Implications of the Martingale System for Poker Players

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The Martingale system is a theory of gambling which outlines a way that theoretically you can always win at any game with chance involved. The idea is that you keep doubling your bets - plus a little extra - until you finally win. Imagine a player at a roulette table first betting $5, then if they lose they bet $10 and so on until they make a slim profit. The minute you win you leave, and thus secure yourself a small win each session. The problem with this system is that a) you need to effectively have unlimited capital to be able to whether the huge downswing that can occur at these games - which can prove extremely expensive if you are more than doubling your bet each time; and b) you have to find a player or casino that will allow you to indefinitely raise the stakes during one of these possible downswings. The reality is that no one has unlimited capital, casinos and bookmakers have betting limits, and the Martingale system is just another gamblers illusion that will end up costing them huge sums of money if pursued over the long run. The Martingale system has important implications on poker players though, as some of the biggest mistakes I see players make in cash games is to play a form of the Martingale system every session. Many half decent poker players sit down in cash sessions, play for a little while, grind out a small win in a good game and leave. Their logic is usually pretty easy to understand - I have made a decent profit, I have a whole host of other things I would rather be doing than playing in this game, therefore I'm going to leave and go and have fun. The problem with this logic is that players hardly ever apply it when they start losing. Here they let the gambling monkey take over, and stay in what is probably an awful game for hours, trying to get even so that they can at least leave without a loss. It is the Martingale system incarnate - have lots of little wins, followed by the occasional huge splurge where you lose everything. Your brain is tricked by feeling happy most of the time (after all most days you are going to sleep a winner), while you wallet is hemorrhaging money over the year. If you think about it logically, what you should actually be doing is the Martingale system in reverse - carry on playing for as long as possible when winning to maximise possible profits, while quitting early when losing and in bad games to avoid large losses. The reality is that most poker players quit good games too early, while staying in bad ones for far too long. If you can cut this out of your game and just think about each table rationally, you will improve your win rate substantially. Join Betfair Poker Now

If you think about it logically, what you should actually be doing is the Martingale system in reverse – carry on playing for as long as possible when winning to maximise possible profits, while quitting early when losing and in bad games to avoid large losses.

Dave Allan,

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