Martingale system

The martingale system is a term for several systems that originated from the 1800s, some of them considering how to make the most of playing the roulette wheel. But for us sports bettors, the martingale system means doubling up to erase losses and stack the profits. Some systems suggest for every £1 you place on your first bet, you’ll need £255 in your overall bank. This means you’ll have enough money to cover eight losses in a row. Instantly you may see a flaw in that system, because what if you use nine? A better method may involve taking your starting stake, working out your worst possible losing run and creating a sufficient bankroll. From there the basic principle of the system is if you lose a bet, you double your stake. This is good for up to eight bets, meaning seven losses and one win would leave you in a position of profit from betting.

Pros & Cons

  • Pro - Despite the level of risk, it is a nice thought to think that you may only need to win one out of eight bets to not be at a loss.
  • Pro - It’s possible to make money from sports betting quickly and if used successfully, losing runs do not have a negative effect.
  • Con - The system advises a betting bank to cover at least eight losses, so you could blow your bank and lose a substantial amount with nine losses.
  • Con - Most people do not have the disposable income required to have a big enough bankroll for the martingale system.

The martingale system is sound on paper and if utilised correctly, but there is one obvious flaw. What if you lose all of your bets? You’ve blown your betting bank and if you are fortunate enough to have further funds, do you cut your immense losses, or do you continue to chase? It’s hard to imagine such downsides for selective professional bettors, but you can imagine the mess a casual bettor who doesn’t think too far ahead could create.

A deeper examination of pros and cons

The first pro that was mentioned was as long as you win one in every eight bets, you will not make a loss. Actually, you will make a single unit of profit as long as you win one bet at some point within seven bets. How does that work? Well, every bet from the second bet onward is a multiple of two, whilst your first bet remember is just a single unit bet. It means that you could have a strike rate of as little as 12.5% and turn a profit each time as long as your wins come within eight bets of each other. If you happened to be winning every three to five bets then your profit could accumulate quicker when using the double up system and of course, as long as you are winning, you remain at one unit stakes.

But is it a good betting strategy overall? It’s hard to know without someone putting it to the test. It would only be a good fit for a very careful, precise and usually successful bettor.

We already know that many people may not have the funds to even set about employing the martingale system, but for those that have disposable income, a desire for guaranteed success and a lack of discipline, the martingale system could be a disaster waiting to happen. The promise of such a guaranteed return somewhere down the line would lead to tunnel vision, quicker, rushed bet selections and poor money management by casual bettors.

A table to reflect the potential profits…

This is a completely fabricated table and it is purely to illustrate a scenario where you struggle to put together any sustained winning runs, and thus have to keep using the martingale method of doubling up. The columns reflect the bet number within the system, the outcome, the stake and the overall profits/losses made. By looking at the table you get a good visual of how the system can work. Betting odds have been omitted from the example table, so just assume best odds of 2.00. Further on in the guide there will be a quick explanation of the betting odds required.

 

Bet Number

Outcome

Bet P/L

Overall

#1

Lose

-1 Unit

-1

#2

Lose

-2 Units

-3

#3

Win

+4 Units

+1

#1

Lose

-1 Unit

0

#2

Win

+2 Units

+2 Units

#1

Lose

-1 Unit

+1 Units

#2

Lose

-2 Units

-1 Units

#3

Lose

-4 Units

-5 Units

#4

Lose

-8 Units

-13 Units

#5

Lose

-16 Units

-29 Units

#6

Lose

-32 Units

-61 Units

#7

Win

+64 Units

+3 Units

So despite having a strike rate of just 33% at even money (1/1, 2.00) odds, the end result is a +3 unit profit. Again it should be stressed this would only be the case should you continue finding one winner amongst every eight picks in the worst case scenario. For every successful cycle, you will walk away with a +1 unit profit. It does not matter which at which stage of the eight bet martingale system cycle you find a successful bet.

BUT if you were to lose eight straight sports bets and blow your betting bank…

#8

Lose

-128 Units

-255 Units

Now the decision is yours. Settle for losing 255 units of betting money in one cycle, which is probably £1,275 to £2,550 for the common casual gambler alone using their £5 to £10 stakes, or risk a crazy 256 units to get it back. If you take the plunge, you could then be in a hole of -£5,110 after just nine sports bets at £10 a unit. Always consider the worst case scenarios.

Appropriate use checklist…

There is no denying the appeal of the system, nor the risk of it. In the end it does come down to the individual using it, their discipline, their understanding of what they betting on and the system itself. It’s important to keep in mind that whilst you can guarantee yourself profits (when utilising correctly), blowing your bank and losing all eight sports bets does result in an overall loss of -255 units. To chase, or not to chase? What a horrible conundrum. (Advice: NEVER, EVER chase losses).

  • Know your sport: It’s vital you know the sport well. Don’t think you can apply this to any sport just because it sounds fool proof, and you’ll ‘probably’ pick a winner within eight bets.
  • Understand your downside: If you are a casual football bettor who doesn’t research football bets, then logic says you’re very capable of losing eight bets in a row, and possibly even in one or two matchdays.
  • Separate your bankroll: Even if you bet just £1 per unit, you could lose £255 in a matter of days. To some people that may be close to a quarter of a month's wages. Can you afford to lose that? Never bet what you can’t afford to lose/recover from.
  • Level of betting knowledge: Just because this system could on paper help any level of bettor get back on track and make profit from betting, don’t think it will. You have to understand that just because this system is in place, nothing at all changes in that you have to find well research, smart, winning bets.

The martingale system would most likely not suit a casual bettor due to the amount of funds required to safely use it, but even professionals may not have such money. Really, it’s more a matter of funds at your disposal. However settling for betting small enough amounts could mean anyone can use it, but it may be hard to make noticeable profit from sports betting that way. Even starting with a £1 bet could mean you stand to lose a total of £255 before you recover those losses, and a casual bettor in particular is at greater risk of extended losing runs. You can apply the martingale system to any sport that you wish to bet on.

It’s hard to have a definitive conclusion and guide people in the right or wrong direction with this or any betting system, but as to whether it is a good betting strategy or a bad betting strategy depends largely on the person using it. You’d fear for an overeager, casual bettor looking to make quick money, whilst you can understand why a seasoned and patient professional would use it. If you can limit the number of bets you place and wait for the right one, you could well do fine. You also have to remember your downside (biggest losing run and worst case scenario). Finally, applying the system to your form is appropriate. If you know you’re struggling it simply isn’t worth the risk. If you’re a bettor who is pretty consistent and may even be coming into form the the martingale system may provide a good short term strategy.