There are many different blackjack betting strategies that certain players like to use because they believe such systems improve their odds of winning.
One such strategy is the Martingale system, which involves doubling your bet after every loss in order to eventually win back your losses plus a profit.
While this system may seem like a sound way to win, sadly the reality is very different.
In this guide, I’ll show you why the Martingale blackjack strategy cannot work in the long term, and why some players that try it could end up losing their shirt.
I’ll also reveal some alternative blackjack strategies, including the ONLY one that does actually work…
What is the Martingale Betting System?
The Martingale betting system is a negative progression system, which means that you increase your bets after a loss.
The thinking behind this system is that you are more likely to win after a losing streak, and by increasing your bet each time, you will eventually recoup your losses and end up ahead.
Sounds good in theory, but does it actually work? Let’s take a closer look.
How does Martingale Work?
The Martingale system is pretty simple. You start by making a small bet, and if you lose, you double your bet for the next hand. You keep doing this until you eventually win, at which point you go back to betting the original small amount.
For example, let’s say you’re playing blackjack with a $5 minimum bet.
- You bet $5 and lose.
- On the next hand, you bet $10 and lose again.
- On the next hand, you bet $20 and lose again.
- Finally, on the fourth hand, you bet $40 and win.
Your net loss for the four hands is $5 + $10 + $20 = $35. But since you won $40 on the fourth hand, you actually make an overall profit of $5.
You then revert to your original $5 stake on the next hand.
What’s the Catch?
The problem with the Martingale system is that it relies on an infinite bankroll and the ability to keep doubling your bets. In reality, neither of these things is possible.
First, no one has an infinite bankroll. At some point, you will run out of money and be unable to double your bet.
Second, even if you did have an infinite bankroll, the casino would eventually put a stop to your betting. Most casinos have maximum bet limits that would prevent you from doubling your bet more than a few times.
In the example above, you won the 4th hand. But what if you had lost that as well, and then lost the 5th and 6th hand too? It’s unlikely, yes, but not that unusual. I’ve seen plenty of players lose 6 hands in a row during my time – and sometimes many more.
So here’s what could easily happen. You actually lose that 4th hand, and then:
- 5th hand: You bet $80 and lose
- 6th hand: You bet $160 and lose
Now you have cumulative losses of $315. On the next hand, you need to stake $320. That means you need a bankroll of $635 just to get this far. All to chase an initial $5 bet.
And what if you lose the 7th bet as well? Now you need to stake $640 on your 8th bet.
Ask yourself – would you do it?
Even if you did have the bankroll to cover the bet, you would need nerves of steel to carry on at this point. Most people would have to walk away.
One run of bad luck can wipe out your entire bankroll and more besides. That’s why I said at the start that most Martingale gamblers will lose their shirt sooner or later.
So in reality, the Martingale system is not a viable long-term strategy. Yes, you might get lucky and win a few hands in a row, but eventually, you will lose and end up further behind than where you started.
The Other Problems with the Martingale System in Blackjack
So far I’ve discussed the problem with Martingale staking in general, but there are also some specific problems that make blackjack Martingale betting a bad idea.
The main problem with the Blackjack Martingale system is that it doesn’t take into account the fact that, whether you play on a blackjack app or on the Vegas Strip, there is always a limited amount of money you can bet.
Sooner or later, you will hit a losing streak that is long enough that you will hit the table limit (the maximum bet you can place) and so you won’t be allowed to keep increasing your stake.
When this happens, you are left with two choices: either give up and accept your losses or continue playing with smaller bets in the hopes of finally winning. Neither of these options is particularly palatable, which is why the Martingale system is generally considered to be a losing proposition in the long run.
Remember at the start when I said that the concept behind Martingale is that you’re more likely to win after a losing run?
Well, that isn’t true.
The blackjack table has no memory. The probability of winning a particular hand is based on what cards are left in the deck, not on whether you won or lost your previous hands.
So in reality, the fact that you have lost 4 or 5 hands in a row does not make it any more or less likely that you will win the next one. It’s a rookie error to think so, and potentially a very costly one.
Splitting and Doubling
The basics behind the Martingale system require a stake to be doubled after every loss. But in Blackjack, if you’re following basic strategy, there will be times when you need to split pairs, or double down.
When this happens, you need to add more chips to the table. In effect, you’d need to double the bet that you’d already doubled to chase the previous losses.
If you were to lose your split or doubled hand, your overall loss would escalate even quicker.
So again ask yourself, would you place that next bet?
Why Do People Still Use Martingale?
So if the Martingale system doesn’t work, why do people still use it? The answer lies in the fact that this system can produce short-term winning streaks.
In the heat of the moment, it can be tempting to forget about the eventual losing streak that will put an end to your profits and wipe out all your chips.
This is why the Martingale system is often used by gamblers who are chasing their losses. They see their winnings as a way to make up for their previous losses, and they continue to increase their bets until they eventually run out of money.
Alternatives to the Martingale Blackjack System
There are a number of different staking systems that can be used when playing blackjack, each with its own pros and cons. Here are a few of the most popular alternatives to the Martingale system:
1. The Fibonacci sequence
2. The D’Alembert system
3. The Paroli system
Which system you choose to use is up to you, but keep in mind that no staking system can guarantee success. In the end, the house always has the edge and the only way to beat the house is to turn the odds in your favor.
If you’re looking for a more reliable way to win at blackjack, check out our beginner’s guide to card counting. Card counting is a legal and effective way to give yourself a small edge over the house. With enough practice, you can learn to count cards quickly and easily.
The Bottom Line
The Martingale betting system is a losing proposition in the long run.
However, it can produce short-term winning streaks that can tempt gamblers into chasing their losses.
If you do decide to use this system, be sure to set a budget and stick to it. That way, you can minimize your losses and, if things go against you, at least you live to fight another day.
Last Updated on September 30, 2022