Every sports bettor will have their own approach to wagering, from crafting accumulators to sticking to value bets, but there are also betting strategies out there which some punters have taken on to try and guarantee success, such as the Martingale system.
This is a method of wagering which is used to bet on events where the outcome is effectively a 50/50 chance, such as the toss of a coin, and where the payout is virtually 1:1; i.e., for every £1 that is staked, there is a return of £2.
The basic principle is simple and it involves doubling the size of the stake after every losing bet. For example, if a £1 bet on heads loses, the next bet would be £2. If this wager is successful, the return would be £4 and the bettor would have put down £3 (£1 + £2), meaning they are in profit.
The Martingale system is most commonly associated with casino games such as roulette, but it can also be adapted to certain markets in sports betting, where the odds are close to even money and there are two possible outcomes which should have a fairly equal chance of happening.
There are certain sports bets which are entirely down to chance, such as which team will win the coin toss in a cricket match, and others which are close to 50-50, such as which basketball team will score first. There are countless other markets, though, which are opened in an effort to attract an even number of bets on each side.
Handicap bets and over/under bets are pitched at certain prices based on what bookies predict will happen in an event, and may also be appealing for fans of the Martingale method. It is therefore possible for bettors to use their sporting expertise to decide on which way to bet if they reckon a bookies’ estimate is slightly off, giving them more control than simply backing an outcome at 50-50.
It is worth remembering, though, that bookies want to ensure they always come out on top and so even when an outcome is 50-50, the odds will be stacked slightly against the punter at 5/6, 10/11, and so on. This means that a customer would have to put down £6 to get a profit of £5 (return of £11) or a stake of £11 to get a £10 profit and anyone using the Martingale method would have to adjust their bets from a simple process of doubling, otherwise they will not get the return they wanted and may even suffer a loss.
The example below is taken from betting on selections with odds of 10/11, starting with a £5 stake and multiplying it by two after each loss. It shows how profit diminishes as more money has to be wagered and soon losses cannot be recouped.
|Winning Bet||Result on Individual Bet||Cumulative Result|
|£5 (Starting bet)||£4.54 Profit||£4.54 Profit|
|£10 (After £5 bet loses)||£9.09 Profit||£4.09 Profit|
|£20 (After £5 and £10 bets lose)||£18.18 Profit||£3.18 Profit|
|£40 (After £5, £10 and £20 bets lose)||£36.36 Profit||£1.36 Profit|
|£80 (After £5, £10, £20 and £40 bets lose)||£72.72 Profit||£2.28 Loss|
Another idea for bettors could be to find selections where the odds are exactly evens. Such odds are quite rare, but are sometimes available and would allow punters to get the return they crave by using the Martingale system. However, picking out the right bets requires a good level of sporting insight as a selection priced at evens will not be a 50-50 outcome. For example, evens will sometimes be published for the favourite in a tennis tournament or someone who is rated as having a good chance of scoring the first goal in a football match.
Each wager should be assessed on its own merits rather than as part of a progressive betting system such as the Martingale strategy. It may be effective in guarding against short losing sequences, but the stakes soon start to escalate and chasing losses is never recommended. The quest for a foolproof system will no doubt continue to occupy the minds of many gamblers and even mathematicians for years to come, but the Martingale method is not the answer for sports betting.