Live Keno + Martingale = Bad Idea

Mar 29, 2011 6:00 AM

Keno + Martingale = Bad Idea

Most of you are familiar with a Martingale betting system even if you don’t know it by that name.

Basically it is a doubling system, a "double down" if you will, that doubles your bet every time you lose, with the belief that sooner or later you will recoup your losses and perhaps gain a small win as well.

The attractiveness of Martingales stems from their simplicity for one (no need to remember cards or compile lists of hot or cold numbers) and also the truism that sooner or later you will indeed book a winner. The problem with Martingales is not from the "sooner" part. It is the "later" part that will get you.

The failure of these kinds of systems to provide success for the gambler (and indeed may hasten the destruction of his bankroll) was proved a few centuries ago by the "Gambler’s Ruin Problem."

Mathematically, given a large disparity in bankroll size between the house and the player, in a fair game (like coin tossing with a fair coin) with 50-50 outcomes the player’s chances of bankruptcy are very high. When you add in a house edge (as low as a few percent in some games but 25% or higher in keno) the situation becomes much worse.

And to rub salt in the wound, maximum payout limits on keno simply prohibit any chance of getting even if your betting proceeds beyond a few dozen games.

I can attest to my own personal experience with this as well. Once for a few weeks as a young keno writer I decided to run a little Martingale on a two-spot to pay for my lunches. It worked a couple of times and that reinforced my (gullible) self belief in my "system."

I should have done a bit more research first. Inevitably, only a few days into my system I ended up paying $35 for a cheeseburger that at the time would have cost me $1.50. That actually cured me I am proud to say.

The general formula to determine your bet on a one-spot would be 3 x B >= T + B (where B is your bet for the current game and T is your total investment).

This can be restated as B = T/2

Let’s take a look at a one-spot Martingale:

Game Bet Total Invested

1 1 1

2 1 2

3 1 3

4 2 5

5 3 8

6 4 12

7 6 18

8 9 27

9 14 41

10 21 62

As you can see by the 11th game you will have to bet a $32 one-spot just to show a bit of profit if you win.

The chances of going 10 games on a one-spot without hitting it are 1-in-17.75 of losing $95. Perhaps not as long of odds as you had hoped for. Still, don’t do it.

That’s it. Good luck and contact me on line at [email protected]