Betting Progressions: Fool’s Gold of Gamblers

Many gamblers are intrigued by betting systems  based on the amount wagered and the outcome of the previous hand.   These  systems, which are touted in some books and all over the internet,  are betting progressions – the  most popular of which is the Martingale.   With the Martingale system you start off with your base bet, and if you  lose, you double your wager.  You continue to double up your bet with each loss until you win, at which point you return to your base unit.  If your hand pushes with the dealer, you  wager the same amount.  This approach produces a high percentage of small profit sessions.

This system may seem like a fool proof way to beat the house.  After all,  the odds of losing 7 or 8 hands in a row are slim.  As long as you finish a session after a winning hand,  you will walk away a winner.  But,  all progression bettors learn the hard way that  sooner or later you will get wiped out.  Eventually  you will lose 7, 8, even 10 or more consecutive hands and your session will end with a devastating loss.   When a progression runs into an  inevitable unlucky streak, the result is  financial ruin.   For example, if a Martingale bettor with a $10 base unit  loses 10 straight hands, he would  drop $10,230.  When you’re doubling your bet everytime you lose,  it doesn’t long for a small base bet to become a huge bet you can’t afford to lose. If you play long enough, at some point you will be hit with a painful  losing streak.  I know this all too well, having once lost  14  straight hands in Atlantic City.  If I had been utilizing a betting progression, the result would have been disastrous.

Betting progressions could work in a hypothetical world.   If you had an infinite bankroll and played at a casino which offered an  infinite table maximum, you would be able to whether the storm of any losing streak,  without fear of going broke or being constrained by a table max.  In  the real world however, gamblers play with a limited bankroll and table max’s are far from infinite.  House edge is what rules.  Simply stated – whoever has the advantage will come out on top. All casino games have a built-in edge for the house which is immune to betting progressions.   Due to their simplicity and often positive, short term results, betting progressions may be appealing to unsuspecting gamblers, but unlike card counting and other forms of advantage play, they do not hold up to the unforgiving laws of probability.

Comments

  1. I am wrong mathematically in what I am about to say.

    I believe that if you are ahead, then riskier plays are better for you to make to win bigger payouts. If you are behind, then play conservative. (Modifications to basic strategy for the non-counter)

    If I am ahead 20% in my session bankroll, and I have 11 against a 10, you can bet I am doubling down. On the other hand, if I can’t seem to make a double down to save my life, and I am down in my session 15%, I might only hit my 11 against a dealer 10. (assuming the TC is between 1 and -1 or non-counting) While this is not the optimum way to play, as basic strategy math is irrelevant to the win-loss of my session, streaks seem to happen all the time.

    Progressive betting, (NOT martingale) has been able to help me win large payouts during good streaks, especially when the TC=+2 or more and running in a favorable streak. I do not double the bet.. but i will move up or down units as determined by the TC or streak. The John Patrick Regressive Betting System has worked great for me.. it reads 3-2-3-3-4-5 and basically causes you to hover around the ‘win a hand, lose a hand’ idea.

    This is NOT the right way to play mathematically, however it seems if you land on the right streak you can have a huge win day.

  2. If the exact normalized count is above -10 always double 11 against a dealers 10…EVERY TIME…If it’s below -10 then hit EVERY TIME don’t deviate. If you do this you will come out ahead after hours of play. It’s ok to raise or lower your bets if your on a hot or cold streak but always stick to your numbers from whatever chart you are using. Those numbers give you the edge not a guarantee. If your 15% down and hit the 11 at +1 and get a 10 then what? You just blew the best chance you had at getting back close to even…

  3. What about an anti-Martingale progressive betting strategy? Increasing by half the bet after a win?

    Also, as the count goes down, would you flat bet until you lose, or decrease the bet as the count goes down? (If you are just playing by yourself, not on a team)

    Listened to your podcast interview with Michael Covel. Awesome.

    Thanks!

  4. Hey Steve, any betting strategy that is not based on betting proportional to your advantage will not be profitable. Changing your bet size is only effective if you are sizing your wagers based on your edge. Whether you have won or lost your previous hand(s) has no bearing whatsoever on your odds of winning. The true count is the true measure of where you stand at any point in time. Professional blackjack players raise their wagers to generate a positive expected return when the odds are in their favor.

  5. Little did I know the “strategy” I came up with when I was at a Montreaux casino was the Martingale strategy. I was playing roulette I believe and you could choose one of two colors for a little less than 50% chance of winning. I figured that to give myself and advantage I would start betting on a given color when the opposing color had been hit more than 4 times in a row. With each additional hit on the opposing color over 4 times I would double my bet. Somehow I got lucky and this strategy somehow worked for me a couple of times. The third time I doubled my bet 7 times I believe and then the casino told me there was a limit and that I couldn’t double my bet anymore. I was angry and convinced that I was about to win really big and that is why they were shutting me down. In reality the ball hit the opposing color 13 more times in a row after that which would have completely wiped me out!!!!! Subsequently my uncle had a good laugh at my expense about my lack of knowledge of statistics. I’m glad I learned those lessons in humility and statistics in college rather than losing my retirement savings or something!

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