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Martingale Roulette – The Number One System

Within the game of roulette, one system stands tall as the go to for players looking for an easy to understand, straightforward, winning strategy. The Martingale system has been used for over two centuries and continues to be the most popular roulette strategy choice for players. In this guide, you will learn exactly how the Martingale roulette strategy works, both in theory and in practice.

Roulette imagery in combination with the Martingale system

Further to this, we will give you an in-depth understanding of how the Martingale odds play out over the course of a game before discussing whether or not the system is technically legal. Finally, we will compare the Martingale roulette system against other well-known systems before ending with some of its shortcomings.

Martingale Roulette System – The Theory

With origins dating back to the 1800s, the Martingale system descends from probability theory where within a sequence of fixed random variables, there will always be a point where the next value will be equal to the present value. Now don’t run away. With a simple example, this theory becomes very straight forward and easy to understand. First, think about a person continually betting on the outcome of flipping a coin where the outcomes are fixed – heads wins and tails loses. If the person betting was to double their bet after every loss, a win would recover all previous losses in one bet plus a profit equal to the first bet in the sequence. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the the following section below and you will see it for yourself.

Image of a roulette player's payout increasing during roulette

The idea behind this system is that at some point, you have to win, and this win will recover all your previous losses, plus one unit of profit. In layman’s terms, double up until you win! By now, I’m sure you can see the attractiveness of such a system when utilised as a roulette strategy.

Martingale System in Practice

Now that you have a better understanding of how the Martingale system works in theory, let’s have a look at a practical example in roulette. Similar to the above coin example, players will choose a ‘relatively’ even-money bet. I say relatively because in roulette, these are not exactly 50 bets but we will discuss that in more detail later. In roulette these bets can be on low (1-18) or high (19-36) numbers, odd or even numbers or the most commonly used bet on red or black. For this example, we will be betting £1 on the probability that the ball lands on red. After the first spin, if the ball lands on red, we are very happy and have won our first bet with a profit of £1. If the ball lands on black and we have lost, at this point we will double our original bet from £1 to £2. If the ball then lands on red, we will have recovered our previous lost bet of £1 plus an additional unit of profit £1. If on our second spin, the ball lands on black and we lose again, we will continue doubling our bets on red until we win. No matter how long it takes, or the size of the bet, we will eventually win and recover our original bet.

Example of the Martingale system net profits and losses

But how will this strategy hold up if we lose five games in a row? The answer is: completely fine. Check out the above example and you will see just how straight forward the Martingale roulette system is in action.

Martingale Odds: Working Out Your Risk

The secret to the Martingale roulette strategy is really no secret at all; it’s simple mathematical probability. As referenced earlier, the success of the system is down to the assumption that at some point, after a series of losses, you have to win, and with this win, you can recover all of your losses plus one unit of profit. So how can we be so certain that a player will eventually always win? The Martingale probability theory suggests that, as shown in the table below, the probability of remaining on a losing streak decreases with each consecutive loss.

Martingale Losing Streak Odds
Spin Progression Bet (Units) Outcome Total Profit Probability of Loss Probability of Win Probability of Win (%)
1 1 Loss -1 0.514 0.486 48.6%
2 2 Loss -3 0.257 0.743 74.3%
3 4 Loss -7 0.128 0.872 87.2%
4 8 Loss -15 0.064 0.936 93.6%
5 16 Loss -31 0.032 0.968 96.8%
6 32 Loss -63 0.016 0.984 98.4%
7 64 Loss -127 0.008 0.992 99.2%
8 128 Loss -255 0.004 0.996 99.6%
9 256 Loss -511 0.002 0.998 99.8%
10 512 Win 1 0.000 1.000 100%

So, the Martingale theoretical approach implies that, for instance, if you lose three games in a row, there is an 87% chance you will win the next game. And the probability of winning just keeps going up after that with each consecutive loss. After losing just four games in row, you start hitting the 90% quartiles that the losing run will stop. If by some divine right, you go seven games without a win, from that point on, there will always be a 99% chance that you will win the next game. Once you land a win after a series of consecutive losses, you start anew as the winning/losing odds will have to be recalculated. The Martingale odds are stacked in your favour! That being said, you should be aware of the gambler’s fallacy. However improbable, losing streaks can and do occur.

