Betting systems fall into the broad categories of betting the same after each decision, known as flat betting, raising wagers after wins, called positive progressions, and raising money after losses, named negative progressions.
There are also systems that have characteristics of one or more of these types, such as the Nine-Count Blackjack Strategy’s Betting System which we will encounter.
Many of the classical betting systems were developed for roulette in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but can be used for other games with even-money wagers such as craps, baccarat, and blackjack.
Although none of these systems in its pure form is a winning system, it is worthwhile to study the efforts of our not so dumb ancestors as these betting systems are the grandparents of every modern betting strategy.
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Martingale betting strategy is one of the oldest betting systems using a negative progression. It is named after Henry Martingale, an English casino owner in the 1700s who is reputed to urge losing punters to “double ’em up” with their wagers.
This system is very simple. You will use a betting series where each bet in the series is twice as large as the preceding one, as with 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32. So long as you win a bet, you will continue to bet at the lowest level, e.g. wager 1.
If you lose a bet, you will move up to the next wager, doubling the amount of the previous wager. Use of the system ensures that whenever your wager eventually wins, you will win the amount of the original wager, in this instance 1.
One of my gambling friends once told me about an amazing system he had developed for craps. He had gone to Las Vegas on two consecutive trips and returned a winner.
He was wagering only on don’t pass at casino craps using a betting series starting with a $1 bet and doubling his bet after each loss. He was certain that his risk of loss was very small and planned to continue to use the system.
He was reluctant to share the system with me but he finally confessed that he was using the following betting series, increasing his wager one level following a loss: 1 2 4 8 16 32 64 128 256. He correctly pointed out that he would have to lose nine times in a row to lose the betting series, and he just didn’t think that this was possible.
I pointed out to him that there was a very real possibility that he could lose nine decisions in a row; in fact, this would happen once about every 500 pass line – don’t pass decisions.
With craps decisions averaging fifty to sixty per hour, a loss of all nine wagers could happen once every eight to ten hours. I asked him to consider whether he was winning enough to sustain a loss of $511.00 (the total amount he was risking) in order to win the sum of $1.
This must-have impressed him as I don’t think he ever used this system again (or at least he didn’t tell me about losing with it).
The Martingale system would be just about unbeatable if you could continue to double your wagers until you finally won a bet.
Modern casinos are very aware of Martingale betting strategy, and they know that the easiest way to thwart the system is to narrow the spread between maximum and minimum bets allowed. In other words, the minimum wager must be high enough and the maximum wager low enough that no more than eight or nine doublings can occur.
If you find a table with a low minimum, such as $1 and a high maximum, such as $3,000, you may wish to try using a Martingale system against the table. You could use the following series of wagers: 1 2 4 8 16 32 64 128 256 512 1,024 2,048. With 12 bets in the series, you would be an odds on favorite to win any weekend gambling contest involving even-money wagers.
However, you might want to consider one thing. If you try this, sooner or later you will lose bet number 11, for $1,024. You will now have lost $2,047 and will be called on to bet $2,048 in order to win the grand sum of $1.
Are you willing to risk it? If you win, you will be up exactly one buck for your efforts. However, if you lose your last wager of $2,048, you will have lost $4,095 in the gaming contest.
While the risk of loss is low, it will happen at some time if you continue to wager this way, and there is no guarantee that it won’t happen during your first casino excursion using this system.
Martingale in its purest form is too risky for the amount of reward offered. Nearly every gambling expert likes to cite Martingale as an example of a losing system and then jump into a gloating mode and proclaim that all betting systems are losers.
However, a Martingale betting strategy can be used with very good results if it is used on a spot basis. Assume that you are wagering on an even-money game and that you have lost the last four consecutive wagers.
Usually, a three-stage Martingale against this trend continuing for three more decisions will be quite profitable and the reward will be reasonable as compared to the amount risked.
One criticism of Martingale betting strategy is that too much is risked compared to the potential return. For example, in the first Martingale series shown, you would have had to wager $256 in order to win a net $1.
