WHY THE MARTINGALE SYSTEM DOESN’T WORK IN ROULETTE

This article could more accurately be titled ‘Why The Martingale System Doesn’t Work In Roulette…or Anything Else’. It’s amazing how many people think that roulette is a ‘beatable game’. There are countless scam artists hawking ‘Never Lose Roulette Systems’ online that promise profits of $1000 a day or more with no downside risk. As P.T. Barnum said ‘there’s a sucker born every minute’ and when it comes to gambling the sucker live birth rate is probably higher than that. Our goal is to make sure that you don’t end up in that category. That’s why our strategy guides are realistic and why we spend so much time talking about odds, probabilities, house edge, etc.

The math that circumscribes roulette is inviolable. In American roulette on a wheel with a ‘0’ and a ’00’ the house edge is *always* 5.26%. In European roulette, the typical house edge is 2.70% though that can be modified slightly with certain rules (‘En Prison’ and ‘La Partage’). No system or combination of systems can change this. Yet for some reason, people don’t believe this cold, hard mathematical reality. Or maybe they don’t *want* to believe.

HISTORY OF THE MARTINGALE SYSTEM

There’s not a good explanation for the enduring popularity of the Martingale system other than perhaps poor math instruction in school. In an era where computers capable of running accurate simulations are found in every home and office, it’s puzzling that when neophyte or clueless gamblers happen on the Martingale system they act like they’ve found the proverbial ‘license to print money’. In researching this article I found several websites that insisted that it’s the best system ever. One of the most pitiful explained the system fairly accurately until he got to the loss potential which he described as ‘minuscule’. That’s not the case.

The system has been around for 200 years or so and has been co-opted into just about every possible gambling variant and even into stocks and investing. It’s equally useless no matter what the context. Here’s how it works–the player doubles his bet after every loss. Eventually, he’ll win which will cover his past losses and give him $1 of profit. For example, let’s say the rube in question is betting on an even money bet like ‘Red’ or ‘Black’. He starts with one dollar and doubles his bet after every loss. On the fifth bet, he wins. As a result, he’s down $1+$2+$4+$8 = $15 on the four losing bets but he won $16 on the fifth bet. That’s $1 of profit.

THE FATAL FLAW

The problem–and one that people with a vested interest in selling the viability of the Martingale system (eg: casino owners and scam artists) gloss over–is that it’s easier than you’d think to rip through your entire bankroll. That’s the fatal flaw of this system–it assumes that the player will lose a few in a row but win in due course. Anyone who has gambled for awhile understands that it’s easier than you think to string together a lot of losing bets. And when you’re doubling your wager every time those losses add up quickly. After 10 losing bets you’d be down $1,023 (losing $512 + $511 on previous bets). After 11 losing bets you’d be down $2047 ($1024 + $1023 from previous bets). And if you get lucky and win your 12th bet? Congratulations–you’ve made $1. The same as a guy betting $1 per hand who has won 3 bets and lost 2 bets. The difference is that he only had to risk $5.

Here’s the bottom line and the sooner you sear this into your brain the better. No system, betting strategy or lucky rabbit’s foot can overcome a negative expectation game in the long run. You might get lucky and make some money in the short term. But you might get lucky and make just as much money without some mathematically flawed betting system and without having to risk a big bankroll.