Gambling Tips > Blackjack


By Henry Tamburin

The intent of a progressive betting system is to vary the size of your bets in a predetermined manner, according to whether or not you won (or lost) the previous bet. Many recreational players use them when they play blackjack. I’ll focus on one of the most famous and widely used progressive betting systems, the Martingale, or double-up, system.


Using the Martingale betting system, you double your previous bet after every loss until you finally win a hand, at which point you will be ahead by one betting unit. For example, suppose you wager $10 and the results of the next three hands are loss, loss, and win (L-L-W). You would have lost $10 on the first hand, $20 on the second hand, and won $40 on the third hand. You wind up with a net win of $10, which is the goal of the progression, to win an amount equal to your starting wager.


Progressive bettors will tell you that if you just follow the betting system and leave the table after a win you always walk away with a profit. The downfall of the Martingale occurs is when you experience a sequence of losses. Progressive bettors will always counter with “the chance that this will happen is slim.” Really? With the help of Donald Schlessinger (Blackjack Attack; Playing the Pros’ Way), and the Wizard of Odds, Michael Shackleford (, they calculated the following percentages for a streak of ten losses in a row.


You have about a 52 percent chance of losing a hand in blackjack (excluding ties). The chance that you will lose, say, ten consecutive (resolved) hands followed by a win is 0.069 percent, meaning you will average one sequence of ten losing hands (excluding ties) followed by a win in about every 1439 hands, and so, this losing streak will occur about once in roughly fourteen hours of play (assuming you play 100 resolved hands per hour). And get this ... you don’t know when that string of ten consecutive losses followed by a win will occur in the fourteen hours (of course, it may not occur at all). The math says that you have a 2.99 percent chance of losing ten in a row in the first hour; a 6.18 percent in the first two hours; and 15.13 percent chance after five hours. Sadly for Martingale bettors, a streak of ten consecutive losses is not such a rare event after all.


What about all those frequent winning sessions that Martingale players (and system sellers) always tout about this system? The fact is this: although most players will walk away a small winner most of the time, the money you will lose in that one catastrophic losing session will more than completely wipe out all the money that you will win in your more frequent winning sessions. In the long run, your wins and losses will add up to the casino’s edge, and the amount of money that you will lose using the Martingale betting system will be close to the casino’s theoretical edge in the game times the total amount of money that you wagered, the same as it is for every other player who plays blackjack (except card counters). In other words, mathematically speaking, you can’t, and you won’t, gain the advantage over the casino using a Martingale betting system.


There is another more practical issue with the Martingale that also dooms most players who use it, and it’s this: on an extended losing streak, you may not be able to double-up your bets because you will bump up against the maximum betting limit imposed by casinos. For example, suppose you are a $5 bettor and you lose eight (resolved) hands in a row. Your losses at this point total $1,275 (gulp!). Assuming you have the bankroll (and the guts) to double up again, your next wager according to the Martingale is $1,280, which exceeds the $1,000 table-betting limit (that you’ll find in most casinos on low-limit tables). Unfortunately, there is no way for the progressive bettor to bet enough to recoup his losses when this occurs (other than to move to a higher-limit table).


My suggestion if you are a progressive bettor is to learn Speed Count, which will alert you when the edge shifts in your favor. Speed Count is easy to learn and it’s ideal for recreational players. You just count the small cards (2-6) and then at the end of the round you subtract the number of hands played. It’s that simple. Using Speed Count, you’ll know when the edge is in your favor and that’s when you should bet more (or use your progressive betting system).

Progressive betting systems alone will not reduce the house edge against you when you play blackjack. Speed Count will not only reduce the house edge, it will swing the edge in your favor. It’s a no-brainer.


You can get the details about Speed Count in the book Beat Blackjack Now! by Frank Scoblete. There is also an instructional DVD on Speed Count if you want to see Speed Count being used under casino-simulated conditions (seeing is believing ... for details go to