With Grand Martingale, additional chips are added to each increased wager, so that when a win finally occurs, the amount won will be greater than just the amount of the first wager. A typical Grand Martingale series is: 1 3 5 15 35 75.
Martingale in all forms risks a lot to win a little. When the losses come, they will wipe out hours of profits. Another twist to using a Martingale series is to play Martingale in reverse, called an “Anti-Martingale” betting series.
With this betting strategy, winning wagers will be pressed (doubled).
Whenever you encounter a long winning streak this system can produce phenomenal profits. Assume we use the following Anti-Martingale series: 5 10 20 40 80.
With five consecutive wins, we will win $155, while our total risk is only the amount of our first wager, $5.
The high-risk reward ratio is a major reason while raising your wagers after wins are recommended by many gaming experts.
With Labouchere betting strategy, also known as the “Cancellation System“, the player sets up a series of numbers which will add up to the profit he will make if he wins this betting series.
If he picks 1 2 3 as his series, his expected profit for winning this series is 1 + 2 + 3 = 6. Like the variations of Martingale, this series is used with even-money bets.
To start the series, a player will wager the sum of the two outside numbers, in this case, 6 (1 + 2 + 3 = 6).
If he wins this wager, he will cancel the two outside numbers by scratching them out and wager the sum of the next two outside numbers. In this simple series, only the single number of 2 is left, so the player would wager 2.
If he also wins this wager, he will have won the series, having won 4 on the first round and 2 for the second wager, for a total of 6, the total of all bets in the series.
Any time the player loses a wager, he will add the amount lost to the series and continue to wager the sum of the two outside wagers. Let’s assume the player lost the first bet of 4. He would add this wager to the series, which would now become: 1 2 3 4. His next wager would be for 5, the sum of the two outside wagers. We will assume that this bet wins.
Having won the bet, our players cancel the outside numbers of 1 and 4 leaving the series as 2 3.
He next wagers the sum of these two numbers, betting 5. If this wager wins the series is completed. If he loses this wager, the losing bet of 5 will be added to the series and he will continue the series.
The principal appeal of this system is that it appears to be a two for one proposition in that each win cancels two numbers while a loss only adds one number to the series. However, this isn’t the case as the player is not paid two for one on winning bets.
In testing this system, I have had bets escalate to wagers of hundreds of dollars all too frequently. This is probably the most insidious of the old-time roulette systems. It is said to have been responsible for more suicides on the French Riviera than any other system.
Part of the problem with this system is that the small stream of steady wins tends to lull the player into believing that the system can’t lose.
Unfortunately, a long enough losing streak will occur that the wagers called for will either be larger than the player’s bankroll or will exceed the house limits and not be allowed. In either case, the series will be over with the end result that the player suffers a substantial loss.
This betting strategy can also be played in reverse, known as “Reverse Labouchere“. With Reverse Labby, as many punters call it, the amount of each win is added to the series, and the two outside numbers are canceled whenever a loss occurs.
Each wager is still the sum of the two outside numbers. This betting strategy produces many small losses in exchange for an occasional win over 1,000 times the amount at risk.
The use of this approach is recounted in Norman Leigh‘s fascinating account of his successful effort to beat the casino in Monte Carlo by playing Labouchere in reverse (Thirteen Against the Bank, William Morrow & Co., 1976).
Norman Leigh theorized that the reason so many players lose with Labouchere is that they run into the house limits or lose their playing capital and are unable to recoup losses.
Since the bank has almost unlimited capital in comparison to the players, the bank can out wait for most player assaults, knowing that either the house betting limit or the player’s own limited financial resources will bring about the player’s demise.
In using the reverse betting strategy, Leigh reasoned that this approach would most closely resemble the bank’s approach to most other players.
He would wait out the small losses until a large win occurred. Leigh spent months recruiting and training a team to play against the casino. His trials in pulling off this coup make for fascinating reading. I believe that one of the reasons he was eventually able to beat the casino in Monte Carlo was that his starting wagers were fairly low and the house maximums large in comparison.
