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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Downright lethal vs. pretty good

3 November 2003

Dear Mark,
Please explain what you mean by "winning progressive" betting? You mentioned it in a column without an explanation. Does it differ from doubling your bet after each loss? I play in Atlantic City, generally blackjack (I'm relatively new to the game), and $10 a hand (hard on weekends to find anything lower). Keith B.

The latter part of your question, Keith, describes the "Martingale system," an historic name for doubling up after every loss. In essence, you, the gambler, double your previous bet (after a loss) leaning on the statistical certainty that sooner or later you're bound to win. Sounds great, Right?

MID-TERM QUIZ: Why is it the worst money management system you can use? Read on.

Far too many players believe the Martingale system is foolproof because you have to win eventually. The three problems with this money management system are: 1) you do not have an inexhaustible bankroll, 2) the casino owns the bank and sets the rules — like the table limit, and 3) your hourly wage if you win could be something like $0.01.

Let me show you, Keith, how fatal this form of wagering can be. You bet $10 and lose, then $20 to recoup that loss. Then $40, $80, $160, $320, $640, $1,280, $2,560 and finally $5,120. You have just invested $10,230 to get your $10 back. And let us not forget, Keith, "the Donald" (Trump) might have his $10 games set with table limits of $500. A string of six defeats and you're up against the table limit-maxxed out, as they say. On the bright side, they'll probably say; "Thanks, Keith, and have a beer on us."

Ever met a gambler who has not lost six, eight or even 10 hands in a row? I haven't. That 10 bucks could buy a first class bandanna for wiping the sweat from your forehead.

Horsemen sometimes use a Martingale bit to control a fractious horse; each twitch of the reins doubles the discomfort in the horse's mouth. There may be a connection — don't know, seems likely.
The far superior "Winning Progressive" betting method goes like this:

You set a predetermined percentage increase to follow any winning bet, and pull in your horns after losses. Example? OK. On the advice of my brilliant better half, I increase the bet that follows any winning bet except the first by 50%: First $10 bet wins, next bet also for $10 wins, and now we're off on the 50% gallop: $15, $22, $33, $50, $75 etc., then drop to the table minimum — "flat betting" — after every loss.

Side note here: Many players increase their bets after a win by 50% after the first win. I just happen to be a little more conservative with my hard-earned money — actually, only when my wife is standing next to me — and wait out the second win before plunging.

Either way, Keith, a winning progressive method of betting, will minimize your losses and usually protect your winnings.

Gambling quote of the week: "When you enter a casino, remember that you are entering a place of business run by very shrewd business people who understand human emotions."-Henry Tamburin

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.