Martingale system: Betting on Roulette

Gamblers are always looking for ways where they can get some sort of edge over the house or casino and one way they attempt to do this is to devise a betting system. One such system is the Martingale system, a betting strategy that was created in 18th Century France.

The Martingale system was used for a very basic game where a coin was tossed and if it landed on heads the person paying the bet would win double their stake back but if it landed on tails they would lose. If they lost, the player doubled their next bet so they would eventually show a profit, albeit a small one of one betting unit, when the coin next landed on heads.

On the surface the system looks like a sure thing but even on an outcome that is 50/50, one where the house does not have any advantage, the Martingale system is severely flawed. The first assumption is that the person placing the bets has unlimited resources available to bet with as a series of loses means the bet sizes rises exponentially. For example, if you were to bet $5 and lost just six consecutive bets, your seventh bet would need to be $320 and if you won you would only be in profit by $5!

Many gamblers assume that losing six consecutive bets is highly unlikely but this completely wrong. If you were to bet on red or black on an American Roulette board, that is one with two green zeros, then the probability you would lose your bet is 52.6316%. This is because 20 numbers of the 38 on the wheel would see you lose and 20 divided by 38 works out as 52.6316%.

Using this figure you can easily work out that playing six spins of the roulette wheel would give you a 2.1256% chance of all six spins losing. On the surface this looks like a small chance, and it is, but the chances of having six losing spins increases the more spins you make. For example, if you made 150 spins then there would be a staggering 77.2% chance that you would have six consecutive losing spins at some points, whilst increasing this to 250 spins would see those chances rise to 91.1%

As you can see the biggest danger of using the Martingale is that you will either quickly go broke after a series of loses or reach the table limits of the casino you are playing in.

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