The lowdown on the Martingale, Paroli and Labouchere betting systems

Betting system

There is understandable scepticism when people are effectively guaranteed a profit. In almost every circumstance in any walk of life, any such promise is ultimately considered too good to be true.

However, this hasn’t prevented the development of numerous betting systems over time, all perceived to ensure that a person leaves a casino with more money than they initially went in with.

The majority of strategies have focused on those bets regarded as having a 50/50 chance of success, such as red or black or odd or even at the roulette tables. Betting either side actually has a 47% chance of being a winner because of the presence of the green 0 and 00 on the wheel, but that is a separate discussion that can be explored here.

Each have their positives and negatives and are sure to bring players a profit at least some of the time. But it should be pointed out that if they truly guaranteed success in the long haul, either every gambler would be permanently using them or the casinos would have become wiser and adapted game rules to ensure they were less effective.

Below is a rough outline of three of the more famous betting systems, the premise behind how they work and some pros and cons for those who decide to give them a go:

Martingale

In terms of understanding, a betting system cannot get much simpler than Martingale. All a person has to do is to pick a starting betting sum and any time this bet is a winner then the same should be staked again. When a bet is a loser, double it.

The premise is that even if a person loses eight bets in succession, a victory in the ninth bet will recoup all previous losses, alongside bringing a profit too.

For example, if a person decides they want to start by betting £10 on red. If this wins, they simply bet £10 on red again. But, if it loses, the next bet should be £20. If this is again unsuccessful, the stakes rises to £40, £80 and so on.

If five bets in a row were all losers, a person would have lost a total of £310 (bets of £10, £20, £40, £80 and £160). However, a sixth successful bet of £320 would net a profit of £320, covering all previous losses and giving an additional £10.

The big issue for players is ensuring they have a bankroll big enough to cover a hefty run of losses. After all, it may be rare, but it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that they could lose 11 bets in succession.

Using the staking plan above, this would have generated a loss of £20,470. On some roulette tables, betting the next amount of £40,940 may exceed the table maximum.

The main positive is that the likelihood of the same colour appearing on 10 consecutive roulette spins is a relatively low 0.074% and it only takes one win to erase all previous losses.

Paroli

The Paroli system is widely regarded as the opposite of Martingale, in the sense that a player instead doubles their stake when they win rather than when they lose.

In this system, it is when they lose that a player returns to their initial stake.

The main positive is that lofty losses are not quickly built up. When doubling their bets, this quantity of money is coming from previous profits in the sequence rather than directly from a player’s initial bankroll.

On the flip side, it only takes one losing bet for a player to wipe out total profits, which could have built up over five or six successful spins.

Therefore, one of the main challenges for players is deciding the right time to stop when on a winning sequence as they will not be able to continuously double their stake indefinitely.

A further consideration is that this system could be modified when on a winning streak to lock in some of the pre-achieved profit.

Labouchere

Of the three systems mentioned, the Labouchere approach is the most confusing. Like the Martingale mentality, players must double their losing bets, but the method to recouping losses is much more balanced.

Players are tasked with deciding how much they wish to win from a specific betting stint and then string together a list of numbers that add up to make this total.

For example, if a player wants to make 7x their initial stake, an acceptable sequence would be 1,3,1,2.

The bet should then be the total of the two end numbers in the sequence. In the example directly above this is three, so a player bets three chips.

If the bet wins, the two numbers are erased from the list, leaving 3,1 above. If it loses, the bet value is added to the end of the sequence, making it 1,3,1,2,3.

A player continues until they have cleared their list of numbers, at which point they would have generated their desired profit. Alternatively, they stop when their bankroll is empty.

The perks of this system is that a winning bet compensates for two losses and, because the chances of hitting a red are 47%, this is advantageous.

As with Martingale, one bad session is likely to be extremely costly and wipe out the profits of numerous profitable stints.