As it stands, the use of the Martingale roulette system is perfectly legal. However, casinos do have countermeasures in order to decrease its effectiveness. One measure is to put in place maximum betting limits which mean, if a player is in a deep losing streak, there will come a point where they can no longer place a high enough bet to cover all their losses. For example, if a casino has a £500 maximum betting limit and a player has lost a £275 bet, they will not be able to double it £550. Another countermeasure to help reduce the players’ odds of successfully utilising the Martingale strategy is the fabled ‘other’ colour on the roulette wheel; the green. The green slots are filled with the number zero. In European Roulette there is only one slot and thus one zero, whereas in the American version there are two slots, one for zero and another for double zero. These green zeros represent the house edge. In European Roulette the green spread is worth 2.7% giving the house an edge of 51.35% in total. In American roulette, with two green slots, the spread is worth 5.26% giving the house an even bigger advantage of 52.6%.

Other Roulette Systems

Now that you’ve dipped your finger and got a taste of what the Martingale strategy has to offer, let’s see how it compares to some of the other more niche systems available to roulette players today. The following two are just a preview of the available betting systems. If you’re interested in finding out more about the existing strategies, we would recommend our comprehensive guide to roulette systems.

Other Roulette System Examples
Oscar’s Grind
Illustrative casino imagery for the Oscar's Grind system
  • Counts on winning and losing streaks
  • Bet same after a loss
  • Up wager by one unit after a win
  • Less flexible than Martingale
Kavouras
Illustrative casino imagery for the Kavouras System
  • Advocates betting on 20+ numbers
  • Numbers should be spread well
  • Aims to reduce potential losses
  • Somewhat chaotic, yet very flexible

The Oscar’s Grind system is based on the idea that there are periods of both winning streaks and losing streaks. In brief, when you lose a bet, you bet the same amount and when you win, you raise the bet by one unit. The method can withstand many bad runs however, the Martingale system is far more resistant to alternating wins and losses in short streaks.

The Kavouras system involves betting different amounts on at least 20 numbers chaotically spread around the roulette wheel. This method eliminates possible dealer interference, places several defensive numbers in play to minimise potential future losses and offers the opportunity for big wins. The system is deliberately very chaotic and flexible, however, if you prefer a far more standardised system that you can follow, the Martingale strategy is the one for you.

The Downfall of the Martingale System

As with any roulette system, both pros and cons exist and the Martingale strategy is not without its flaws. If it was foolproof, we would all be millionaires by now! Theoretically, the Martingale system is really sound, however in reality, there are two gaping holes which cannot be ignored. Firstly, the theory assumes players have an unlimited bankroll and can withstand huge losses. For most people, this is not the case. Secondly, open-ended table limits very rarely exist. As discussed above, many casinos impose maximum betting limits on their roulette tables in order to inhibit players from recovering from large losses.

Whilst it is statistically very unlikely that you will ever be unlucky enough to lose eight, nine, even ten spins in a row, it will eventually happen. At the end of the day, the roulette wheel doesn’t know you or remember your previous spins. In every spin, you either win or you *cough*die*cough* lose.

Conclusion

Whilst not completely fool proof, the Martingale roulette system can be a very useful way to ease yourself into a game of roulette and familiarise yourself with the mathematical side of gambling and odds. It is a very interesting theory and certainly worth testing out, but should always be played with low stakes at first. That said, if you prefer a high stakes game, we would recommend our guide to the best high stakes online casinos in the UK. If you want to find out more about roulette, check out our guide to the best online roulette casinos in the UK. Set yourself profit goals and loss limits so you don’t get carried away and above all, enjoy yourself!