The Martingale System and Its Variations

The Hunch and the System

french_rouletteA roulette wheel, which does not have biases, can be played in two ways – on a ”hunch”, or by using a particular ”system”. The hunch method may include the digits in the birthday of a player’s relative, his/her numbers of luck, the latest winning numbers in the lottery etc. Thus, no analytical reason is used in this case – the bets are placed on a hunch. Many players in the United States put their trust in this method, when playing roulette.

However, that is not the case in Europe. The majority of players there consider the hunch method as pure foolishness, which inevitably leads to the loss of money. Instead of a hunch, European players apply a mathematical system, as they believe that the game of roulette should be played methodically, with the help of some kind of logical or numerical basis. Truth is that a lot of ordinary players have lost money in an attempt to play roulette using mathematical betting systems. The reason, however, for such results lies in that many ordinary players have not learnt or practiced the fine-tuned points of system play. Casinos tend to support the myth that a mathematical betting system will not provide a player with consistent gains, but, in fact, these establishments fear system players with knowledge and experience.

The majority of betting systems focus on the six even-money outside bets (red, black, odd, even, low, high), which we discussed earlier. As all of these bets are monetarily and statistically equivalent when placed on a wheel with no biases, from a systems point of view it does not matter which one of them a player will choose.

Now, let us take a closer look at a number of traditional playing systems.

The Martingale System

The Martingale betting system and its variations, also called doubling-up or progression systems, have gained the greatest popularity among roulette players across the globe. The basic Martingale principle, which is valid for any repetitive even-money bet, was created over three centuries ago, while its popularity has been rising ever since. These systems have earned some players a lot, but have also been the cause of huge losses for others.

Presented in its most basic form, the Martingale system postulates that the amount of the initial wager needs to be doubled after each consecutive loss. On the other hand, after each consecutive gain, the wager is reduced to its original value and is kept this way until the player registers a loss. Eventually all losses will be covered by a net gain of the amount of the initial wager. In case a player places a bet of 4 units initially and it loses, the next wager will be doubled to 8 units. In case the second wager loses, the third one will be 16 units. If the third bet also loses, the fourth one will be 32 units. If the fourth bet wins, the amount of the first three wagers (4 + 8 + 16 = 28) will be covered and a net gain of 4 units will be scored. Whenever any bet wins, the size of the next bet will be reduced to the original amount of 4 units.

The main disadvantage of this system lies in that a series of consecutive losses will keep the bet amount growing until the table limit is reached. In many cases the table limit for outside bets is equal to 200 times the bet minimum. This ratio will enable a player to double his/her bet seven consecutive times before the table limit is reached. For instance, if the table limit is set to 800 units and the starting bet is 4 units, a series of consecutive losses will be as follows:

4 8 16 32 64 128 256 512

After the eighth loss in a row, the next time the player doubles his/her bet, the table limit will be reached. It is a not that rare event for a player to score eight consecutive losses with even-money bets. According to experts, such an event may occur once every 170 ball spins. At casinos in the United States 80 to 100 ball spins may occur within one hour. Thus, for a given even-money bet a player can expect such a string of losses to occur at least once every two hours.

For some time now, experts in gambling have advised casinos to protect themselves against system players by imposing tight table limits. For that reason many establishments have maintained the minimum-to-maximum bet ratio at roulette tables within their premises to no larger than 100 to 1 or, at times, even to no greater than 200 to 1. This way system players are able to double their bets no more than six or seven times.

In recent years an increasing number of casinos have raised their maximum bet limits considerably, probably because they figured out that, in fact, their business cannot be hurt. Casino managers suppose that after a vast series of losses, the majority of players using the Martingale system have probably exhausted their financial capacity or have fallen into frustration when facing the table limit. However, we should note that an increase in the table limit would have a minimal effect on experienced players, but it would cause thick-skulled ones to lose more. Nowadays, the most successful casinos in Las Vegas have set minimum bet limits of $3 to $5 and maximum bet limits of $10 000 to $20 000 for outside bets. Taking into account these numbers, a Martingale player would be able to double his/her bet no more than 11-12 times.

American Roulette Color bet with payout 1 to 1

The Grand Martingale

Also known as the Great Martingale, it is the most renowned variation of the traditional Martingale betting system. It postulates that after every loss, along with doubling his/her bet, a player needs to add one more unit. In case a player places a bet of 4 units initially and it loses, the next bet will be 9 units instead of 8. If the second bet loses, the next one will be increased to 19 units (18 + 1). Let us assume that the table limit is set to 800 units and the starting bet is 4 units. Using this Martingale variation, the series of consecutive losses will be as follows:

4 9 19 39 79 159 319 639

After the eighth loss in a row, the next time the player doubles his/her bet, the table limit will be reached.

The advantage of this Martingale variation lies in that whenever a string of losses is broken by a win, the net gain exceeds the initial wager. Taking into account the sequence above, if four successive losses are followed by a win, the net gain will be 8 units instead of 4 units for the traditional Martingale system. (4 + 9 + 19 + 39 = 71, then 79 – 71 = 8).

We should note that with the Grand Martingale the net gain always equals the original bet plus one unit for every loss in a given series.

American Roulette Even/Odd bet with payout 1 to 1

Reverse Martingale

There are players who prefer not to chase their losses, as is usually the case with the traditional Martingale system, but instead take advantage of a series of wins. When it comes to the Reverse Martingale system, a player will usually double his/her bet after every win, while the bet will be reverted to its initial amount after every loss.

A player will usually rely on his/her good judgement in order to determine how far a winning streak should be carried. He/she cannot let such a streak run to the table limit, as a series of eight successive wins may occur once every 395 spins of the ball, according to experts. And because the first loss is likely to “consume“ all the potential wins from the series, it should be reduced (reverted to the initial bet amount), so that any gains can be preserved.

The bottom line is, a player needs to be very careful using this Martingale variation.

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