Pros & Cons of the Martingale Strategy

Ever since the first roulette wheels hit the casinos of France in the late 18th century, players have been trying to come up with ways to beat the game. One of the first and most famous strategies was a method that was used on even earlier casino games: the Martingale Strategy. It’s a deviously simple strategy that looks foolproof at first blush – but can drive you to ruin in the long run.

What is the Martingale Strategy?

The word Martingale has been used for centuries to describe a number of related betting strategies – don’t be fooled by anyone who tells you it was a British casino owner named John Henry Martingale who came up with it. The simplest and most popular version of the Martingale is used in even-money situations, like when you bet on Red or Black in roulette; start by betting one unit, then double your bet every time you lose. You have to win eventually, and when you do, you’ll have guaranteed yourself a profit of one unit.

Here’s an example: You start by betting $1 on Red. The ball lands on Black, so this time, you bet $2, and it lands on Red. You’ve made $2 on your winning bet, and you’ve lost $1, so you have $1 left in profit. No matter how many times you have to double your bet before you finally win, you’ll be up $1 when all is said and done. Simple, right? 

Pros of the Martingale Strategy

This simplicity is what makes the Martingale Strategy so popular – along with its appearance in the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798), the famed Italian adventurer who wrote about using it to win big in his native Venice. The only math required is to multiply your bet by two when you lose.

The other good thing about the Martingale is that it usually works, for a little while at least. More often than not, if you’re playing a reasonably short session of roulette (or any other game with even-money bets), you’ll have enough winning bets to keep you in profit. And it certainly seems like a can’t-lose system when you’re on a rush. It’s almost like you’ve found a way to bend both time and probability to your will.

Cons of the Martingale Strategy

The big problem with the Martingale Strategy, as you’ve probably already figured out, is that it’s destined to fail at some point. There’s no guarantee that you won’t string together so many losses that you won’t have enough money left to double your next bet. And those bets get very large once you double them enough times.

Just to show you what we’re talking about, here’s what that series of increasing bet sizes looks like:

1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16384…

That’s the first 15 bets in the Martingale, and you’re already being asked to place a five-digit wager, assuming each of your units is $1. As we said, chances are you won’t lose 14 times in a row when you’re playing roulette at Bovada Casino – in one short session. But the longer you play, the more likely it’s going to happen. 

Finally, even if you’ve got incredibly deep pockets, you could find yourself bumping up against the maximum bet allowed at the casino. For example, the maximum roulette wager allowed at Bovada is $500, so if you’re playing the Martingale System with a $1 unit size, the whole thing falls apart if you lose nine bets in a row; you’re not allowed to bet $512 on your next spin.

Where to Use This Strategy

If you are going to use the Martingale during your next session, the roulette wheel is the most obvious place. Red/Black, Odd/Even and Low/High are all even-money bets, and very simple to keep track of. But there are many other Bovada Casino games where you can use the Martingale. Craps, for instance, pays even money on the Pass/Come and Don’t Pass/Don’t Come bets, which are the most common bets to make when you’re rolling the bones.

Blackjack is another popular game for Martingale players. Almost every hand in this game pays out at even money, except for Blackjack itself, which pays out at the standard 3-to-2 when you play at Bovada Casino. There are also the times when you split, double down, or buy insurance, however, for the most part, you can use the Martingale to (hopefully) recoup those lost even-money bets.

Other Strategies

Since the whole point of the Martingale Strategy is to stave off your losses and delay bad luck as long as possible, it makes sense to use a progressive betting pattern that doesn’t escalate as quickly. The 1980 book Playboy’s Guide to Casino Gambling by Edwin Silberstang includes a chapter on roulette and the Labouchere System, which asks you to start with a line of three numbers, such as the following:

1, 2, 3

Every time you place a bet using the Labouchere System, you add up the numbers at the start and end of the sequence; here, your first bet will be $4 (1+3) if each of your units is $1. Whenever you lose a bet, you put that amount at the end of your sequence, like in this example when you lose your first spin:

1, 2, 3, 4

Then you continue betting, this time with $5 (1+4) as your amount. Every time you win, strike out the numbers you used, and continue with the numbers that remain (if there’s only one number left, use that as your total amount). At some point, as long as you don’t go on one of those apocalyptic losing streaks, you’ll clear the line and lock in your profit, which would be $6 (1+2+3) in this case.

You can try the Martingale Strategy and the Labouchere System for free – and any other systems you like – by using the Practice mode at Bovada Casino. It’s a great way to test drive these systems and see for yourself what the pros and cons are, so give it a spin today, then switch to Real Money play once you’ve got your feet wet. See you at the tables.