If you’re a roulette player who’s read about The Martingale System before, you probably know that this roulette betting system (nor any other) can change the house edge. But, as Michael Bluejay points out on VegasClick, the goal of the Martingale System isn’t necessarily to make you a long-term winner.
The goal is to increase your probability of walking away a winner during a short gambling session or a quick weekend in Las Vegas.
If you’re a roulette player who’s new to the concepts behind The Martingale System, this post explains in detail how the system works and what it’s good for.
My goal in writing this post is to provide the most readable, complete, and useful guide to The Martingale System for roulette players on the internet. If I dropped the ball somewhere in this post, let me know in the comments. I’ll revise this post accordingly.
Try the Martingale System for yourself online for free or real money. You can even get a 350% deposit bonus on your first deposit. WildVegasCasino.
What Is The Martingale System and How Does It Work?
The Martingale System is a betting system where you raise the size of your bets when you lose. It’s used in gambling games with even-money payouts. Most of the people I know who use this system use it in roulette, where you have 3 different even-money bets available:
- Red or black
- Odd or even
- High or low
You start by placing a low-sized bet that you’re comfortable with. For example, you might start with a $10 bet on red. If you win, you quit or bet $10 on red again. (You could switch to black if you wanted to, or any other even-money bet. The system doesn’t care which even-money bet you make.)
But once you lose a bet, you double the size of your next bet. And if you lose again, you double the size of your next bet.
If you lose the $10 bet, you bet $20. If you win, you have a profit of $10. You’ve won back the $10 you lost, and you have a $10 profit to show for it.
If you lose the $20 bet, too, you bet $40 on the next hand. Winning this bet recoups the $30 you lost on the previous 2 bets… and you have a $10 profit to show for it.
This progression can continue as long as you need it to, as long as you’re able to cover the size of the next bet. In fact, the word “progression” is important, because The Martingale System is an example of a progressive betting system.
It sounds foolproof, doesn’t it?
At least as long as you can multiply by 2.
Here’s a list of what your bets would look like in The Martingale System if you lost a bunch of bets in a row:
Notice how big your bet becomes if you lose 9 times in a row with this system?
That’s the reason this system can’t guarantee that you’ll be a long-term winner.
Here’s the Biggest Drawback to The Martingale System
In the short-term, The Martingale System CAN increase your probability of walking away a winner. In the long run, though, The Martingale System will still make you a net loser. That’s because no change in betting size can change the long-term expected return of a gambling game.
You will inevitably hit a long, large losing streak that will make it impossible to continue your progression. You face 2 problems with the size of the bets. You’ll eventually need to place a bet you can’t make, for one of the following reasons:
- You don’t have enough money left in your bankroll.
- The betting limits at the table are lower than the size of your next bet.
Let’s suppose you’re starting with a bankroll of $2000. Let’s also suppose you’re playing at a casino where the minimum roulette bet is $10, and the maximum roulette bet is $2000.
If you lose 7 times in a row, you’ll have lost $1270, so you’ll only have $730 left. It’s impossible to make the next bet in the progression ($1280).
Even if you started with $4000, if you lost 8 times in a row, you wouldn’t be able to place the $2560 bet on the 9th spin, because the casino doesn’t take a bet that large on the roulette table.
You’d be justified in thinking that losing streaks that last 7 or 8 spins in a row don’t happen often. In fact, a losing streak that long is unusual.
But it does happen, and it happens more often than you think.
When it does happen, you’ll have a huge losing session.
And, in fact, that’s what the standard gambling writers are complaining about when they say The Martingale System doesn’t work. In the long run, it doesn’t work. You’ll inevitably hit a losing streak that wipes out all your previous winning sessions.
Does This Make The Martingale System Useless for Roulette Players?
This does NOT make The Martingale System useless for roulette players. It just means that you can’t count on making a profit every time you play roulette. You can, in fact, expect to make a profit in most of your sessions, provided you have a reasonable-sized bankroll.
But in some of your sessions, you’ll have a big loss. According to Michael Bluejay, who I referenced earlier, the probability of having a winning session for an hour is 86%. But the size of that profit is small–a little over 13 bets, or about $132.
But 14% of the time, you’ll see a big loss–the average size of that loss, too, is much larger–$924.
Over 100 sessions starting with a $10 bet, what does this translate to as an average loss per session and per spin?
86 winning sessions with an average win of of $132 equates to a total win of $11,352.
14 losing sessions with an average loss of $924 equates to a total loss of $12,936.
That’s a total loss of $1548, or an average loss of about $155 per session.
