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The Martingale System: What Is It and How Does It Work?

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When it comes to playing a game of roulette, most people view it as a game of randomness and luck where they cannot do anything to ensure victory. And that is true. There is never certainty in gambling. However, while you cannot ensure your victory, you can slightly increase your odds, which should work to your advantage in the long term. Nothing can help you make winnings in every single round, but there is a way to tip the scales in your favor, however slightly, and that is done through strategies.

When it comes to roulette, there is one strategy that is quite popular among gamblers, known as the Martingale strategy, or the Martingale system, and today — we wanted to explore it and show you exactly how it works.

What is the Martingale strategy?

The first thing to note about this strategy is that it is one of the most widely used systems in roulette. It is based on a fairly simple concept, and all you need to do is increase your bet after every loss. Since you are bound to get a few wins as well somewhere along the road, the idea is that this win will bring back all the money that you lost and possibly even give you a small profit on top of that. At that point, you revert back to the amount you used when you first started and repeat the process.

That way, if you have a winning streak, you end up winning small amounts of money, and if you end up losing, you keep increasing the amount each time until you eventually nullify your losses. Basically, the idea is to bet big to win small.

How to use the Martingale system?

So, how do you actually use this system when playing roulette? According to experts, the most effective way to use the strategy is to focus on even-money outside bets. The thing about wagers such as red, black, even, odd, or 1-18/19-36 is that their odds are 1:1. As such, they are the safest bets that you can make when playing roulette. Of course, there is still one involved, as there is no way to gamble without risk.

With that said, it is quite possible that you will try to apply the Martingale and then see a losing streak. As your continue to double your bet with each new loss, there is a chance that the losses will continue, and so will doubling each consecutive bet, until you completely deplete your bankroll. If this happens, and you don’t get the win before losing all of your money, you will be left with a permanent loss. Even if you do manage to win, there is a high likelihood that you will bet major amounts and only win very small amount in return.

The reason for this is that the mentioned bets have the maximum odds of winning, but they come with the lowest payout. Meanwhile, the riskiest bets are the ones that pay the most.

When it comes to even-money bets, the bet progression from your point of view will look like this: 1 – 2 – 4 – 8 – 16 – 32 – 64 – 128 – 256 – 512 – 1024, and so on.

How to handle betting?

When you first approach the roulette table, you might feel confident and lucky, sure that your first bet will bring back a major payout. Doing so, however, is not advised. Instead, quite the opposite — you should always start with a small amount, even the table minimum, ideally. From there on, you stick to that same bet until you lose.

Once you experience losses for the first time, you double the size of your bet. So, if you first bet $2 and you lost — bet $4 for the next spin. That way, if you win, you will get back your bet ($4) and get another $4. From this other $4, you will make up for the loss of $2 in the previous round and win $2 on top of that.

If you lose again with $4, bet $8 on your next spin to achieve the same result in case of a win. If you lose again, you bet $16 next, and so on. The logic stays the same, and sooner or later, you will experience a win that will bring back all the lost money. When that happens, you go back to betting $2, and repeat the entire process from there. In theory, you can go on like this forever, assuming that you do not hit a losing streak that will completely deplete your bankroll before you hit a win that will recover everything you lost up to that point.

Martingale vs. the house edge

As you can see, with a large enough amount in your pocket, you technically can’t lose. In theory, at least. The concept seems flawless at first glance, but stay at it for long enough, and the house will always win in the end. This is how casinos and casino games work, and the reason for this is the green 0 pocket on the wheel. This single pocket is what tips the scales toward the house, and because of it, the odds will always be against you, ever so slightly, but enough to make a difference.

Even the safest outside bets do not even bring a straight 50:50 chance, as your chance of winning is only 48.6%, to be exact. This 1.4% chance that prevents you from reaching 50:50 is the green pocket, which sits in its own category. In other words, the odds are not in your favor, and they never will be, regardless of which strategy you use or which roulette you play. The best you can do is ensure that you don’t play American roulette, which has two green pockets (0 and 00), as that decreases your odds even more.

The dangers of the Martingale system

The Martingale system is popular, but it is also very risky. As such, it is rarely used by true experts, as they do not want to risk running out of money after only a few rounds, which is more than possible if bad luck sticks.

However, there is another risk that you might not be aware of, which is particularly evident when you play roulette online, and that is the upper betting limit at the roulette table. In theory, if you had enough money, you could keep betting larger and larger amounts if you get stuck with a losing streak, until you eventually win, that is true. However, once you reach the upper limit of the bet, the table will not allow you to bet higher than that. At that moment, everything that you lost up to that point is lost to you permanently, and that is one of the biggest dangers of the Martingale system.

Meanwhile, even if you won, you will only win the very first amount that you decided to bet. So, you might find yourself in a situation where you have to bet $2048 in order to win the original $2, while everything else that you got was simply recovering the lost funds.

What are the odds of a brutal losing streak?

A lot of players approach roulette aware of their diminished odds, even when taking bets that are considered relatively safe, such as even bets. They are sure that they will win fairly often, and quickly, but if you do some simple math, you will find that the odds are against you once again.

If we focus on European roulette, which only has one green pocket, and we say that you bet on a color, the chance that you will not hit that color 10 spins in a row is only 1 to 784. However, while this seems encouraging, keep in mind that the odds will change as you progress with the game, and that increasing the bets decreases your chance of hitting the color that you need before you run out of money.