Consequently, he was able to keep his losses fairly low while his team played on, waiting for the monster win.
It is doubtful that this betting strategy could be used successfully now, as the spread between minimum and maximum wagers is not large enough in most casinos.
The losses realized while waiting for the large win would be enormous, with the house limits on maximum wagers limiting the systems’ ability to ultimately recoup the losses.
This Betting Strategy was invented by a French mathematician, based on the assumption of equilibrium in gaming contests.
D’Alembert reasoned that since winning and losing bets must eventually equal one another, a system of adding one chip after each losing bet and subtracting a chip after a winning bet would ultimately result in a win as winning wagers would always be greater than losing ones.
It is not unusual to win only ten of the first thirty wagers in an even-money betting contest.
With d’Alembert’s system, the player will wager higher and higher amounts until he eventually runs into our old nemesis, the house limit.
D’Alembert can be fairly successful if it is modified to include no more than nine or ten bets in a series of wagers so that potential losses are limited.
An additional modification to improve the system is to space the bets so that the win of two consecutive wagers will offset prior losses. A series that accomplishes this is 1 2 3 4 7 11 18.
With this series, a player would drop back to the lowest bet after winning two consecutive wagers, such as 7 and 4.
This system can be fairly successful if used by two partners betting the opposite in roulette, craps or baccarat.
This is another of the old-time Roulette Betting Strategy which can be adapted to any game offering even-money bets. With Ascot, winning wagers are increased one unit at a time in a predetermined series of wagers while losing bets are lowered one step using the same betting series.
An Ascot betting series can be from seven to eleven numbers. A typical series is 2 3 5 8 13 20 30. The player’s first wager would be a middle number such as 8.
If this wager wins, the next wager would be 13. If this wager also won, the succeeding wager would be for 20, and so on, with each win followed by an increase of one level in the betting series.
The series would end with the win of the last bet in the series. For a win, that would be a win of 30. A losing series would be terminated with the loss of the lowest bet of 2.
The greatest problem with Ascot betting strategy is that alternating wins and losses at the higher levels of wagers will destroy the profit potential of the series. This can be a serious flaw in any system calling for a large reduction in the amount wagered following a loss.
Fibonacci was a mathematician who discovered a series of numbers where the sum of each two numbers in the series equals the number that follows. A Fibonacci series with twelve levels of bets would look like: 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89 144 233 for a total risk of $609.
This is a very low-risk Betting Strategy for use with even-money bets at craps, roulette, and baccarat.
It can also be used at blackjack. To use it, you will increase your bet one level following a loss. After any win, you drop your next wager one level. If you win two bets in a row or win two out of three bets, you drop back to the first bet in the series.
This betting strategy was sold many years ago for $100 a copy with instructions to use it betting don’t pass in craps. This is a good system for partners to use betting opposites.
With roulette, for instance, one partner could bet red while the other wagered black.
With craps, one would wager on the pass line and the other on don’t pass.
With baccarat, one partner would bet banker and the other on player hands.
An adaptation of this betting strategy has been used to successfully win at craps.
Incidentally, there are a number of derivations of the Fibonacci series of numbers, including ratios of the numbers, which are regularly used in trading stocks and commodity future contracts. This is indeed a versatile and powerful sequence of numbers.
A parlay or paroli is a positive progression betting strategy. In its simplest form, it consists of leaving a winning bet plus the winnings up for a second win. If you are betting $10 on an even-money bet and win $10, you parlay the wager by leaving $20 up for the next decision.
If this bet wins, you will have won $30 while only risking $10.
Probably the most attractive aspect of a successful parlay is that it wins three times as much as the amount risked.
However, the probability of winning two bets in a row on even-money wagers is less than one in four. For this reason, one of the better ways to use a parlay betting strategy is to combine it with a series of bets where the amount wagered is increased following a loss.
