bankroll.
- Exponential bets soon add up to serious outlays of cash. With 5 losses in a row, you’re betting $80 hoping to cover bets and walk away with a $5 profit.
- Each successive loss doubles your risk. Soon, a player is betting over $2500 hoping to cover all losses and win a $5 net profit.
- This leads to a serious risk of ruin. Unless you have a huge bankroll, you could lose all your cash in one session.
- Unless the roulette game has huge maximum bets, you might hit the max bet limit. At that point, the strategy falls apart.
- More than the software, you stand to lose a lot of bankroll when you have a string of bad luck. Who wants to wager $2500 hoping to pocket a $5 profit? It’s a bad bet.
What Is Gambler’s Fallacy?
One reason that 18th Century French gamblers started using the Martingale System is the gambler’s fallacy. It’s also why 21st Century online roulette players also use the Martingale. The common thread through the generations is the idea that the law of averages assures you’ll win an even-money bet eventually.
That’s the gambler’s fallacy: that the last bet has a connection to the next bet. If I bet “Red” last time and lost, the law of averages suggests that “Red” is bound to come up soon. If I bet “Red” three times and lost, then “Red” is due. And if I bet “Red” ten times in a row and lost, then “Red” is REALLY due.
In fact, when you’re dealing with a true random number generator (RNG), then the law of averages doesn’t exist. The truth is, each roulette spin is 100% separate from every other spin. If the ball landed on “Black” the last 100 times, the chances that it lands on “Black” or “Red” are the exact same for the next spin.
The Martingale Strategy is inadvisable, both in gambling and trading. Smart gamblers who want sound betting strategies should look elsewhere. Learn basic strategy or even card counting in blackjack. Or learn basic strategy in video poker. These are games of skill.
Even better, learn to play poker, where greater skill gives you an edge over the competition. Or learn to handicap sporting events and become a sports bettor. While consistently hitting a 52%-win rate to beat the vig is hard, it’s not unattainable.
The Martingale System is pseudoscience because it promises to give you an advantage that does not exist. The house edge is real, and the casino’s advantage is real. Gambler’s Fallacy is real, though the law of averages is not. The Martingale gives the illusion of mathematical certainty when statistical analysis shows that flat betting works better.
Martingale System FAQ
Can you get banned for using the Martingale System?
No. You won’t get banned using the Martingale System. The casino knows that it creates a chance for huge losses. They like when you use the Martingale Strategy. Yes, it will produce a lot of small winning sessions. The losing sessions wipe that out and then some.
What are the odds of losing a Martingale bet?
If you talk about the even-money bets like “Red” or “Black”, then it’s between 52% and 53%. You have over 47% chance of winning the bet. That’s due to the presence of the 0 pockets, where both “Black” and “Red” lose.
If you mean the chance of losing many spins in a row, then you have about a 0.001% chance of losing 9 even-money bets in a row. That’s one in roughly one-thousand betting sequences. Roughly 999 out of 1,000 sequences, you’ll have a small profit. That 1000th sequence will see you losing thousands of dollars.
Is the Martingale System profitable?
As you can see, it is profitable most of the time. It’s just that the one time that the Martingale isn’t profitable, it leads to catastrophic losses.
This is a problem in gambling and trading. We’ve seen multiple articles suggesting that the Martingale Strategy is “100% profitable” in investing. That’s bunk. If a 100% profitable system exists (and we think it doesn’t exist), then it certainly isn’t the Martingale system.
Why does the Martingale System fail?
Because of the Gambler’s Fallacy and because of the Risk of Ruin. The Gambler’s Fallacy suggests that past information about gambling results (or investing) assure future results. They don’t. Losing the past 10 roulette bets doesn’t mean you’ll win the next time.
How risky is the Martingale?
It’s a high-risk, low-reward system. Most of the time, you’ll have small wins. Some of the time, you’ll have huge losses. The Risk of Ruin means you could lose your entire bankroll. If you’re the type of gambler who make $5 flat bets, then you probably don’t want to be making bets in the $1200 or $2500.
