A Most Dangerous Strategy
Applying the Martingale betting system to slots
By Frank Scoblete
Long losing streaks at slot machines can happen, and they happen all the time. Indeed, in slot play, even with machines that might have fairly decent hit frequencies, the losing streaks are far more pronounced than at table games.
The following information is from the pages of the book I never published titled Frank Scoblete’s Idiotic Attempts at Developing a Truly Winning Betting Strategy at Random Games with Negative Player Expectations and Getting His Head Handed to Him Big Time.
Yes, it’s a long title, far longer than the actual attempts I made to outwit the math of the games with betting this way or that way. In a random game, all betting systems fail to turn the edge over to the players—a sad but true fact. Many players rebel against this fact and claim to have “systems” to beat the house, but these rebels are like the Flat Earth Society of the gambling world.
I once thought I had my own system. I devised it years ago, when I was a far more naive gambler, in an attempt to conquer the roulette wheel. I didn’t know it then, but the strategy I’d come up with is sometimes used by slot players—and it’s perhaps the most dangerous system you can possibly use. (Dangerous to your bankroll, that is.)
Here’s what happened. A long time ago, sometime around 1990, I thought I’d figured out a way to beat the game of the roulette by doubling my bets after losing. I tried this at the now-defunct Sands Casino in Atlantic City, which is now a dusty, sandy, empty lot across the street from the Claridge Hotel and Casino.
I thought I’d invented this system, but it turned out the double-up-after-you lose system had been around for centuries. It’s called the Martingale and was invented either by a Mr. Martingale or the Martingale tribe, or who knows, since everyone who used it as their main method of overcoming chance went broke.
I started with $5 on red or black, and when I lost I would go to $10. Then another loss saw me bet $20…then $40…until I won a single bet and got all my losses back plus my $5 win. For three straight days, I won with this seemingly fool-proof system. Man, was I a genius! I wondered why no one else had thought of this system. I didn’t realize that thousands (millions?) of novice gamblers have stumbled across this idea and felt they “invented” it for themselves.
Lady Luck decided on the fourth day to teach me a very important lesson. I lost eight decisions in a row, and I could not double up because I would go over the table limit. I was crushed, but I now knew that you don’t have to win a hand. You don’t even need a very long losing streak to bring about your defeat due to the table maximum limits.
This very same method, in a slightly altered form to accommodate slot play, is used by some slot players to try to beat the machines. Here’s how it “works”:
You start with a low-level denomination, let’s say quarters. You allow yourself a given amount of money, say $100, and you play until you decide to leave with a win or after a certain amount of time and a win, or you lose all or most of your $100. When this happens you now move up to a 50-cent machine with a $200 bankroll. The procedure is the same. If you make up your original $100 and get a win, you quit that session and take your win.
From here on in, the money starts building. The next move up if the losing continues is a jump to a $1 machine with a $400 bankroll. Then you move to a $5 machine with a $2,000 bankroll. If you’re still getting hammered, then you play a $10 or $25 machine with a bankroll large enough to reflect the denomination you’re now playing.
The theory is that as you go up in denomination, sooner or later you’ll have to hit a big enough payoff to claim an overall win. That is the essence of the slot Martingale “system”: keep going up until a big payoff puts you in the winning category.
The problem with this method is the exact same as the problem with my roulette Martingale. Long losing streaks at slot machines can happen, and they happen all the time. Indeed, in slot play, even with machines that might have fairly decent hit frequencies, the losing streaks are far more pronounced than at table games. It would not be unheard of for a slot player to lose at every denomination of machine—taking a wicked beating in the process.
To economically fuel the slot Martingale would require a rather large bankroll, much larger than the typical slot player has. The loss of such a bankroll might be devastating. And these systems play more upon hope than they do upon rationality, logic and math. The best concept in casino gambling against a random game is to protect your money, but a Martingale does just the opposite. It exposes your bankroll to possible ruin.
So unless you want to write a book with a similar title to the one I have in the opening paragraph of this column, forget ever using a slot Martingale.
Frank Scoblete’s newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines featuring advantage-play slots; and Casino Craps: Shoot to Win which comes with a DVD showing unedited, controlled throws. Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players and Beat Blackjack Now are all available from Amazon.com, at your favorite bookstore, or by mail-order by calling 1-800-944-0406.