The Martingale Betting System is method of progressive wagering that requires doubling of a bet after each loss until a win occurs. After that, the player goes back to betting the original amount. That’s really all there is to it, which has made this one of the most widely used betting systems, especially as applied to “even money” wagers like Black or Red at the Roulette table.
The practice of “doubling up on a loss” had been around for at least half a century before it got its current name. Memoirs composed by Venetian adventurer Giacomo Girolamo Casanova de Seingalt (1725~1798), better known as “Casanova,” describe using this simple betting progression at the Ridotto Casino in 1754. He wrote of doubling the size of his bet following each loss until his wager eventually won.
However, the system is not called Casanova. Instead, it bears the name of Henry Martingale, the proprietor of an 18th century British gambling house. Although Martingale did not actually invent this system of wagering, he may have promoted its use among customers and the practice of “doubling up on a loss” has been associated with him ever since.
Easy math is probably the main reason the Martingale Betting System achieved such fame and has lasted so long. If a player continues doubling a bet until it succeeds, all losses leading up to the win will be covered, resulting in a profit equal to the amount of the original wager.
The Martingale Betting System can be readily applied not only to outside bets at Roulette, but also to the Pass/Don’t Pass line bets at the Craps table and Banker/Player bets at Baccarat. With a bit of modification, it can be used as a wagering strategy at the Blackjack table, too. And it even finds a place in sports betting, where markets offered at Evens are quite common.
If the first bet of one unit loses, the player simply doubles it to two units. The total investment is 1 + 2 = 3 units. A winner at this point will pay four units for a profit of one unit, and then the progression begins again. If the second bet happens to lose, the player doubles it to four units, making the total outlay at this point 1 + 2 + 4 = 7 units. A win will pay eight units, for a net profit of one unit.
Martingale betting continues in this way, doubling up on a loss, until a winner eventually arrives. Since the odds of a winner are quite near 50:50 for most “even money” wagers, it should not take too many bets for success to be realised. In this regard, the system seems almost foolproof. But of course, there is a catch.
Anyone playing the Martingale Betting System must be prepared to keep doubling the wager, even when facing a potentially long series of losses. Exactly how many losses can be sustained depends entirely on how much the player is able to risk. A person of great wealth might be able to back losing wagers dozens of times. For most players, however, the size of their bankrolls will set a cap on the length of the progression possible.
Just consider a string of eight losses in a row and what is required for the Martingale Betting System to succeed. The betting begins with one unit wagered, then two units, then four and eight and so on until the total amount at risk is 1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + 16 + 32 + 64 + 128 = 255 units. The ninth bet must be 128 x 2 = 256 units, all for the opportunity to win just one unit in profit.
Unfortunately, there can be no guarantee that nine consecutive losses will not occur. What’s more, some games of chance place a maximum limit on how much can be wagered on a single bet. If that limit is, say, 200 units, then the system will fail no matter what happened on the ninth bet. Not enough can be wagered to continue the progression.
Another shortcoming of the Martingale Betting System becomes obvious when a string of wins occurs. After each successful wager, the player bets just one unit on the next occasion, so that a successful string of eight bets in a row yields a profit of just eight units. In short, the risk in using the Martingale Betting System can be quite high and the rewards are quite low. It may be an easy system to learn that pays steadily over the short-term, but it typically results in big losses at some point if used exclusively as a primary betting strategy.