The odds on a standard American roulette wheel are pretty bad in general — the casino has about a 5.3% advantage over the player. You can increase your chances of winning by playing a game with a lower house edge instead, such as craps or European roulette. Craps is the preferred game, because it’s much easier to find than European roulette.
Blackjack offers good odds with proper strategy, but to use the Martingale with blackjack you need a bankroll that’s four times as large as normal. That’s because you might need to split hands or double down, and will need extra money to do so. If you had this much extra money and wanted to use the Martingale, you could use it to much better effect with craps or European roulette. The extra money would allow you to survive a longer losing streak with those games.
Baccarat has a low house edge (1.06%) so it’s a good choice for the Martingale, but only if you can get a slow game. Mini-Baccarat is played about five times faster than craps or roulette in terms of rounds per hour, and as you recall, the more you play, the more likely you are to lose. The whole point of the Martingale is to try to win in the short term. Of course, if you’re playing online instead of in a casino, then all games are played about the same speed and it doesn’t matter which game you play — but you’ll need to be extra careful that you don’t play too long. How long is too long? See note at the beginning of the table at the end of this article.
European roulette wheels offer better odds than American roulette wheels. American wheels contain both a 0 and a 00, while European poker online wheels have just the 0. The house edge on a European wheel is 2.7%. Some European-style game offer a “surrender” feature which means you lose only half your bet if the ball lands on 0, or an en prison feature which is complicated to explain but is effectively the same thing. Either feature lowers the house edge to about 1.35%. European wheels are hard to find in land casinos in the U.S., and where they are available they usually come with high table minimums. Online it’s a lot easier. For example, Bodog has a single-zero European wheel (2.7% edge), but only in the download version (not in the Flash version).
Does it work if you have a huge bankroll?
We’ve all heard that the problem with the Martingale is that once you’ve lost several times in a row, you have to make really huge bets. Well, what if you can afford to make those really huge bets? How would the Martingale fare under those circumstances? I decided to test it.
We’ll assume our gambler is willing to lose up to $100k. That would mean he could start with $5 and place 14 bets in a row, with the final bet being $40,960, for a total loss of $81,915 if bet #14 lost. Caesar’s Palace accepts bets up to $50k, so this would work there. With these betting limits, how long could our gambler play “safely”? I decided that “safely” would mean that he’d have a 95% chance of coming out ahead and only a 5% chance of losing the $82k. Under those circumstances, he could play the Pass Line bet in craps for a mere 30 hours before he dipped below a 95% chance of coming out ahead. Wow!
So even with a huge $100k bankroll, you can’t use the Martingale very long without a significant risk of tapping out completely.
Should you use the Martingale?
Should you use the Martingale? That’s a question only you can answer, but we can give you some ideas to help you decide. The Martingale may be for you if:
In exchange for increasing your chances of winning, you’re willing to lose a larger amount than normal if you do lose.
You have at least a $200 bankroll if you’re making $1 bets, or a $1000 bankroll if you’re making $5 bets.
You’re going to play for no more than a few hours.
You’re willing to accept the risk of losing your whole bankroll.
The Martingale is NOT for you if:
You only skimmed this article and you think the Martingale will make you a guaranteed winner.
You don’t have at least $200 for $1 bets or $1000 for $5 bets.
You’re planning on playing for more than a few hours, especially if you plan on playing American roulette or a fast game of Baccarat