While covering the topic of negative progression betting systems, we mentioned one of the most popular yet controversial of these. We are talking, of course, about the Martingale system.  Although it’s one of the most common systems, we haven’t gone too deep into using the Martingale system in roulette.

There are definitely reasons roulette players like to stay away from Martingale. We’ll get to those later – for now, let’s start with the basics.

What is Martingale in Roulette?

The Martingale is a common staking plan based on doubling your stake whenever you lose. Essentially, the player should only use even odds outside bets. It can be any sort of bet with (close to) 50% probability – Red/Black, Odds/Evens, Big/Small. Every time they lose, they double the stake. Conversely, every time the bet is won, the player just defaults to the minimum bet.

It’s one of the oldest betting strategies in the book, dating back to the 18th century. The gist is that if the potential winnings are bigger than all your previous losses, you can’t lose. As long as you have enough cash to front the needed stake, you can use Martingale in Roulette.

Experienced players will immediately notice a few issues here. Firstly, you are at risk of losing huge amounts if your bankroll runs dry. The stake increases exponentially, which is a big problem for a fast-paced game such as roulette. A losing streak can leave you penniless in a matter of rounds, which is simply this roulette system’s inherent risk. That’s why the Martingale staking plan is considered much riskier than its cousins such as Labouchere.

The only thing Martingale does to decrease the mounting risk is go back to the initial stake on a win. However, this idea relies on you eventually winning, and roulette is a game of pure chance. Assuming that you’ll eventually win no matter how much you lose is a clear example of the gambler’s fallacy.

On the flip side, you don’t need much math to know how to use Martingale betting in roulette. It’s as simple of a staking plan as they come, despite the risks.

Using the Martingale System in Roulette

As we’ve just mentioned, you’ll have to stick to even odds bets if you want this to work. That limits you to six possible bets – 1-18, 19-36, Red, Black, Even, and Odd. However, some advanced number-crunching will point out that this method does not beat the house edge.

There is a myth out there that the Martingale can be used to “circumvent” the house edge of a casino. This is simply not the case. Betting theory will quickly point out that the house edge is the Martingale’s greatest weakness.

Based on the principles of betting value, the Martingale could have been used as a safety net against loss. If the odds were truly 50% for 1:1 bets, a zero net change could be guaranteed. In practice, this would mean that you could never lose with Martingale. As long as you have enough to cover the stake, your winnings would cover all the loses. Given a large enough sample size, the winnings would always be just enough to cover the losses. This could be turned to your advantage. You could keep playing whenever you’re behind or choose a place to quit while you’re ahead. However, thanks to the house edge of the little green 0 slot, a large enough sample size could lead to disaster. Essentially, it means that you are more likely to run out of money or reach the table limit before winning.

As such, the Martingale system in roulette should only be used in short bursts. Think of it this way – if things go your way, you come out on top anyway. If they don’t – you’ve tried your best to minimize the losses. Unless you blow your bankroll attempting Martingale once, you may even see an improvement in your win ratio.

Does the Martingale System Work?

The answer to this question depends entirely on your definition of “working.” In terms of pure maths, the Martingale system could work in a perfect world. The conditions would have to be quite unreasonable, of course – no house edge, no limits, and an infinite bankroll. Though, if you had an infinite amount of money, why bet in the first place?

Even in more reasonable circumstances, the application of Martingale is somewhat questionable. For instance, if you started with €1 as stake, you would be up to more than €500 in 10 turns. The chances of losing 10 spins consecutively are close to 0.1275%, but that’s not the issue here. If you happen to win the 10th spin for a profit of €1000, your total profits would be €1. Seems like a big risk for such measly returns, doesn’t it?

We do have some tips for using Martingale in roulette as a closing thought. It can be useful in a limited capacity, especially if you’re a beginner.

  • Set a reasonable, but hard and non-negotiable max bet. As always, choosing an amount you would be comfortable with losing.
  • Never break this limit. “Don’t chase your losses” is one of the first rules of gambling.
  • Martingale can serve as a nice introduction to staking plans. Don’t use it for large sums, though.
  • Don’t get carried away. Like we said, using this roulette strategy can have short-term benefits if you’re lucky. However, the exponential growth of the stakes means it has a sharp curve. Don’t assume your luck is going to hold up with larger sums.