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Martingale System

Dear Mark,
I have a nephew who thinks he has a foolproof system for winning at blackjack. He is not very intelligent, does not have a good background in mathematics, does not understand probability theory, does not know how to count, and does not even know how to play blackjack well enough to reduce the house's advantage to its minimum.

His system is one of the oldest and obviously fallacious ones around, simply doubling his bet every time he loses. When he wins, he goes back to his basic betting unit, $10.00, although he tells me he has played using $100.00 as a basic betting unit.

He tells me he has won thousands of dollars and has never lost playing his "system." Personally, I don't believe him. Can you recommend anything that I could tell him? Can you explain why this is a bad system, a losing system? George M.

By George, correct you are. Your nephew, Mr. Flawless J. System, probably isn't the brightest crayon in the box, especially if he feels his system is flawless.

You are describing a sure loser, mentioned before in this column, called the Martingale System, a historic name for doubling up after every loss. In essence, the gambler doubles his previous bet after a loss, hoping to recoup that loss and win back his initial wager.

It is the absolute worst money management system extant, even if your nephew thinks his modus operandi is foolproof, because he is going to win eventually.

Well, my friend, his biggest problem is that he does not have an inexhaustible bankroll, while Joe Casino Owner is free to limit the maximum size of Nephew's wager. By the time Neph is in for the wager limit

With the Martingale system, he is betting $10, losing, then putting down $20 to recoup that loss. Then $40, $80, $160, $320, $640, $1,280, $2,560. Look at the smile on Mr. Casino's mug.

MISTAKE ONE: He has now invested $5,110 to get back his paltry $10.

MISTAKE TWO: He might have been playing on a game with a table limit of $500 or $1,000. A few loses and the casino automatically protects itself against his ever welcoming home his measly sawbuck. What you've got going here, George, is a nephew using a lethal system.

As for my advice to him, how about say NEVER GO NEAR A CASINO, OR IF YOU MUST, YOU WON'T BE USING NO MONEY OF MINE (future inheritance) and remember, the Martingale system is not your strategy; it's the casino's.

Dear Mark,
You stated in your column of Jan 30, 04 that Binion's Horseshoe was the last family owned casino in the USA. isn't John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks, NV family owned? Also what about the Eldorado in Reno, NV? Elaine S.

You're absolutely right, Elaine, I stand corrected. Besides, I knew better as I worked in Northern Nevada for over 22 years, my boy was born literally feet from the Eldorado at St. Mary's Hospital (I was in the Eldorado's buffet when my wife broke water), and keeping on the topic of food, I've had my share of meals at John's Oyster Bar at the Nugget and the La Strada at the Eldorado.

So, Elaine, allow me to retract that sentence altogether, and for the catch, I'm sending along a set of my tapes, Hooked on Winning. Thanks for looking over my shoulder.