Even the most experienced pros need a little edge sometimes, and they often turn to betting systems. These systems have been refined over many decades and offer a way for gamblers to make informed, calculated bets in almost every scenario, for a whole range of real money casino table games.
Betting systems won’t improve your skill at the game, but they can certainly take off some of the pressure by letting you focus on the cards instead of worrying about your bankroll. Most betting systems are designed to run in a cycle or progression, and when that cycle is over, you’re free to start it over, walk away with your winnings, or approach the game with a new betting strategy.
But there’s often a lot of confusion surrounding how betting systems work, what’s the best one, and how to effectively use them. In this article, we’ll discuss the dirty details of all the popular betting systems so you can make the most informed decision when choosing one.
Why Use a Betting System?
Betting systems aren’t a guarantee that you’ll win. That comes down to luck and skill. A betting system is merely a method to manage your bankroll and maximize your profits.
For new gamblers who aren’t sure how best to go about betting on blackjack, roulette, or other table games, starting out with a simple betting system can really set them apart from the pack.
There are many betting systems out there, each one a bit different. We recommend finding the system that fits your style of play! Some betting systems are riskier than others, and some take a conservative, long-game approach. If you’re the kind of person who loves to go all-in as frequently as possible, find a system that increases bets based on wins. If you like to play it safe and minimize your losses, a system that decreases bet size after each loss is for you.
When you first learn about betting systems, it can be kind of overwhelming. There are set values you have to abide by, principles of the system you have to understand, etc. etc.
But, if you learn the basic betting systems before hopping into a more advanced strategy, then you’ll have a better grasp of how to bet, when to bet, and when to walk away.
Basic Betting Systems
At the core of each betting system is either a positive progression or negative progression philosophy. Every betting system is built on a principle of what to do after a win and after a loss.
Positive Progression – This is a “bet more after winning” system.
After a win, you increase your bet by an X amount and play the game again.
Play it safe with this betting system: You can also choose to gradually increase your bets until you reach a certain number of wins or losses and then revert back to playing with just one bet. The fundament of the positive progression principle is to keep a consistent raise.
If you think of it as a science experiment, the control group should be the amount you bet. For example, if you start off betting $1, then your next bet should increase by one unit, so $2. The only variable in the experiment is if you win or lose.
Negative Progression – This is a “bet more after losing” system, and it’s the exact opposite of the positive progression betting system.
After a loss, you increase your bet by an X amount and play the game again. This principle follows the same idea as the positive progression method, where your raise should remain constant.
If you experience a string of losses, you can consider resetting the system after a win. You’ll have recouped your losses, so starting fresh will help you work your way back up.
Constant Betting – The idea of a constant bet removes the variable from our aforementioned equation. The betting amount won’t change based on a win or a loss.
This betting principle is risky if you lose a handful of rounds in a row because there’s no built-in way to recoup those lost funds. However, some people prefer betting the same on every hand or spin because it simplifies the process.
If you’re going to use a system like this, start off with small amounts. $1 or $2 should be your baseline bet. Betting too much will really start to set you back if luck isn’t on your side.
Advanced Betting Systems
Some of these “advanced” betting systems are actually quite simple, but they often have more moving parts than the basic negative or positive progression tactics.
But each system is based on either betting on a loss, betting on a win, or betting on both. It all comes down to how much the bet amount increases or decreases, and when the system resets.
The Martingale System
The Martingale System is probably the most popular and widely used betting tactic. It was super popular in 18th century France, and was created by John Henry Martindale. The system is a slight variation on his name.
The Martingale System is a negative progression system with an increased bet after every loss. But if you win, your next bet will be lower, and the amount you decrease your bet will be your original bet amount.
For example: If you start off betting $1 on a hand of blackjack, then lose that hand, your next bet is going to be $2. However, if you win the hand, your next bet will decrease by one unit, so down to betting a single dollar.
The Martingale is a great betting system for roulette if you’re placing an outside bet. The red/black bet has close to a 50/50 split, so the Martingale works well with the balanced odds.
Pros of Martingale:
- A simple betting system with very few principles to remember
- The double bet on a loss will recoup your losses from the previous hand
- Great for short-term gamblers only playing a few hands
Cons of Martingale:
- Requires a large bankroll if you continue to lose
- May be impacted by max bet limits if you continue to lose
Reverse Martingale System
This system is the same as the Martingale, except it’s a positive progression system. You’ll increase your bet after you win a hand or spin. It’s sometimes called the anti-Martingale system.
The logic behind this betting strategy is that if you continue to win, your bankroll will grow exponentially. But on the flip side, if you end up losing a few rounds, you’ll be playing with the original sum from the reverse Martingale.
In essence, it’s a modified version of the Martingale that doesn’t require as many wins to end up with a larger bankroll.
