There are countless strategies out there that sports handicappers have used to try and gain an edge when it comes to beating the bookies. The results have certainly varied over the years. While some swear by certain strategies, there are others that will just as quickly write them off.
One of those systems that have received a lot of attention over the years is the Martingale betting system. Here is a look at what it is and whether or not it really works.
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The Strategy Behind The Martingale System
The strategy behind the Martingale system comes from the world of casino gambling, and in particular the game of roulette. Roulette is a game where there is a wheel with red and black marks. A ball is placed on the wheel and spun around it. Gamblers then have the option of choosing whether the ball will land on black or red, or certain numbers. Ignoring the house edge, the odds of hitting either black or red are essentially 2/1.
The idea behind the Martingale system is to double the stake size after each losing wager. That way, if you win, you return to the starting wager amount after every win. By doing this, all previous losses can be recovered by eventually winning. The Martingale rate of progression = odds / (odds-1).
For example, if betting odds of 3.00 then the rate of progression of stake increase would be 1.5. The system relies on that the ball is bound to bounce in the gamblers favor eventually. Therefore, it would be impossible to lose. However, anything can happen in a chance game and the same can be said for betting on sports. The strategy is a simple one to understand but the risks must still be understood. This is not completely foolproof.
The Risk Changes, Not The Expectations
Stuart Holland provided an excellent example of how the Martingale system can make something out of nothing in his book titled Successful Staking Strategies. He was able to show how when it comes to the roulette wheel, the mathematical expectation will always stay the same but the risk can change.
For example, if the Roulette wheel odds are exactly 2/1, then by using the Martingale system the player technically does improve his chances to end up with a net profit. However, the Roulette wheel does not offer 2/1 odds. The same can be said for betting on sports. There is no guarantee that a sports bettor will get one out of every two wagers right. Therefore, there is no way this system alone can guarantee a profit. The risk will change over time based on the odds of every individual wager but the mathematical expectation for every single wager will remain the same.
Does The Martingale System Work?
The strategy behind the Martingale system is simple enough to understand and in general the theory behind can work. However, the system alone will not guarantee a casual sports bettor will make money. Every individual wager that a person chooses will have its own win probability and as unlikely as it seems there is no guarantee that a player can avoid losing a large amount of bets in a row.
The other aspect of the Martingale system is the bankroll that the individual player has at their disposal. If somebody has $1000 to wager with and starts with a $50 bet, then according to the system they have a limit of four losing wagers in a row before they can no longer double up their wager to cover their losses.
The threat of eventually going bankrupt lingers and there is nothing that guarantees avoiding four losses in a row. The theory of the Martingale betting strategy is certainly an interesting one and used properly in the right hands it could lead to making a profit betting on sports. However, the Martingale system on its own cannot guarantee a profit when it comes to betting on sports, so make sure to take everything you have learned about here with a grain of salt.