His eyes were feverish; his hands trembling. “Oh, my lord!” he thought excitedly. “I have found a sure fire way to win at gambling. It is so simple; I am amazed no one ever thought of this before! I am brilliant!”
He turned to his wife, “Honey, we are going to own the world! This betting system will always win; it has to always win. It can’t lose.” He was ecstatic; that is, he was ecstatic until the system crashed and burned and took away everything he had previously won using it. He was crestfallen.
That “he” was me 27 years ago and that “can’t lose” system I invented was called a Martingale – a system also invented by countless thousands of gamblers for centuries and played extensively at roulette by the aristocracy of Europe in the 18th century – before those aristocrats became peasants because they used it and lost their fortunes.
I think just about every casino gambler, especially at the start of his or her career, will discover the Martingale and think, “I can’t lose with this – it has to win! Honey, let’s buy a gargantuan safe.”
The simple Martingale is a double your bet after you lose system. I bet one dollar; I lose one dollar, I now bet two dollars. If I win the second bet, I have made up for the loss of that one dollar and made one dollar in profit. If I lose that second bet, well then my next bet is four dollars. If I win that, I get back the three dollars I lost plus one dollar in profit. And up it goes until I inevitably win.
Yes, it does sound like an unbeatable system but two things prevent it from being successful in the real world of wagering. If there is no cap on your betting, you need an infinite amount of money to keep going “up, up and away!” when you hit a prolonged losing streak. And all gamblers, using all betting systems, will run into long losing streaks. If you don’t have the cash you are doomed, as I was, to crash.
In casinos, the house betting limits stop the players from going to extraordinary levels of betting using the Martingale. Usually seven to nine increases in one’s bet hits the highest limit and nothing higher can be wagered. That’s what did me in. I lost seven spins at roulette in a row, couldn’t bet enough on the next spin to get it all back, and I went down to peasantdom like those 18th century aristocrats.
But what about using the Martingale on slot machines? Could the slots, with their amazing variety of denominations and potential number of coins played, be the first and only successful use of the Martingale betting system?
Let’s take a look at how one could go about structuring a Martingale at slot play.
Go to quarter machines and play one coin. Say the jackpot line is $600. Once you have lost more than $600, you will have to now start putting in two coins. If that jackpot is $900, then you have a $300 loss limit before you have to go to three coins. If the jackpot is $1,200, as soon as you have lost another $300 playing three coins you can no longer get an overall win on that quarter machine.
Yes, you will have some bigger and smaller non-jackpot hits, so really playing as described in the above paragraph is simplistic but it makes a valid point. You will sooner or later have to jump up the bets to stay in the game. With slots, you might not lose that $600 or $900 or $1,200 for quite a while or you might lose it in a few dozen blinks of the eye. That is all a matter of luck and math.
Once you have lost all on the quarter machines, you must now go up to the 50 cents machines; then the dollar machines; the five dollar machines and higher. Remember, playing the Martingale means you must win back all the money you lost to show a profit. Yes, the profit will be small – perhaps just a dollar – and the risk will be greater and greater as you go up in denomination, but that is the Martingale at work.
I am guessing that with careful pen and paper work, you can make a chart of how much money you would need to take the slot machine Martingale through the roof. I am also thinking that the amount would be staggering.
The bromide, “Well, I have to win sooner or later,” while sounding good, really has no meaning. You actually don’t have to win sooner or later. You can wipe out your bankroll, indeed, you can wipe out every penny you have, if you keep going higher and higher in a Martingale and lose until you have nothing left to bet anymore.
Certainly, it would be a rare occasion to go through the roof on a slot machine Martingale system but the more you play, the better the chance that probability will catch you in its claws and send you through the roof and send your money down the toilet.
In such a dire situation – one that I experienced – you are risking everything for a little return. Is such a gamble worth it? True, you will have many wins along the Martingale trail but as you proceed down that road, a big, hungry monster is lurking in the woods, getting ready to pounce and eat you all up.
It is best to avoid the Martingale. It is an unbeatable system…until it loses.
[My book Slot Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines is available from Amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores. Yes, this book has beatable machines – if you can find them!]