If you start betting with $1, and the odds of hitting a 10-round losing streak are 1 to 784, that means that you can win $784 before a 10-round losing streak happens. When it does happen, you will have to double your bets until you go up to $1024. Since you will (statistically) only win with your 11th spin, that means that you will risk $1023 and earn $1. In other words, no, the system does not work well in the long-term.

Is the Martingale system a good choice for winning at roulette?

The Martingale strategy is a good strategy for short-term bets, but only if you seek to secure an eventual win. It is not a great strategy for long-term betting, and it certainly won’t bring major payouts. The best you can hope to accomplish is to recover all losses and win the minimum amount that you started betting with.

It is a risky strategy that can easily lead you to depleting your bankroll before recovering your losses, leaving you with said losses and with no chance of getting your money back. Even worse, if you play online, you might even hit the table’s betting limit before you empty your bankroll, which will, again, leave you with losses and no way to recover them. Use it only for short-term bets, and know when to cut your losses and cut the game short, and remember — the odds are never in your favor with roulette, no matter what you bet and which strategy you use.

It can be if luck is with you but there is no guarantee of winning - The Martingale system is designed to help you make very small profits (your initial bet), and its strength lies in helping you recover the funds that you lost while trying to make these small winnings.

This will primarily depend on the roulette table’s maximum allowed bet. If the limit for a single bet is at $4,000, for example, then you won’t be able to bet more than $2048 using the Martingale system, as the bets that you will be placing will include $1, $2, $4, $8, $16, $32, $64, $128, $256, $512, $1024, and $2048.

In the short-term yes, in the long-term no. It is impossible to beat the house edge with the Martingale strategy, as the casino will always have a mathematical advantage over the player

There is no way for Martingale to guarantee a win in reality. It can guarantee a win in theory only. The problems with actual playing are 1) The likelihood of running out of money to bet before recovering the lost amount, and 2) Running into the table’s maximum bet limit before recovering the lost amount.

The biggest risk is running out of money, as you need to double your bet after each loss. If you are unable to double your bet, then everything that you lost up to that point is out of your hands for good.

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The odds vary slightly based on the type of roulette game that is played. European roulette has slightly better odds than American roulette. The betting odds in American roulette of hitting a single number with a straight-up bet are 37 to 1, since there are 38 numbers (1 to 36, plus 0 and 00). However, the house only pays out 35 to 1 on winning bets.

The odds in European roulette are slightly better since there is no 00 on the board. (1 to 36, plus 0)

The house edge is with the 0 and 00, as these numbers cannot be won by the player.

Please view the following chart:

Bet TypeBetsOdds & PayoutsWin Probability in %
InsideStraight Up35:135 to 135:12.702.702.60
InsideSplit17:117 to 117:15.405.405.30
InsideStreet11:111 to 111:
InsideCorner8:18 to 18:110.8010.8010.50
InsideBasket    -   -6:1    -    -13.2
InsideLine5:15 to 15:
OutsideRed/Black1:11 to 11:148.6548.6547.37
OutsideEven/Odd1:11 to 11:148.6548.6547.37
OutsideHigh/Low1:11 to 11:146.6546.6547.37
OutsideColumn2:12 to 12:132.4032.4031.60
OutsideDozen2:12 to 12:132.4032.4031.60

Called bets only apply to European and French roulette.

These are the types of available called bets:

Neighbors of Zero - A bet on all 17 numbers near to the green zero.

Thirds of the Wheel - A bet on 12 numbers which are found adjacent to the neighbors of zero.

Zero Game - A bet on seven numbers near to the green zero.

The Orphans - A bet on any of the numbers which are not covered by the other called bets.

The Neighbors - A bet on 5 adjacent numbers

The Finals - A bet on the last digit (e.g. 5 would be a bet on 5, 15, 25, 35)

An outside bet is when you are not betting on a specific number, but instead choose to bet on odd or even, red or black, 1-18, or 1-36. These bets while they are lower risk, they still offer the house an edge due to the 0 and 00 on the board.

A straight bet is the simplest type of bet to understand in roulette. It is simply choosing a number (for example: 7), if the ball lands on the number then the player wins with the payout calculated as 35:1.

Roulette is all about statistics, the payout for selection the correct number the ball lands on is 35 to 1.

That being stated there is a house edge due to the 0 and 00. The odds of winning are actually 2.6% for American roulette, and slightly better odds of 2.7% with European roulette.

The odds are slightly better for the player with European roulette.

American roulette has both a 0 and a 00.

European roulette only has a 0.

If the ball lands on either the 0 or 00, the house automatically wins. This means it is in the players best interest to play European roulette.

To learn more visit our advanced guide that compares American vs European Roulette.

The real difference between the two games lies at the table, specifically, in the French table. The table boxes that correspond to the pockets in the wheel are all in red. Furthermore, the words and numbers in the French table are in French, while the European version uses English. Of course, this is not too big of an issue, especially since most resources were published with translations for the words and numbers that the French roulette table has to offer.

The French version has its own advantages, however, such as the use of th e La Partage rule. Basically, this is the rule that allows the players to use the even money bet. Essentially, what this means is that players who choose to play with this rule will get half of the amount they bet if the ball falls in the pocket with the zero.

To learn more visit our French Roulette Vs. European Roulette guide.

Lloyd is passionate about online gambling, he lives and breathes blackjack and other table games, and he enjoys sports betting.

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