February 20th, 2008

General Gaming

As long as there has been gambling, there have been betting systems people have devised for the purpose of beating the game. Almost all of them that are no tied to some form of playing strategy are doomed to fail. In the interests of introduce you to some of these systems, perhaps more of an example of what not to do, we will discuss the Martingale.

The Martingale system (and there are different kinds of Martingales, as we’ll explore in future installments) involves doubling the bet after each loss until you win. That means if you’re at a $5 minimum table, your progression would go from $5 to $10 to $20 to $40 to $80 to $160 to $320. If you win sometime within that period, you are going to have a profit for that particular stretch. But obviously there is a flaw. As you’ve already guessed, if you have a $500 maximum at the table, there is only so far you can go with this system. In fact, you can go only seven levels (i.e., sustain seven straight losses) before the table limit renders the system useless.

Using the same $5 bet, you can go only six levels on a table with a $200 limit. And you can go only five levels with a $100 limit.

Proponents of the strategy (and I know plenty of them) will tell you that there is very little chance of losing six or seven hands in a row.

But you know that there are going to be losing streaks, regardless of the game you decide to play, and when you go on one of those streaks using a Martingale, it can kill you.

Let’s use an example of what can happen when you employ a Martingale system in your online casino:

Let’s say you have a $200 limit at the table (obviously not all of them are like this). If you experience a losing streak that takes you over the house limit, you are going to be betting not just the last bet, but everything before that: $5+$10+$20+$40+$80+$160 = $315

You have now lost $315 that is going to take you forever to get back, if it ever happens at all.

Conversely, if you get on a streak of six WINS in a row, you would win a grand total of $30, because remember, the only increases in bets happens when you LOSE. In a game like blackjack, for example, the chances of winning six hands in a row and losing six hands in a row is relatively the same. So you have a $30 win versus of $315 loss. That doesn’t look like a beneficial risk/reward scenario, does it?

Now, if you lose the first five bets and win the sixth, you’ll have lost $155 before winning the bet for $160, coming out $5 ahead. So you have put $315 on the table for a $5 profit that is in no way guaranteed.

You will find all the way through the Martingale system that when you DO win, it is an amount only equal to your single unit bet. In this case it is $5:

* If you win the third bet — $5+$10 = $15 in losses, $20 in wins = $5 profit
* If you win the fourth bet — $5+$10+$20 = $35 in losses, $40 in wins = $5 profit
* If you win the fifth bet — $5+$10+$20+$40 = $75 in losses, $80 in wins = $5 profit

This is a system that will look good, but only until the first protracted losing streak happens. Then it’s an uphill battle, to say the least.

There are other forms of the Martingale system. Let’s examine them, because we want you to know what you’re encountering in your online casino:

THE GRAND MARTINGALE — In the “regular” Martingale, you are going to double the bet each time you lose until you win, which then would yield a net profit. With the “Grand Martingale,” you are going to double the bet after losses, but this time you are going to add $1 to that bet. So instead of going from $5 to $10 to $20 to $40, etc., you are progressing from $5 to $11 to $23 to $47 and so on.

With the Grand Martingale, the losses you sustain if you lose six bets in a row are even greater than with the regular Martingale. In fact, when you look at that total:

$5+$11+$23+$47+$95+$191 = $372,

it is 18% more than if you used the regular Martingale:

$5+$10+20+$40+$80+$160 = $315

It is true that when you win on a series of hands with this system it will put you a little bit more ahead, but the basic principle still applies – you are potentially putting up a lot to earn just a little. In a game like blackjack, the risk-reward quotient is much greater than a player who would be employing Basic Strategy and card counting principles.

THE SHORT MARTINGALE — This is played just like the Grand Martingale, except here you are going to play up to four levels (in this case, $5+$11+$23+$47), then you’re going to quit. Obviously it doesn’t take much to send you back to the drawing board.

THE ROTATING MARTINGALE — This involves the same progression as the Grand Martingale (see above), except you are going to be doubling and adding one dollar if you WIN. For example, if you bet $5 and win, the next bet is $11. Then if you win again, the next bet is $23, and so on. When you lose, you take it down a level. So if you have won the $11 bet, put up $23 and lose, you go back down to $11 for the next bet. Your progression ends when you have gotten to the fourth level and won (meaning you have to win four hands in a row) or when you lose enough to have to regress to zero.

At that point, you’re finished.

And for this subject, so are we.

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