Gambler’s Fallacy and The Martingale System
There is a fallacy that floats around in the head of gamblers that believes that the longer an event hasn’t happened, the more likely it becomes that it will happen. For example, the longer you go without hitting a blackjack, the more likely it becomes that the next deal will result in a blackjack.
This simply isn’t true. Each hand plays out exactly as the odds dictate with absolutely no influence from the hands before it. If you roll a 7 five times in a row, your sixth roll has just as much a chance to land on 7 as the seventh roll, and eighth roll, and so on.
Because a loss on red at the roulette table doesn’t mean that the next spin is more likely to land on red, we get progression betting systems. The odds don’t change, so we, as the bettors, must act to change the potential result.
So when this bet on red loses, for me to make up that loss, my next bet will be doubled. And thus, negative progression betting systems were born, and specifically, The Martingale Betting System.
How The Martingale Betting System Works
The Martingale Betting System is best used on even odds wagers. It comes from roulette but is also common in sports betting. And since craps, blackjack, and baccarat all offer even odds wagers, The Martingale System can be used there too.
The rules are simple:
- When you lose, double your bet. A $5 loss becomes a $10 bet. That $10 loss becomes a $20 bet. That $20 bet becomes a $20 win, and you’re now up $5.
- When you win, stay the course. In the above example, our base bet is $5. So each time we win, the bet that follows will remain $5. You win on a $5 bet, the next bet is $5. And when you win on a $20 bet, as we did above, the next bet is $5.
The Martingale Betting System Playing Roulette
Roulette is where this system originates, so let’s get a better understanding of The Martingale System by applying it to the roulette wheel.
Since we are talking about even money bets, you will only place bets on red or black. There are no other bets on roulette that meet this system’s criteria.
- $5 bet on red (loss)
- $10 bet on red (loss)
- $20 bet on red (win)
- $5 bet on black (win)
- $5 bet on black (loss)
- $10 bet on black (win)
You followed the Martingale System perfectly, won 50% of your bets, and you’re up $15. So even though you lost just as many bets as you won, you’ve profited three times the amount of your base bet. Not bad for just six spins of the roulette wheel.
The Martingale Betting System for Sports Wagers
Let’s say you were sitting at a sportsbook for the NFL playoffs in January and had just learned about The Martingale Betting System. You planned to play all four games of the Wild Card Weekend and all four games of the Divisional Round, and you decided to use The Martingale System.
Your betting amounts would have looked something like this:
|$50||Houston (-2.5) vs. Buffalo||Win|
|$50||Tennessee (+4.5) at New England||Win|
|$50||New Orleans (-7.5) vs. Minnesota||Loss|
|$100||Seattle (-1.5) at Philadelphia||Win|
|$50||Minnesota (+7) at San Francisco||Loss|
|$100||Baltimore (-10) vs. Tennessee||Loss|
|$200||Kansas City (-11) vs. Houston||Win|
|$50||Green Bay (-3.5) vs. Seattle||Win|
We went 5-3 on our eight bets, which is great. But even better, because we followed The Martingale Betting System, we won $250 in profit.
Had we only placed our $50 base wager on each game, we would have walked away with $100 in profit. That too is very good, but not nearly as much as we won by using The Martingale System.
The Martingale Betting System for Blackjack
So far, we’ve looked at The Martingale Betting System for both roulette and sports wagering, and it’s done pretty well. But the real pitfall for The Martingale System comes when there is a prolonged losing streak. Let’s examine what that might look like while sitting at the blackjack table.
- $25 - bust
- $50 - loss
- $100 - dealer hits blackjack
- $200 - bust
- $400 - loss
- $800 - loss
This is just a six-hand losing streak, which isn’t that unusual in blackjack. And because you were sticking to the system through the entirety of the losing streak (which you are supposed to do), you are now in the hole $1,575.
The reality is that most of us simply don’t have that kind of money to lose. The only hope of getting it back is to continue with the system, but your bankroll may be depleted.
You may have hit the table limit. You may be out of luck and have no choice but to accept your losses and walk away.
Even when you lower your original bet to $10, a prolonged losing streak can be crushing. At $10, a six-hand losing streak will cost $630. Just two more losses from there, and you’re down $2,550.
So do understand that as good as The Martingale System might perform in short and successful spurts, there can also be very negative results.
Is The Martingale Betting System Right for You?
Everyone has to decide what amount of bankroll they want to gamble with, how much they can afford to lose, and why exactly they are gambling in the first place. If gambling is meant to be a long-term way to make money, then The Martingale Betting System is a bad choice. Eventually, you will hit a losing streak, and you will lose money.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a short-term profit over a handful of bets, then The Martingale System isn’t a bad way to go. Winnings can be had, provided that you can avoid a long and uncontrollable losing streak.
If you do decide to go forth and play casino games with The Martingale System, make sure your bet-to-bankroll ratio is appropriately low. The only way the system will return a profit is if you stick to it.
If you have to short your bets because you miscalculated just how much money you need to make it work, it will not work.