How to Bet On Sports > Martingale Systems and Scamdicappers
In this article, Sports Insights looks at how some scamdicappers use math and marketing to look good, but they add little or no value to their customers’ accounts. The information on this site is for entertainment and educational purposes only. Use of this information in violation of any federal, state, or local laws is prohibited.
The approaches and results of Martingale Systems often seem tantalizingly easy to most people. Everyone wants to find a “system” that works and makes some money, and why shouldn’t it work, right? These systems often rely on human nature and the over-confidence of most gamblers by increasing bet size during a losing streak. The Yankees can’t get swept in a series, right? We have an edge, so we shouldn’t lose too many in a row, right? The gambler thinks, “let’s double our bet and make some money back.” Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, the probability of winning the next play is independent of the past (as in the famous quote: “luck has no memory.”) The gambler is merely increasing his bet size, with no increase in expected value or profit. The gambler is therefore increasing his “risk of ruin.” There are many variations of Martingale systems, but let’s first take a look at the classic Martingale system.
Classic Martingale System – Double Your Bet Until You Win
The classic example of a Martingale series of bets is to repeatedly double your bet until you win. If you win your first bet, you are up +1 unit and start a “new series” (that is, you start all over again, by betting one unit). If you lose, you are down -1 unit and then bet 2 units. If you win this bet, you win 2 units, winning the first bet back and winning a net of + 1 unit for this series. If you lose, you have now lost -3 units for this series and bet 4 units the next bet. If you win the next bet of 4 units, you again win +1 unit for this series of bets.
This process of doubling “losing bets” continues, so it seems like you should be guaranteed to win +1 unit for every series of bets. The chart below might make it easier to see what is going on. For ease of computation, we assume no vig throughout this article.
Chart 1: Classic Martingale System of Doubling Bet Size until you Win
|Example 1: Win on 1st bet||Win bet of +1 unit||Total for Series = +1 unit||Start New Series of Bets|
|Example 2: Win on 2nd bet||-1 for first bet loss||Double bet to 2 units|
|Win 2nd bet of +2 units||Total for Series = -1 + 2 = +1 unit||Start New Series|
|Example 3: Winner on 3rd bet||-1 for 1st bet loss||Double bet to 2 units|
|-2 for 2nd bet loss||Total for Series = -1 -2 = -3 units||Double bet to 4 units|
|Win 3rd bet of +4 units||Total for Series = -3 +4 = +1 unit||Start New Series|
|Example 4: Winner on 4th bet||-1 for 1st bet loss||Double bet to 2 units|
|-2 for 2nd bet loss||Total for Series = -1 -2 = -3 units||Double bet to 4 units|
|-4 for 3rd bet loss||Total for Series = -3 -4 = -7 units||Double bet to 8 units|
|Win 4th bet of +8 units||Total for Series = -7 +8 = +1 unit||Start New Series|
The allure of this system is that every series should net you + 1 unit, as we highlighted in yellow. This seems like a “no-lose” situation IF you have an unlimited bankroll and no limits on the size of bets that you can make. However, those are HUGE “IFs”. In reality, however, nobody has an unlimited bankroll. In addition, most casinos and sportsbooks have limits on the size of bets they will take.
The biggest negative of Martingale Systems is the size of bets can build up rather quickly. Even three losses in a row would mean you have to bet 8 units! Many of us have seen losing streaks of eight games or more. At that point, the classic Martingale System would have you betting 256 units! Imagine having to bet $25,600 to win your unit size of $100!!? Not something to write home about! And probably not something the casinos or sportsbooks would even allow, based on maximum bet sizes.
Here’s another example of how a bad stretch threatens the bankroll of the “Martingale series bettor.” The aggressive bettor with a bankroll of $1,000 might bet $50 per game. If he follows a Martingale type of approach and loses five bets in a row, he will be betting $1,600 just to win his $50 unit size! And, he only had a bankroll of $1,000! Ouch…
An Analytical Look at “Shortened” Martingale Systems
To get around the high “risk of ruin” using classic Martingale Systems, some gamblers use various methods of Martingale systems that stop (and reset the bet size to one unit) after a few losses. These “shortened” Martingale Systems remove the possibility of making a huge bet to make a “series of bets” profitable. As a result, some “series” will result in a loss. However, some handicappers use these “shortened” Martingale Systems to produce a “sleight of hand”, which boosts the winning percentage they are able to publish and promote. The problem is that the bottom line of their customers is not improved by this trickery.
How does it work? Instead of counting each game in their published win-loss record, the scamdicapper will count each series as a win or loss. If they limit each series to just two bets max, they are willing to double the size just one time. Let’s see what the “decision tree” and results look like. We’ll assume that the handicapper has a 50% chance of winning any individual bet.
Chart 2: Shortened Martingale System and Tweaking Winning Percentage
|Result 1: Win on 1st bet||Win bet of +1 unit||Total for Series = +1 unit||50%|
|Result 2: Lose 1st bet, Win 2nd bet||-1 for first bet loss||Double bet to 2 units|
|Win 2nd bet of +2 units||Total for Series = -1 + 2 = +1 unit||25%|
|Result 3: Lose 1st bet, Lose 2nd bet||-1 for first bet loss||Double bet to 2 units|
|Lose 2nd bet of -2 units||Total for Series = -1 – 2 = -3 unit||25%|
In our example, the first two results show a profit of +1 unit for each of the winning series. This happens 75% of the time, so that the scamdicapper can report a success rate of 75%! However, Result 3 has a probability of occurring 25% of the time, and in this case the gambler loses two bets in a row for a net loss of -3 units. The total net expected value from this mathematical exercise is zero (0)! Please note that we use no vig in this example.
(75%) x (+1 unit) – (25%) x (-3 units) = 0 expected profit.
Thus, through the use of some mathematical trickery, the scamdicapper is able to publish a winning percentage of 75%, EVEN THOUGH there is no built-in benefit of using this kind of approach! We have seen some people in the sports betting industry use longer Martingale series so that they claim even higher winning percentages. Their customers can actually win a decent percentage of their “series of bets”, but then suddenly lose a series where the total loss wipes out their gains in the other series. As the old saying goes, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is…”
We hope that we have shed some light on some of the methods that scamdicappers use to boast and boost their winning percentages. In the end it comes down to how much actual profit you can make. While the methods Sports Insights researches and publishes often have more modest winning percentages, these approaches are often statistically significant and are consistently profitable over the longterm. Indeed, almost a decade of results and tens of thousands of games have shown that SportsInsights.com’s sports investing methods have worked historically.
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We do not guarantee that the trends and biases we’ve found will continue to exist. It is impossible to predict the future. Any serious academic research in the field of “market efficiencies” recognizes that inefficiencies may disappear over time. Once inefficiencies are discovered, it is only a matter of time before the market corrects itself. We do not guarantee our data is error-free. However, we’ve tried our best to make sure every score and percentage is correct.