While many people consider the Martingale betting system to be a specific type of betting progression, the actual name refers to a group of betting progressions that were developed in the 1700’s in France. Martingale systems, as you can see, have been around for a very long time. One of the original purposes of the Martingale was to determine how a player should bet on the flip of a coin! Over time, Martingale systems have become more advanced and applied to more gambling games as players tinkered and refined this betting progression.
A Martingale works on the basic premise of always betting in such a way that, over the long run, a player either breaks even or makes a small profit. That is a nice concept, to be sure. In its simplest form, the Martingale systems involve doubling a wager after each loss. If you happen to be a gambler who has an unlimited bankroll, making a profit with a Martingale seems like a sure thing. You simply keep doubling the original stake until you win a bet. That one win recoups all of your losses plus gives you a profit equal to the original stake.
Let’s look at a brief example of a Martingale system used in blackjack betting:
Cha-ching! That last hand won you 16 units of profit! But, if you will look closely, on the four hands before that winning hand you lost 15 units. Your net profit, over the course of these five hands, is one unit. This is how a Martingale works. Whenever you win you will always win back all of your losses plus one unit.
It certainly looks like a sure thing. As long as you can keep doubling up your bets after each loss, there is no way you can lose. Well, the only sure thing the casino likes is being able to count on their house edge. As a result, the casinos have developed many ways to counteract the Martingale system. These measures have rendered the Martingale systems ineffective in today’s casinos.
In a Martingale system the bet increases exponentially after each loss. The problem is that casinos establish betting limits on each blackjack table. For example, on a $5 blackjack table the minimum bet is $5 (one unit). There is also a maximum bet, however, usually somewhere around $500 (100 units).
Let’s look at what happens if you are using a Martingale at this table and encounter a prolonged losing streak:
As you can see in this example, if you lose just seven hands in a row at this blackjack table you will not be able to execute the next bet in the Martingale system. That means you lose, and lose big. This is what makes the Martingale a particularly dangerous system to use in blackjack. All blackjack players understand that blackjack is a game of swings. It is very possible to lose seven, eight, or nine hands in a row before hitting a winning hand and starting a winning streak. If you are attempting to use a Martingale system at blackjack, beware. The house edge will eventually catch up with you and you will find yourself in a hole that you cannot climb out of.
For many years the Martingale systems were very popular with roulette players, and before the casinos established table maximums a Martingale worked very well. Since that time there have been many studies conducted on the mathematical effectiveness of Martingale systems. All of them clearly demonstrate that a Martingale is ineffective for casino play.
There is, however, a fun card trick that can be executed with a Martingale system. You can use this trick to win a bar bet or two. Take a standard deck of 52 cards and shuffle them up. Next, give them to someone to deal face up until all of the cards have been dealt out. Bet this person that you will correctly predict the color of each card before it is dealt and that you will get at least 50% of your predictions correct. Pick a color, either red or black, and predict that color EACH time. When all of the cards have been dealt you cannot lose. You will have gotten exactly 50% of the cards right.
The moral of the story is this: save the Martingale systems for bar bets and card tricks. They will not work at the blackjack table.