When using the Reverse Martingale strategy, you need to decide on an end of the progression. This could be that you reset the cycle after a certain number of wins, losses, or hands. An end to the progression will help you minimize losses if you have a losing streak.
Pros of Reverse Martingale:
- Builds on your wins and reduces losses
- Will build you a sizable bankroll
Cons of Reverse Martingale:
- Requires a large amount of capital if you’re planning to use this as your primary betting system
- You can’t “reset” the system after a loss, so be prepared for multiple losing rounds
The Labouchere System
This system is similar to the Reverse Martingale, but with a slightly different strategy. The Labouchere betting system was created by Henry Labouchere, an avid roulette player in the mid-1800s.
The guiding principle of this system is that when you win, you double your bets, and if you lose, you continue by betting from the lowest number in the sequence.
Before starting a game, you have to first develop a sequence of numbers you’ll have to abide by.
One of the most popular sequences is 1-2-3.
Your first bet will be the sum of the first and the last number. In our case, that’s $4 (1+4).
If you lose your bet, you add 4 to the end of the sequence (1-2-3-4), and start your next round by betting the sum of the first and last number ($5).
If you win the $5 bet, you cross off both the first and the last number in the sequence, leaving 2-3.
Then, for your next bet, add the first and last number, which is $5 again. If you lose, you add 5 to the sequence, and if you win, you cross off both numbers and have to start the sequence over.
The Labouchere System is popular because you can essentially increase your funds with more losses than wins. So, if you have a streak of losses, it might get pricy, but it will take fewer wins to get back to where you started.
This is a good roulette betting system, after all, it was designed by a roulette enthusiast!
Pros of Labouchere:
- Highly flexible and can be designed to work with low or high table limits
- Great for cautious gamblers
- Good to use with outside bets in roulette
Cons of Labouchere:
- Not great for long-term games unless you make an extensive sequence, even then your smallest bet will be quite significant
- Not conducive for long losing streaks
Reverse Labouchere System
The Labouchere system focuses on a negative progression system, where numbers are added to the sequence whenever you lose, and the bet increases with each loss.
The Reverse Labouchere System is essentially just the opposite of the Labouchere, as the name suggests.
This is how it will look:
With a starting sequence of 1-2-3, your first bet will be $4. If you lose the bet, you cross off 1 and 4 and bet $2.
If you win the bet, you add 4 to the sequence and bet $5 on the next hand.
Pros of Reverse Labouchere
- You lose less by betting smaller amounts
- You’re rewarded with higher bets for winning previous bets
- The sequence can be extended to fit long-term and short-term gamblers
Cons of Reverse Labouchere
- Winning streaks will be limited by the max table limit
- Losing extensively will require a restart of the sequence
- Does not account for the house edge
The D’Alembert System
Famed physicist Jean le Rond d’Alembert created the D’Alembert System for roulette in 1763 and is based on the Gambler’s Fallacy.
This is a negative progression system, so it’s ideal for people who have a big bankroll and feel comfortable taking on more risk after each loss.
The first step to implementing this system is to come up with a base bet. You should never bet more than 5% of your bankroll on the first bet, so we’ll go with a 2% bet.
Starting off, your first bet is $2.
If you lose, you double your bet to $4.
If you lose, your next bet should decrease by the same value that it increased. So, if you lose the $4 bet, your next bet will be $2.
This betting system is risky if you hit a losing streak. To counteract this, you can set a point in the progression where you cut your losses and revert back to the base bet. While you might not make your money back, it will save you from losing more.
Another possibility is to increase the base bet by a factor of two. So instead of a $4 bet after a loss, you bet $6. This will quickly help you recoup lost funds, but can get really tricky if you continue to lose.
Pros of the D’Alembert System
- You can make your money back after any string of losses if you win a round
- A simple negative progression without complex rules
Cons of the D’Alembert System
- Not well-equipped to deal with long losing streaks
Reverse D’Alembert System
The Reverse D’Alembert System takes the same concept as the D’Alembert and flips it on its head. It’s sometimes known as Contra D’Alembert.
Instead of using a negative progression principle, the Reverse D’Alembert System will increase bets for each win.
You’ll still need to establish a base rate for your bets, and you start by betting that unit.
For example, if your base rate is $2, you start with $2 and double the bet upon each win. Upon a loss, you decrease the bet by the same interval.
This is how it will look:
The Reverse D’Alembert is a good roulette betting system because the near 50/50 split of the even/odd or red/black bets will reward you for winning.
