Betting Systems: The Complete Guide

Betting strategies pull players in with stories of systems designed to help them beat the casino house edge and win more.

But do they really work? The CasinoGuide experts are here to answer this question once and for all.

Do Betting Systems Work?

Whilst many of the appear mathematically sound, at first glance, in reality they do not work as they are based on the false assumption that there will be a series of events in the game, which you can expect and plan for based on those just gone, or the idea that a win can be overdue and a player can bet in a certain way to leverage the amount they’ll win, beating the house edge.

It’s important to note that many betting systems were created long before the internet and modern casino software, which uses algorithms and random number generators to deliver truly random results, independent of the ones gone before and to come. Therefore, this key assumption of betting systems (known as the Gambler's Fallacy) has become redundant as game outcomes are unpredictable and independent.

How Did Betting Systems Come About?

Most of the famed betting systems originate from the 18th and early 19th centuries when casino software did not exist. Most, as you can see below, are based on similar ideas and most were born from mathematicians or keen players looking to beat the casino at any cost.

The Difference Between Betting Systems and Game Strategy

Betting systems and game strategy are two very different concepts, although often they are grouped as the ideas cross over.

A game strategy suggests or dictates the optimal moves a player can make, taking into account all possible moves, and outcomes. It weighs up the probability of each game outcome and suggests or directs the player to make the optimal move (the one with the best chance of winning).

Consider a Blackjack strategy table, this is used to maximise your odds of winning as the best move in each scenario is listed and has been calculated based on the number of cards in the deck. This is game strategy, following it to make the optimal move can directly influence the round outcome and your chance of winning.

Betting strategies do not influence the gameplay, only what you can win or lose, by increasing or decreasing a bet according to a plan or structure. This does not affect the probability of you winning, rather just the amount you can win or lose.

Betting Systems: Negative Progressive vs Positive Progressive

Based on the idea that you can predict the outcome of a game, or most likely outcome/s and bet accordingly has led to the development of many betting systems, by and large, they neatly fit into two categories; Negative or Progressive Betting Systems.

  • Negative Progressive systems encourage players to increase their bets after a loss.
  • Positive Progressive Betting systems advocate for increasing your bet after a win.

Both are based on the idea that a game has a series of likely outcomes based on past events- the great Gambler’s Fallacy.

What is the Gambler's Fallacy?

This is one of the biggest myths in the gambling industry and it has influenced many betting strategies. It is the idea that games play in a certain way, depending on what has gone before.

If an event has not happened yet (say a Jackpot Slot hasn’t paid out in months) that it can become ‘overdue’ or likely to occur. Flip it on its head, if the jackpot has just been won, that will not pay out soon, because it just has.

However, whilst this sounds logical and appealing, it is false. Every single spin has an equal chance of hitting the jackpot, independent of past events (a Slot Machine or Roulette wheel has no memory), which is why the idea is a fallacy- a farce, a mistaken belief. When you flip a coin, each flip has a 50/50 chance of coming true, right? It doesn’t matter whether the one before was heads or tails. This flip is independent. Whilst it may be easy to get swept up in the logic of the Gambler's Fallacy, to calculate the odds dependant on the series would be incorrect and this is how betting strategies work.

Most players still struggle with this idea. It is mostly due to the years of casinos and other stakeholders advocating betting systems as quick get rich schemes- they are not and can often lead to huge losses. As the main assumption of betting systems is incorrect, by-and-large, they do not work, unless luck is on your side. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most talked-about and used casino betting systems in more detail.

Martingale Betting System

The Martingale Betting System was invented in the mid-1930s. Made popular in France, it soon became a hit elsewhere. It asks players to double their stake every time a loss is made (negative progression). One of the reasons that a lot of players like the Martingale Betting System is because it seems logical and is easy to learn.

For the most part, this betting system is used with Roulette on bets such as red/black and odd or even but can be used in other table games. Using this system, players should double their stake after a loss. When they make a win they should start at the beginning again (the original, lowest bet).

Example: Martingale System

  1. Bets start at £1, which is lost.
  2. The next doubles to £2, then £4, then £8 and so on.
  3. When a win is made, the next bet is £1 again.

Based on a 50/50 chance when the player does make a win, it will be sizeable enough to cover all of the losses they incurred from doubling their bets. But of course, red/black/even/odd bets in Roulette are never 50/50, because of the 0 pocket.

Risk vs Reward

However, doubling is high-risk, can lead to huge losses and potentially running out of credit or hitting the table limits before a win comes for relatively small profits. Using the example given above again, If the player had doubled and won on the 5th bet, he would have spent 1+2+4+8 = £15 and won only £16. A profit of only £1.

Tests have found that using the Martingale System resulted in approximately 20% of players running out of money, because they have sustained substantial losses and had to leave the game. If a player makes a single substantial loss (and the longer they are doubling, the more likely this is) then the total of this single loss will eclipse any profit made at the doubling rate if they have to retire.

Another worry is hitting the max limits of the table before you’ve made a win and you will not be able to continue doubling. On top of this, remember, this betting strategy is based on the Gambler’s Fallacy assuming that losses will eventually lead to winning, or an overdue win - which may never come.

Should I Use The Martingale System?

In reality, using a flat betting system instead of doubling provides just as many chances to win, but with a lot less chance of having to leave the game broke.

Whilst many casino operators may benefit from Martingale system staying current, it’s not a good idea for players with a limited bankroll and you should know the longer you play, the more likely a loss is and the odds are against you.

