If you’ve spent any time playing casino games, or more importantly watching other people play casino games, you’ve seen all sorts of gambling styles and strategies. Some players rely on intuition and superstition while others do a mathematics deep-dive to try to beat the house. One thing they all have in common is a belief in some kind of betting system. You may have overheard people talking about the Martingale, Paroli or the Fibonacci sequence. Maybe you’ve heard about one of the most exciting systems of all: James Bond’s secret roulette strategy? These are all different betting patterns that are designed to help you win more when wagering on casino games.
To clarify, a betting system is different than a game strategy. In blackjack, for example, you have to know know the mechanics of the game inside and out along with all the different optimal decisions in any given situation. This is game strategy, namely how to exploit the rules of the game to maximize your advantage. Betting systems, on the other hand, more commonly refer to different ways of manipulating the size and timing of your bets to achieve a desired result. Just like gamblers, betting systems come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are based on sound math and logic while others are backed up by little more than superstition.
Keep reading to learn the scientific truth about casino betting systems and detailed instructions on how to use the most popular varieties.
The Scientific Truth about Betting Systems
Depending on the article you’re reading you may hear that this system or that can guarantee you to win at casino games. That’s a flat-out lie. Unless the casino game is flawed or someone is cheating, statistically there is no way to beat the casino in the long run. But we’re not talking about the long run. Most people gamble for fun and entertainment and they’re definitely not putting in the volume required for the statistical average to bear out. So that leaves tonnes of room for swings either in your favour or the casino’s. Betting systems are really a way of manipulating that statistical variance in your favour and in some cases they can actually work.
The following point is worth repeating, however: Pretty much every game in the casino has a built-in advantage for the house and no betting system in the world is going to change that. Betting red or black in roulette for example, looks like an even-money bet but when the ball lands on zero both red and black lose. In reality it’s slightly worse than even money which is how the casino makes a profit. That’s why the smartest thing you can do to improve your odds of winning is to research the games and only make the bets that have the lowest possible house edge. In reality, good game strategy is the best betting system in the world.
Once you’ve found the bets that are closest to actual even-money, you can start using betting systems to turn variance to your advantage. Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of the world’s most popular betting and gambling systems.
The Martingale and the Reverse Martingale
There are a number of variations of the Martingale and they’re all really easy to learn and put into practice. The most common version of the Martingale system focuses on an even-money bet like red or black on the roulette table, for example, and calls for doubling your bet after every losing spin while continuing to bet the same amount after a winning spin. First think of your money in terms of betting units. If you’re playing low-stakes roulette and the minimum outside bet is $5, you could make each unit worth $5. Start by betting $5 on red or black. If you win, bet $5 on the next spin as well. If you lose, however, the Martingale suggests increasing your bet to $10 on the next spin. If you lose again, double your bet again and repeat until you win.
This system relies on the idea that it’s statistically unlikely to see a long run of consecutive losses and if you’re doubling your bet after every loss, all you need is one win to get back to even. In real life there are a couple big problems with this reasoning. First, what we think of as long runs of losing 50/50 bets is actually way more common than we think. If we started with the $5 bet in our example and had a run of just six losing spins, we’d be betting $360 on the next spin just to get back to even. Things can get scary pretty fast and unless you have an unlimited bankroll and a game with infinitely high limits, the Martingale can backfire on you in a big way. The most common real-world outcomes of using the Martingale are that you’ll book lots of small wins and far less frequent but big losses. If you’re out to make a little on a regular basis and you’re willing to risk a stomach-churning sweat to do it, the Martingale is a viable option.
The Reverse or Anti-Martingale calls for doubling your bet after each winning spin which is designed to capitalize on hot streaks. The Reverse Martingale is more exciting since it can result in big scores but the most likely outcomes are lots of smaller losses and less frequent big wins.
The Fibonacci Sequence Betting System
Even though there’s evidence of this sequence being used far earlier in Indian mathematics, an Italian known as Leonardo Pisano is widely credited for developing what we now know as the Fibonacci Sequence in 1202. This concept has implications far beyond gambling but it’s also been used to create an interesting betting system. The sequence starts with a zero and then a one and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two numbers. So the first ten numbers of the Fibonacci sequence are 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34.
Just like the Martingale, the Fibonacci betting system focuses on an even-money bet like red or black in roulette. Start by betting one unit, in our earlier example we used a $5 minimum bet, and move one number to the right on the sequence after every losing bet. When you win a bet, move two spots to the left. The sequence is pretty simple to figure out on the fly but you might consider writing it down to make things even easier. Just like the Martingale, the Fibonacci system doesn’t improve your overall odds of winning. It will most likely result in frequent small wins and less frequent big losses. It also suffers from the same weakness as the Martingale: A big losing run can absolutely devastate your bankroll.
The James Bond Roulette Strategy
This system’s origin story is said to lie in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. Fleming described the system as “the only way of gambling with a capital of ten pounds with a reasonable prospect of making the price of a good dinner”. Granted he said that in 1960 but the concept still holds true. To update this example, we’re going to start with £100 instead. First put £70 on the high numbers, that’s 19-36. Put £25 on the numbers 13-18 and then put £5 on zero as insurance. It’s best if you’re using this strategy on a European style single-zero roulette table.
If one of the numbers 19 to 36 hits you’ll profit £40. If 13-18 comes up you’ll profit £50 and if it lands on zero you’ll make an £80 profit. The only way you can lose is when the ball lands on 1-12 so two-thirds of the time you’re going to make a profit.
The Paroli System
The Paroli system is a little different than the Martingale and the Fibonacci because it’s what’s called a positive progression system. That means that the bet amount is increased when you win, as opposed to a negative progression system that doubles the bet when you lose. The goal in the Paroli system is to complete a series of three consecutive winning bets, doubling the bet each time. If you lose at any time you start back at the beginning by betting one unit. So, if you’re making $5 bets like in our earlier example, you’d start with a $5 bet. If you win you’d bet $10 on the next spin, and if you win that you’d bet $20 on the third spin. If you win three in a row you start back at the beginning.
Similar to the Reverse Martingale, the Paroli system is designed to capitalize on winning streaks and safeguard your roll against losing streaks. It’s also really easy to learn and start using right away. The Paroli is basically a modified version of the Reverse Martingale with a built-in safeguard against going on a big run and then losing it all by continuing to press your bets.