Pros of Reverse D’Alembert
- Rewards players for winning bets
- Helps manage your bankroll in a straightforward manner
Cons of Reverse D’Alembert
- Does not account well for losses
- Casino max bet limits can be your enemy if you hit a winning streak
The Fibonacci System
The Fibonacci System is a negative progression system and is based on the works of Indian mathematicians and the Italian math wizard, Leonardo Pisano Fibonacci.
If you’re familiar with the Fibonacci sequence, you already have a good grasp of how the betting system works. Like the Labouchere system, the Fibonacci strategy functions off a sequence of numbers.
The numbers are: 0-1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21-34-44-89
You’ll have to decide on a base unit for your bets. For this example, we’ll pick $1.
So for your first wager, you’ll bet one unit, since the first non-zero number in the sequence is one.
You bet $1, and if you lose, you’ll move to the next number in the sequence. Once you get to a number that’s not one, you’ll multiple it by your base unit. So if we’ve won 6 times in a row, your next bet will be $13 (13 x $1).
Upon a win, you’ll go back two numbers in the sequence.
Let’s say you win your $13 bet, your next bet will then be $5 (5 x $1).
This betting system only works well on even money bets, like even/odd or red/black roulette bets. It’s also a good baccarat or blackjack betting system, as long as the payout is even money.
When using the Fibonacci System, you’ll want to specify a cut-off point in the sequence where you’ll start the cycle over again. The sequence continues after 89, but considering betting limits and bankroll management, we cut it off there.
At any point where you’re in profit for a cycle, you must go back and start over. This ensures that you start off again at a lower amount in the event of a loss, and it pads your bankroll for another complete cycle.
Pros of the Fibonacci Sequence
- Accounts for both wins and losses by retreating two steps for a loss
- Built-in bankroll protection with the profit-cycle restart protocol
- Good for both long-term or short-term gambling
Cons of the Fibonacci Sequence
- There is a specific sequence you must memorize to be successful
- Negative progression principles are less effective than positive progression principles
The Paroli Formula
The Paroli Formula is a positive progression system that can be used with table bets in roulette, baccarat, blackjack, and even craps. It works best with even money bets.
The name comes from the Latin word “par”, which means “one that is equal”, and was used primarily for the 16th century game of Bassat.
Essentially, the Paroli Formula follows a positive progression principle that doubles each bet on a win. In this way, the Paroli formula is similar to the Martingale System. However, the distinguishing factor is that after three consecutive wins, the cycle resets.
You’re required, as per usual, to set a base stake for your bets. In this example, our base bet is $5.
You bet on black at the roulette wheel for $5. You win, and increase your next bet to $10. If you lose, you return to the base stake of $5.
Pros of the Paroli Formula
- Good for managing losses and capitalizing on wins
- A cycle reset that allows you to manage your bankroll and easily walk away from the table
Cons of the Paroli Formula
- A losing streak won’t guarantee you make money from your wins
Oscar’s Grind was first documented in Allen Wilson’s 1965 book, The Casino Gambler’s Guide. It’s also known as Hoyle’s Press and the Pluscoup Progression.
Oscar’s Grind is a positive progression system where the player increases their bet size by one unit upon a win.
You’ll have to decide on a unit-price correlation and a win condition. The win condition is an amount of profit you’re comfortable achieving and should be a realistic goal. After the win condition is reached, the “session” will end, and start anew.
For this example, one unit will equal $5 and our win condition is also $5.
You start off at the roulette table, placing an even-money bet on odd numbers for $5. After a loss, you continue to make $5 bets until you hit a win.
Upon winning, you then increase your bet by one unit, and continue betting $10. You’ll continue to increase the betting unit upon each win until you’re close to hitting your win condition.
When your win condition is imminent, you’ll then wager only the amount you need to achieve this goal. For example, if you’re down $5 and your next bet has increased to $15, you should only bet $10 to achieve your win condition ($5 to cancel out your loss, and $5 to satisfy the win condition).
Because the system grinds along (see what we did there?) until you reach your win condition, smaller unit values and larger bankrolls are beneficial.
Pros of Oscar’s Grind
- Sets a clear goal and the cycle resets after attaining the goal
- Good for roulette or even money bets in blackjack and baccarat
Cons of Oscar’s Grind
- A lengthy, and sometimes costly, process
- Little room for variation
Tips for Using a Betting System
Now, using a betting system isn’t a surefire way to increase your winnings. It’s simply a tool to manage your bankroll and maximize your potential profits.
You can’t just pick a betting system and hope it works. The whole process is a bit more proactive than that.
These tips will help take the system you’ve chosen and put it to work.
Set a Budget
Having an unwavering budget and sticking to it is key. You can easily get carried away with adding numbers to the Labouchere sequence and end up walking away from the table with far less than you started with.
