Martin Hoax

Isn’t the Martingale (wagering) system a hoax?

The research that was done before putting together included reading a number of books and Web sites on the subject of blackjack, and we’re not ignorantof the fact that many authors and theorists have dismissed wagering systems altogether. If you took a vote among anyone who has expressed an opinion on the subject, you’d find that popular opinion indicates the Martingale system is, indeed, a hoax. But in this case (and a surprising number of others) popular opinion is dead wrong.

We ran the numbers for ourselves and found Martingale to be a reliable and profitable system, and provided a program that generates a sequence of win/loss hands at random for those who must see something for themselves before they can believe it. Still, this is one of the most frequently asked questions.

We looked for similar mathematical proof among the critics of Martingale—and found none. Most sources simply dismissed Martingale without any examination, and the instances where evidence was provided, it was either made-up "imagine if" scenarios ora first-person account of a bad session. The few that presented a detailed explanation and ran a reasonable analysis set unrealistic parameters, such as a person betting $10 perhand on a $100 bankroll. Even if such a player followed their best advice (which is usually a flat-betting system or a close derivative of it), they’d bust out before too long.

The primary reason that Martingale fails for some players is that these players fail to use it properly. Specifically, a player who attempts to Martingale on too small a bankroll will almost always walk away a loser.

In a session of 120 hands, a run of eight consecutive losses is a virtual certainty (120 hands * 1.68% chance = 202% likelihood). After nine consecutive losses, you’d be betting 256 units to recover. Even a nickel player ($5 base wagering unit) would need a bankroll of $2,565 to recover (place a wager $1,280 after having lost $1,285 in the previous seven hands).

This is why a player is advised enter a game with a bankroll that’s 512 times his base wagering unit if he intends to use Martingale. If you’re going to ignore that basic advice, you’re practically guaranteed to walk away a loser. Unlike the naysayers, this does not lead us to the conclusion that Martingale is a guaranteed loser—it leads us to the conclusion that a player who disregards mathematically-proven advice is practically guaranteed to walk away a loser.

That same conclusion applies to any system, no matter how mathematically sound—soin the end, it is not the system that fails the player, it’s the player who fails the system.