Martingale – Is it a Winning Strategy and System?

James Matthews
20/05/2020

The Martingale betting strategy is believed to have originated in France in the 18th century. It was popular for coin toss games in which the player would bet on whether the coin would land on heads or tails. The strategy was popularized by the British gambling legend Charles Wells on an excursion to Monte Carlo where he managed to win over 1 million francs (roughly $5.2 million in today’s money) using the Martingale strategy.

How Does The Martingale System Work?

The martingale system is very easy to apply. This explains why it has acquired a mythic status in gambling circles. You only need to remember three rules when following this strategy:

  1. Double your stake after every loss
  2. Go back to the initial wager amount after every win
  3. Rinse and repeat

In practice, the Martingale system looks something like this:

Say you bet $1 on a game and you win. In this case, keep the $1 profit and wager the original $1 on the next game. If you lose the next game, double the stake to $2. If you lose that game, double the wager once more to $4 and so on until you win. When you finally win, go back to your initial wager of $1.

The theory behind the Martingale system is that you will eventually recoup all the previous losses as well as make a small profit on the original bet when you eventually win. Following the previous example, say you lose 3 games in a row, bringing the total bet amount for the fourth game to $8. If you win that game, the total amount you have in your hands is now $16. The win covers all the money that you have spent/lost up to this point ($15) and turned you a modest profit of $1 for your troubles.

Since the idea is that you will eventually win, there is always a chance of recouping all your losses plus the initial betting amount and making a small profit after every win.

What Games Can You Play with the Martingale System?

The main principle behind the Martingale system is that the game offers an even or near-even chance of winning or losing. Basically, the system works best on games of chance. With this in mind, the system may be applied to most games that meet this criterion including roulette, craps, baccarat, and blackjack.

The Martingale strategy is also frequently used in Forex trading especially by beginners.

Does The Martingale System Work?

There is not an easy answer to whether or not the Martingale strategy works. Before giving a definitive answer, it would be better to first explore the pros and cons of this betting system.

Pros of Martingale Strategy

  • In principle, the martingale strategy is sound. There is always a chance you will win in an even payout game, giving you the chance to recoup your losses and make a profit.
  • It is a simple strategy that doesn’t require you to master complex mathematical formulas and calculations.
  • The system guarantees winnings in the short term while controlling your base stake.
  • It is a versatile strategy that can be used on any game of chance that offers an even or near-even payout.

Cons of Martingale Strategy

  • You might eventually run into maximum bet limits which means you can no longer double your stake. This strategy only works if you follow it consistently.
  • Because of the house edge, you are not getting a 50-50 payout. This slightly reduces the effectiveness of the strategy.
  • You may run out of money before you recoup your losses if you are on a losing streak. The martingale system depletes your bankroll much faster than other strategies if you are on a losing streak.
  • You may hit a dreaded ice-cold run of seemingly endless losses, especially if you are playing for many hours.

Final Thoughts: Is Martingale a Winning Strategy?

Like most theories, the proof is in the pudding, or rather in this case, on the roulette table. The theory behind the martingale strategy is sound but only if the player has unlimited time and endless money. Given the real-life constraints of the house edge, maximum bet limits, and limited funds, the system can only be effective for small and short-term bets.

There are many stories similar to Charles Wells’. These stories of big winnings from small stakes (like David Choe who turned $500 into $1 million in Vegas using the martingale strategy) have helped to cement the system into its near-mythical status.

Truth be told, the martingale strategy probably won’t buy you a second home, and it’s hardly a pathway to fame and fortune. It is, however, a simple and fun strategy to use at an online casino. It is also a good way to predict the outcome of a game of chance to the extent that such a prediction is possible.

James Matthews
James Matthews is a veteran journalist and a professional blackjack player with an extensive repertoire of published works on online gaming. Follow him for reliable information on the New Jersey casino industry.
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