When you sit down to gamble, set a budget for yourself. This number will depend on your available funds and your income. For casual gamblers, a $50-$100 budget is more than enough to play some roulette spins or a few hands of baccarat. If you’re a high-roller, you can still use the same betting systems, but your base betting amount might be might larger.
A good way to manage your budget is to only use cash at land-based casinos. Don’t even bring your credit card. That way, when you’re done, you’re done.
If you gamble online, only deposit your exact budget amount into your online casino account. The process of having to reenter your info and make a new deposit is a barrier to overspending.
Stick to the System
Most betting systems are designed to be seen through to the end. If you’re using the Labouchere system, and you’ve been losing, and stop halfway through the progression, you won’t have a way to recoup your losses.
In this way, betting systems can be limiting, but the great thing about Labouchere is that you can customize the length of each cycle. If you really want to stop using it, at least see the progression through. That way, you have a chance of raking in what you’ve lost before starting a new cycle of a different betting system.
Create Win Goals (And Loss Limits)
While it might seem silly, setting a goal of how much you want to win is really helpful in maintaining a budget and not overspending.
When you log in to a live dealer poker game or sidle up to the roulette wheel, have a goal in mind. For example, if your budget is $100, maybe set a goal of making an additional $100 and then calling it quits. Now, if luck is on your side, you might obtain your goal in one spin or a few hands. If that’s the case, sequester those winnings away and only play with what’s left of your budget.
On the flip side, set a loss limit. Many casino games are based entirely on chance, and everyone has a bad run of things. Set a limit of how much you’re willing to lose. This might be the amount of your whole budget or half. Really, any number that you find reasonable.
Once you’ve hit the point of your loss limit, it’s time to call it quits. This way, you can save whatever you didn’t spend, and that’s more than most gamblers can claim.
Understanding the Gambler’s Fallacy
The Gambler’s Fallacy, also known as the Monte Carlo fallacy, was inadvertently created by Jean le Rond d’Alembert.
He believed that if you flipped a coin multiple times and hit tails each time, the next flip was bound to be heads. Even though the odds of a coin toss are 50/50, d’Alembert believed that if tails occurred multiple times in a row, each time the odds changed to favor heads.
This fallacy was compounded by an event at the Monte Carlo Casino in 1913. Many French gamblers were gathered around a roulette table, and the ball landed on black 26 times in a row. The chances of that happening are very rare, 1 in 66.6 million. Gamblers around the table began betting exorbitant amounts on red, thinking that the long streak of black would have to be followed by a streak of red.
And that’s the Gambler’s Fallacy–the idea that in a game of chance, the previous outcomes impact the future outcomes.
In reality, the odds of landing on red or hitting heads in a coin toss aren’t impacted at all by the previous outcomes. Sure, the more you flip a coin, the more unlikely it is that you’ll land on tails repeatedly. Unlikely, but not improbable. The odds for the coin toss never alter, remaining 50/50.
And that’s why gamblers who go on a losing streak sometimes keep gambling. They feel that an inordinate number of losses will be followed by multiple wins, which isn’t the always the case.
Just remember the Gambler’s Fallacy when using a betting system. If you’ve experienced a string of losses, betting massive amounts and breaking the system isn’t the solution. There’s no guarantee that after a dozen losses you’ll score a win! In this regard, patience and planning are your best friends.
Betting Systems FAQ
What’s The Simplest Betting System?
The base level of betting systems are the simplest, and these include negative or positive progression systems. However, if you’re looking for something a bit more refined, the Martingale System is good for all kinds of casino table games.
What’s The Best Betting System for Blackjack?
Once again, the Martingale is the most well-equipped blackjack betting system. You can also use Oscar’s Grind, but it only really works for even-money bets.
Do Betting Systems Actually Work?
A betting system won’t make you better at playing the game. For that you need luck, practice, and a firm grasp of the rules. But betting systems do take the guesswork out of placing wagers, and act as a bankroll management tool.
Will I Be Penalized For Using a Betting System At A Casino?
No! Casinos don’t care if you use a betting system because it doesn’t give you an advantage over the dealer or other players. Now, if you’re counting cards, you might quickly get kicked out, but gamblers aren’t punished for managing their bankroll.
Can I Create My Own Betting System?
Sure! If you already have a set of rules in your head that guide your betting, you already made one! Just know that many of these systems have take decades, sometimes centuries, to refine, so if you’re struggling to come up with an efficient strategy, you might want to stick with one of these tried-and-true betting systems.
Am I Allowed To Bring In a Chart Or Table To A Casino To Help Me Keep Track Of My Bets?
It really depends on the casino. As long as you’re not violating any kind of table rules and aren’t taking too long to make your bets, it should be fine. But, make sure to clear it with the dealer before the game starts just to be safe. Of course, you can always use a spreadsheet or a pen and paper while playing live dealer or RNG games online.