Bankroll to bankrupt in
28 May 1999
By Mark Pilarski
Since I don't gamble very often and chances of
losing eight in a row are very remote, don't you
think it's logical to double my wager every time
I lose? Albert M.
I see your logic, if you call it logic, but it
isn't. What you are describing is called the
Martingale System, a historic name for doubling
up after every loss. In essence, you the gambler
double your previous bet (after a loss) to
recoup that loss plus win back your initial
wager. It is probably-no, IT IS-the worst money
management system you can use. You would think,
logically, this form of betting is foolproof
because you have to win sooner or later. The
problem is, you don't have an inexhaustible
bankroll, and our friends who own the casinos
will limit the maximum size of your wager. Also,
ask any gambler you know if six or eight losses
in a row is not unusual. I'm experiencing it now
with a computer program that picks the pros in
But Albert, I really want you to think this
through. Here's you. You bet $2 and lose, then
$4 to recoup your losses. Then $8, $16, $32,
$64, $128, $256, $512. Ka-ching, Kaa-ching, you
invested $1,020 just to get your measly two
bucks back. Oops, but you were playing on a game
that had a table limit of $200. A string of six
defeats and the casino automatically protects
itself plus sets your loss limit at $252. Wiped
out, Albert, in less than three minutes.
The Martingale system is not logical, it's
downright lethal. It's so obvious, Albert. No
What is a hardway number on a crap game and is
it a good bet? Steve. R.
A hardway wager is a 4-6-8-10, but only paired
up as a 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5 combination. For
example; if you have a hard six wager, a pair of
3-3s would have to roll for you to win. Not a
2-4 or 5-1 dice roll. Is it a good bet? No!
House advantage on a hardway 6 or 8 is 9.1
percent. A hardway 4 or 10 has an 11.1 percent
casino edge. Readers of Deal Me In only make
wagers that have a house advantage of two
percent or less. Steve, say adios to this wager.
On my last two trips to Las Vegas I have found
slots ($1 machines at the Stratosphere)
advertising a return of 98%. I didn't seem to
get a decent return on them. Shouldn't the
casino, in such a regulated business like
gambling, at least pay back the percentage they
advertise? Dottie C.
When a casino advertises that its slot machines
return 98 percent, it means the machine is
pre-programmed "over the long run" to return 98¢
of every dollar played. Don't come to expect
that for each dollar inserted you will
automatically get 98¢ dribbling back into the
tray. The operative phrase here is "over the
long run." A "long run" could mean weeks,
months, and even years on any given machine.
But let's assume the machine you were playing
was paying off 98¢ for each and every dollar
bet. Using a liberal definition of the word
"good" machine, we'll allow the casino a measly
2% edge. Well, Dottie, if you were to insert $60
per minute into a 98% payback slot machine (not
difficult on a dollar machine at $3 a whack
using a credit button), you will lose about $72
an hour. Multiply that by eight hours of play
and you will come up $576 short in the purse.
Even on those advertised high payback machines,
the casino still has a way of grinding away at
your gambling capital.
The way you avoid this $576 grind is to behave
more conservatively by playing on smaller
denomination machines (25¢), for shorter
increments of time. Casino operators know all to
well that such cautious behavior has negative
implications on the casino win for the house.
They would much prefer you ante-up silver slugs
and play all day.
Oh, by the way, Dottie, all too often players
like you believe that the casino is in the
gambling business. Wrong! They are in the math
business. On pre-programmed slot machines that
give the house a certain percentage return, you
are the only one doing the gambling here.