You’ll make about 30 bets per session, which means your average loss per bet is $155/30, or about 5 cents per bet.
Since we know the house edge for the game of roulette is 5.26%, that’s right in line with what you should expect. The house edge hasn’t changed, and if you play enough sessions, your actual results will resemble the expected results.
Can You Use The Martingale System with Other Casino Games?
I used to manage a team of writers in the gambling industry, and I once had a writer turn in an article about “slot machine strategies.” In this article, he mentioned using The Martingale System when playing slots. I had to revise the page extensively, because The Martingale System is NOT a practical system to use when playing slot machines.
That’s because the variance when playing slots is large. Also, most slot machines have small ranges between the minimum bet and the maximum bet. You’d have to switch to higher denomination machines on a relatively constant basis to keep up with the changing bet sizes.
The Martingale System CAN be appropriate to use with other casino games which have even money payout bets. Here’s a list of games that are most appropriate for Martingale players:
Baccarat is a lousy choice for The Martingale System. Yes, the house edge for baccarat is much lower than the house edge for roulette. But the rate of play is often much faster. The long term happens faster when you’re making more bets per hour.
Blackjack is an okay choice for The Martingale System. The house edge for blackjack is tiny, but the variance is somewhat higher. It also has the same problem that baccarat has–a lot of bets per hour. If you know basic strategy well, it might be worth trying. But you’ll get into the long run much faster in blackjack.
Craps is a good choice for The Martingale System. But you want to stay away from the odds bet and stick with the pass/don’t pass bet. Putting more money into action on the pass bet just puts more of your money into action, increasing the size of your next bet even faster when you hit a losing streak. If you can avoid the odds bet, craps is just as good (or even better) for Martingale players than roulette
Of course, it probably also goes without saying that European roulette is far superior too American roulette for Martingale players. You can measure this by looking at the probability of winning a single even-money bet at each game.
On an American roulette wheel, you have 38 numbers. All of the even money bets are bets on 18 of those numbers, so the probability of winning any of those bets is the same–18/38. That’s 47.37%.
But a European roulette wheel only has 37 numbers. (They eliminate one of the 2 green 0 numbers.) Now the probability of winning a single even-money bet is 18/37, or 48.65%.
Tips for Aspiring Martingale System Players
If you want to try The Martingale System, here are some tips and tricks that can save you a lot of heartache:
- Only play with money you can afford to lose. As I pointed out earlier, the house still has an edge, so there’s a good chance you’ll walk away a loser. If you’re playing with the rent money, that means possible eviction. Roulette ain’t worth it!
- Only play for an hour at a time. The idea is to use The Martingale System to have some fun at the tables and maximize your probability of having a winning session. The longer you play, the lower that probability becomes.
- Have a big enough bankroll. You need to have at least 200X the size of your starting betting unit if you want a reasonable chance at booking a winning session at the tables with the Martingale. Be prepared to lose all of it.
- Find a table with a wide betting spread available. If you try the Martingale at a table with a $5 minimum bet and a $250 maximum bet, you’re inviting heartache into your life. You’ll hit the table max after 6 losses in a row, which is a LOT more likely than 7 or 8 losses in a row. The bigger the spread between the minimum and maximum bet, the better. You’re looking for the same 200X spread that you’re looking for with your bankroll.
- Don’t use The Martingale System on games that aren’t appropriate for it. You’ll just be disappointed if you try The Martingale on slot machines or video poker games. Baccarat is a bad choice, too. Your best bet is to find a European roulette wheel with a big spread between the minimum and maximum bets.
This isn’t a hard system, and it doesn’t require anything from you in terms of skill. Just stick with the above tips, and you’ll be fine.
The Reverse Martingale
The Reverse Martingale System is also called The Paroli System. It’s just like The Martingale System, but with one HUGE difference. Instead of doubling your bet size after every loss, you double it after every win.
The implications of this are probably clear. You wait until you have a win, and then you’re “using the casino’s money” to continue betting. Your losses are limited to small losses.
This does not change the house edge for roulette at all. It also gives you the opportunity to have the occasional really big winning session. But the rest of the time, you’ll have small losing sessions.
I haven’t double-checked the math on it, and I haven’t asked an expert, but it seems like you’d wind up with the same kinds of probabilities you’d have with The Martingale, only in reverse. You’d have lots of losing sessions, but you’d only lose relatively small amounts of money during. You’d also have the occasional big winning session.
I’ve used The Martingale System personally and had a lot of fun with it, but I’ve never used The Paroli System. So I have no practical results to share with you.