You’ve probably heard it said that “everyone has a system”. The statement may well be true, but the fact is that – whether or not they realize it – many people are actually using the exact same system. In so-called roulette strategy, by far the most popular betting system is the Martingale – a system based on playing even money bets and doubling after losses.
The video above features our gambling expert Bob, who explains the Martingale betting system. This can be used for any casino game, although it is tailored for roulette in this instance. Bob demonstrates exactly how to place bets using the Martingale strategy and explains the theory behind it.
For new gamblers the Martingale can be a good introduction to both the positives and limitations of betting systems. The more experienced players are certainly correct to point out the flaws in this system, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a time and place (and player) for which the Martingale is the perfect betting method to use.
How the Martingale System Works
In order to use the Martingale system at the roulette table you’ll need a fairly sizable bankroll and the ability to do some basic math. In the Martingale you’ll be making bets only on even money bets (such as red/black or odd/even) and doubling your bet after every loss.
Here’s how it works. You’ll want to start with the table minimum, and for the purposes of this example we’ll say that’s $5. If you win a bet at any time during the system you’ll always return to this $5 level.
However, when you lose a bet it’ll be time to double your wager on the next spin. For instance, if you lose a $5 bet your next bet will be $10. Lose that bet and you’ll move up to the $20 level, and so on. Remember though, that if you win at any time your next bet is back to just $5 again.
The Martingale system is designed to allow you to accumulate a lot of small wins with very little risk of ever losing your entire bankroll. Since you are always doubling your bet, the end result of every winning bet is a profit of $5, whether you win at the $5 level or at any other bet level after that.
That’s the Martingale in a nutshell. It usually helps to have an end point in mind when using this system. You may choose to play until you’ve won a certain amount of money, or until a certain amount of time has passed.
Issues with the Martingale System
There are a few issues to bear in mind when it comes to using the Martingale system in roulette. The first issue is the harsh reality that the Martingale system will not allow you to overcome the house edge in roulette. Every bet you make still has an edge for the casino and, while the times when you lose your entire bankroll will be rare, they will happen often enough to cause you to eventually lose money at the expected rate (at least in the long run).
This might not always be true if you had a literally infinite bankroll, as then you could play as long as necessary until you finally scored a win and you’d still come out ahead by $5 at that point. But unfortunately, even for those with extremely large bankrolls, there is another pressure on the system. That is the maximum bet at your table.
Imagine that your roulette table has a $5 minimum and a $500 maximum. That means you could make seven bets – wagers of $5, $10, $20, $40, $80, $160 and $320 – before you will no longer be allowed to double your bet.
This means that if you should lose seven consecutive bets you’ll ultimately have gone “bust” for that cycle, and you’ll have lost a total of $635. That would be fine if you’d only lose seven times in a row once every 128 cycles, as that would be enough to break even. However, on an American roulette wheel this will actually happen about once every 90 cycles – too often for you to show a profit.
The numbers are better in European roulette, as you’ll only go bust once every 106 cycles or so – but that is still not good enough to beat the house.
It’s also worth noting that you’ll need a rather large bankroll when compared to your initial bet to use this system. In the example above, a $5 initial bet requires a bankroll of $635 in order to play the system for at least seven consecutive spins.
Advantages to the Martingale System
Despite the limitations outlined above, that doesn’t mean you can’t, or even shouldn’t, use the Martingale. That is as long as you understand what you’re going to get out of the system.
The Martingale is perfect for players who are willing to take the risk of losing a large amount of money on some occasions in exchange for frequent small wins. If you use the Martingale in a casino, chances are that you’ll end most nights with small wins.
There will be the times when everything goes wrong and you lose a large amount, but on any given trip to the casino you’re much more likely to come out ahead – something that will definite appeal to many gamblers.