The following parlay progression could be used: 2 2 3 4 6 8 12 16.
To use this series, you would normally start with the first wager in the series. If this bet won, you would parlay it and next wager $4. If either the original wager or the parlay lost you would move up one level in the betting series.
Any time a parlay bet is won, you will start the betting series over. If the series is lost, you may either start the series over or leave the table.
Setting up parlay progressions like the one above can be the basis for some of the best performing betting progressions in gambling.
To use such a series in blackjack, which requires additional money in order to handle pair splitting and doublings, requires adjustments to the series. One way to handle this is to modify the blackjack basic strategy to reduce the number of splitting and doubling plays.
However, this is not a wise way to play blackjack as these moves represent one of the player’s strongest winning options. A better way to handle the program of developing a winning parlay progression for blackjack is to modify the progression so that it allows for splitting and doubling opportunities.
Charles Einstein who originated the Hi-Opt 1 card counting system wrote a book titled Blackjack Betting in 1981. In it, he advocated a betting strategy based on the rhythm of blackjack wins and losses. He recommended increasing wagers following losses and decreasing wagers after wins, somewhat similar to the Ascot system described earlier.
Traditional card-counting experts and mathematicians who have studied the blackjack game reacted negatively to Einstein’s progressive betting system.
In general, the advocates of card counting are unwilling to even consider that any betting progression can come close to equaling the results achieved through card counting. Their minds are closed on the subject that anything other than card counting can be used to win at blackjack.
Donald Dahl in Progressive Blackjack (Citadel Press Group, 1993) presents a positive betting progression for use at blackjack. The progression for tables with $5 minimum bets is: 5 5 7 7 10 10 15 15 25 25 35 35 50 50.
To use this progression, always start with the lowest bet and move up one level after each win. After any loss, you will start the progression over.
Dahl suggests that you skip a level after receiving a blackjack. For instance, if you were at the level three-bet of $25 and won with a blackjack, you would skip the next $25 bet and wager $35 on the next hand.
He recommends skipping two levels after winning splits and doubles unless the jump would cause you to risk more money than the amount received on the previous wager. If this is the case, then jump just one level on the next bet.
Dahl’s betting strategy book is interesting, but his system is weak in several ways. No automatic stopping points are suggested and he doesn’t have any suggestions for sessions when multiple losses occur.
Walter Thomason in his Twenty-first Century Blackjack (Bonus Books, 1999) develops a positive progression betting strategy with which he does extensive testing. Thomason plays 5,000 hands of blackjack comparing the results of flat betting, the Thomason System and card counting.
Thomason’s betting strategy progression consists of starting with a bet of $20. He increases his wager by $10 each time he is the net winner of a hand and drops back to his original $20 bet following any loss. In addition, he caps his betting series at a maximum of $50. A series of six consecutive wins would look like: 20 30 40 50 50 50 for a total win of $240.
He adds one more item to his betting strategy progression. He suggests that a player quit playing anytime he loses four bets in a row. Dahl calls this is “quit point.”
Another positive betting strategy was presented by John Patrick, a professional gambler turned writer. In his John Patrick’s Blackjack (Carol Publishing Group, 1995) he describes his betting strategy.
He uses a system with both progressive and regressive attributes. With his system, you will start with a wager at least twice as large as the table minimum so that you have room to reduce the size of your bet after wins.
After your first win, your next wager will be one-half the size of the first winning wager. For instance, if your base bet is $10 and you win, you will wager $5 next. After any net loss, you will revert to the original starting bet.
However, if you can manage to win the second bet in a series, you will return to the two-unit bet and increase the amount wagered after any additional win.
A series of six wins at a $10 minimum table would look like: 20 10 20 30 40 50 for a total of $170 won.
Like Thomason, Patrick suggests a way to limit losses by quitting if you lose the first four hands in a shoe or deck.
Just how well does this betting strategy perform under real-life casino conditions? Is card counting really superior to using a betting progression? We will take a hard look at these questions. The answers may astound you.
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