D'Alembert Betting System

This also a negative progression system, designed by mathematician Jean Le Rond D’Alembert in the 18th century. This system rests on the assumption that there will an equilibrium of losses and wins in a game of luck, therefore after a loss you are more likely to make a win. 

Instead of doubling, D’Alembert says increase by one. So if you started at £1, the next bet is  £2, then  £3, then £4. Keep doing this while losing. If you make a win, decrease by the base stake (£1). This again, like the Martingale system is best applied to 50/50 bets, or outside bets in Roulette terms, but can be applied to other table games.

Players prefer this system as it is far less risky in terms of losses compared with the Martingale system and you still increase your bet to meet the ‘probable’ win, but not so much as to bankrupt you or to hit the table limits. However, it is still based on the assumption of the Gambler’s fallacy, in that, it presumes a streak of results of a certain pattern should be balanced in the short run by other probabilities- wins. Losing streaks still happen, and as with the Martingale System the odds against you the longer you keep playing.

Reverse D'Alembert Betting System

This is exactly the method described above, but in reverse, increasing the wager by one with every win and decreasing by one on every loss making it a positive progressive betting system.

Labouchere Betting System

Designed by keen Roulette player, Henry Labouchere, in the 19th century, the Idea behind this negative progressive betting system is that you can regroup losses with a much smaller number of wins. It was designed to be used in 50/50 bets but is flexible. It asks you to increase your bets as you lose, and decrease them when you win, but in a different sequence, that expects you to see double your money.

  1. Start by thinking of a sequence of numbers - your bets - at let’s say £10 per unit. Your total bankroll is £200 and you decide to make a sequence of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Each unit is worth £10.
  2. To set your first bet, add the first and last numbers in your sequence 1+6 = £70.
  3. If you win cross off the first and last numbers of the sequence =  2, 3, 4, 5. Then place a bet of 7 units because you are adding the first and last units in your sequence.
  4. If you lose the next spin, add a new number on the right side, equal to the amount you lost, in this case, 2. So 2, 3, 4, 5, 7.
  5. On your next spin, you must again bet the first and last numbers in the sequence (do this for every bet) 2+7 and bet 9 units, £90.
  6. Then follow the rules depending on your win (cross off the first and last number) or loss (add the loss to the end of your sequence) and so the sequence goes.

If you keep playing following these rules for wins and losses, the idea is you will be able to cross off all the numbers in your sequence having made enough wins along the way to cover your losses.

Just like all other betting systems thus far, this certainly sounds appealing and logical, but it is based on luck and the assumption that there will be more wins than losses, a pattern of events that is not guaranteed (or even relatively likely) to occur.

Fibonacci Betting System

The Fibonacci betting system is based on a number sequence developed by Italian mathematician Fibonacci in the 11th century, as such this negative progression betting system is named after him.

The Fibonacci sequence is a sequence of numbers such that each number is the sum of the two numbers preceding it. Like this 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34. Theoretically, you can start the sequence with any number.

The Fibonacci Betting System is like most of the systems here. It was designed for 50/50 Roulette bets and tells players to increase a step each time they make a loss and if they win they can start the sequence again, or go back one step.

Paroli Betting System

Many a gambler claims to love the Paroli betting system. It is a positive progression system, that is also sometimes referred to as the Reverse Martingale. This system is over 100 years old and takes advantage of winning streaks - relying on them for success. To follow this system you should:

  1. Decide your starting stake.
  2. After every win double the stake.
  3. Stop raising your stakes after 3 consecutive wins and go back to base stake.
  4. If you experience a loss, return to your base stake.

Thinking this through, if you start betting on a 2:1 payout at £10, make 3 wins, following the system and return to the base stake you stand to win £80 from £10.

  1. Bet 1: £10, you win = £20 returned.
  2. Bet 2: You stake £20 and win, £40 is returned.
  3. Bet 3: You stake £40 and win £80. This is your third win so you return to the base stake.

Players feel this system is safer than the Martingale, as you’re betting money you’ve already won, instead of staking from your bankroll, other than the first £10, which is a reasonable amount for most players.

But again, it relies on a pattern of wins to be successful, and this may only come about from luck as you are not directly influencing the odds of the game, merely staking your odds on the luck of it happening.

1-3-2-6 Betting System

This is one of the easiest betting systems that players of all levels try out and is another positive progression system.

Used mainly in Roulette, Craps, Baccarat and Blackjack, it simply says:

  • When winning, bet 1, 3, 2, and 6 units of your set stake, winning 4 wagers in a row.
  • If you have losses keep a flat bet of 1 unit.

As this system doesn’t risk huge losses or long streaks you can easily enter and leave a game when you wish. As it’s designed to minimise losses it’s relatively safe to follow and better for players with a smaller bankroll.

Like all betting systems we’ve looked at so far, it depends and is calculated presuming that the Gambler's Fallacy holds.

If Betting Systems Don’t Work, What Benefits Do They Have?

Some betting systems like the 1,3,2,6, that do not pose a high risk can help give a structure to your bets if you’re uncertain or new. It's also a good way to limit your spending, as you can decide that you'll only play through a certain number of units or sequences before stopping.

If you're looking for ways to improve your chances of winning though, there are better ways. Rather than getting caught up in betting systems, invest your time in learning the rules and strategies of casino games that will also aid you in becoming a better player.

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