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.