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Martingale Betting System

Dear Mark,
Please explain what you mean by "winning progressive" betting? You mentioned it in a column without an explanation. Does it differ from doubling your bet after each loss? I play in Atlantic City, generally blackjack (I'm relatively new to the game), and $10 a hand (hard on weekends to find anything lower). Keith B.

The latter part of your question, Keith, describes the "Martingale System," a historic name for doubling up after every loss. In essence, you, the gambler, double your previous bet (after a loss) leaning on the statistical certainty that sooner or later you're bound to win. Sounds great, Right?

MID-TERM QUIZ: Why is it the worst money management system you can use? Read on.

Far too many players believe the Martingale system is foolproof because you have to win eventually. The three problems with this money management system are:

  1. you do not have an inexhaustible bankroll

  2. the casino owns the bank and sets the rules - like the table limit, and

  3. your hourly wage if you win could be something like $0.01.

Let me show you, Keith, how fatal this form of wagering can be. You bet $10 and lose, then $20 to recoup that loss. Then $40, $80, $160, $320, $640, $1,280, $2,560 and finally $5,120. You have just invested $10,230 to get your $10 back.

And let us not forget, Keith, "the Donald" (Trump) might have his $10 games set with table limits of $500. A string of six defeats and you're up against the table limit, maxed out, as they say. On the bright side, they'll probably say; "Thanks, Keith, and have a beer on us."

Ever met a gambler who has not lost six, eight or even 10 hands in a row? I haven't. Those 10 bucks could buy a first class bandanna for wiping sweat from forehead.

Horsemen sometimes use a Martingale bit to control a fractious horse; each twitch of the reins doubles the discomfort in the horse's mouth. There may be a connection - don't know, seems likely.

The far superior "Winning Progressive" betting method goes like this:

You set a predetermined percentage increase to follow any winning bet, and pull in your horns after losses.

Example? OK. On the advice of my brilliant better half, I increase the bet that follows any winning bet except the first by 50%: First $10 bet wins, next bet also for $10 wins, and now we're off on the 50% gallop: $15, $22, $33, $50, $75 etc, then drop to the table minimum - "flat betting" - after every loss.

Side note here: Many players increase their bets after a win by 50% after the first win. I just happen to be a little more conservative with my hard-earned money (actually, only when my wife is standing next to me) and wait out the second win before plunging.

Either way, Keith, a winning progressive method of betting, will minimize your losses and usually protect your winnings.

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Gambling Quotes

  • "Life is a gamble, like crossing the road. One day chicken, next day feathers."- Unknown

  • "Having an ATM in a casino is like having a lap-dancer at a Hell's Angels Convention. - McAvoy Layne

  • "Gambling has held human beings in thrall for millennia. It has been engaged in everywhere, from the dregs of society to the most respectable circles."- Peter L. Bernstein

  • Besides lovemaking and singing in the shower, there aren't many human activities where there is a greater difference between a person's self-delusional ability and actual ability than in poker.- Steve Badget

  • "Betting is the only moral thing you can do. It is an intellectual pursuit, as good as The Times crossword. For millions, it is the only uninfluenced democratic decision they take."- Lord Wyatt

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