In gambling terms, betting the Martingale System after a few lost bets is the roulette equivalent of going on tilt. In poker, those who go on tilt lose their cool and start chasing losses. Luck comes and goes in cards, but it’s when you lose your cool and start making emotion-based bets that you get in trouble.
The Martingale System might be calculated, but it leads to behaviors that mimic a panicked gambler’s actions. It’s what a compulsive gambler who can’t walk away from the gaming table would do.
Can you lose with the Martingale?
Yes. Another fallacy that progressive bettors have is the Martingale System changes the house edge. It doesn’t. Treat the house edge like it’s immutable because it is. The house edge is mathematics. In a game like roulette, the casino always has the advantage. Betting systems don’t change that.
Where can I find a Martingale betting system calculator?
You can find a Martingale system calculator in many places online, but we would not recommend you waste your time using one. Regulator online calculator helps double the size of a bet without downloading Martingale calculator software or signing up for a so-called expert’s Martingale betting advice. The system is bunk.
If more readers ask for a Martingale betting system calculator, we might expand the table posted above to give the path of the most common Martingale betting systems: $1, $5, $10, and $20 base bets. Players who want that should email us with their comments and suggestions.
What is the New Martingale Strategy?
The new Martingale strategy is a trading strategy that increases the amount of investment after a downturn in the market. Like the old Martingale strategy in gambling, its intention is to recoup losses and achieve a profit. We aren’t investment experts on this site, but the new Martingale strategy sounds risky. If the market is in a downturn, you can’t assume it’s automatically going to rise in the near future. Much analysis is needed for those decisions.
What is the Reverse Martingale Strategy?
The Reverse Martingale is a regressive betting system. Instead of doubling the bet after a loss, you double the bet after a win and reduce the bet after a loss. Once again, the system isn’t tied to rational analysis, mathematics, or strategy. It’s a random way to change the bet. If anything, it makes less sense than the Martingale System.
Can you keep doubling your bet until you win?
Yes, but you better have a huge bankroll to assure that you eventually win. Most players don’t have unlimited bankrolls. In fact, gamblers who start with a $5 bet can’t afford to be making $80 or $160 bets, much less $2500 bets. For most of us, doubling your bet until you win assures huge bets out of your comfort zone.
How much money do you need for the Martingale to work?
An unlimited bankroll is the most accurate answer. If you believe the Martingale betting “experts”, they’ll tell you to have a $200 bankroll if you start with $1 or a $1000 bankroll if you start with $5. They’ll also tell you to limit your roulette sessions to 1 hour at a time. The longer the game goes, the more likely you are to have bad luck and lose your entire bankroll.
What is the No. 1 rule of gambling?
The golden rule of gambling is “Never Place Expensive Bets”. That is, never make bets that you consider expensive. In layman’s terms, this is usually expressed as: “Never gamble with money you can’t afford to lose.”
That’s why the Martingale Strategy is bad for gamblers. Eventually, they will be betting sums of money that is beyond their comfort zone. It exposes them to the loss of their entire bankroll — a concept that is called “the risk of ruin”.
Can I use the Martingale betting system in roulette?
Mechanically, it works for those who want to make even-money bets in roulette, such as even-odd, black-red, or hi-lo. Read the examples above to see why the Martingale betting system fails for roulette.
Can I use the Martingale betting system in blackjack?
Since most blackjack payouts work on a 1-to-1 basis, the Martingale betting system works mechanically for blackjack. It does not optimize your results or lower the house edge. Blackjack players would do better studying basic strategy charts or learning card counting because those skills help to optimize results.
Can I use the Martingale betting system in football?
Yes, though it works fine for point spread betting or over/under betting because it’s easy to calculate how the bet increase affects the payouts.
That being said, the Martingale betting system does not lower the house edge (vig) or increase your knowledge of the game. It would be better to learn to handicap games or research the games, teams, and players themselves. Progressive betting is risky and only hurts your chances of winning while sports betting.