Roulette and craps are probably the two casino games with the longest pedigree. We know that dice were first used as a serious incantation to find out what the gods had in store for people. This was probably five thousand (or more) years ago. Should our army attack the village across the valley? Roll them bones – yes, either sheep bones or human bones composed the dice – and we’d find out what we should do.

Roulette was somewhat the same, except that many military men used their shields instead of dice, and the shield’s spin determined what was to come in the next battle or war. It is thought that some of the soldiers, high on horrible tasting wine, spun themselves on the shields. I have no idea if this is true but you never know.

Please Note: Were these instruments used for gambling as we know gambling today, as in just for fun? Indeed they were. We even see evidence in the ancient literature of soldiers and civilians using such instruments in war, peace and gaming. People seem to have played games for fun as far back as we go in gaming history.

Roulette was probably the first true casino game and was likely introduced in the middle ages. Noblemen attempted to beat roulette with various roulette systems of play. If we had a time machine we could go back and tell them that the systems they invented and used, while fun, just couldn’t give them a true mathematical edge over the casino. Luckily the peasants didn’t play in casinos because, well, after all they were peasants.

So what were some of the most famous systems used by our ancestors in attempting to beat the wheel? Are any of these still used today when people are learning how to play roulette? I can easily answer both of these questions, with the latter first: Yes! the systems of the past are still used today. Why? Because they are fun to play and structure a player’s game-plan in a way that makes sense to the player. A player always knows what to do next when playing a system. There’s no guesswork in how or what to do next.

I’m going to go through the old ones and even some of the new ones. This will take a few articles but be patient because patience is a great virtue, especially for an offline and online casino player. And you might find that one or two of these systems hit a responsive chord in you.

So here we go, on a trip into the most inspired, enjoyable and (at times) exhilarating ways to play roulette. Here are two simple systems that can structure your play. These are two of the oldest systems of gambling.

ROULETTE MARTINGALE STRATEGY

Those of you have gambled in a casino, even only a few times, have probably stumbled on the Martingale system, even if you didn’t know the word Martingale. You might have even figured you invented it. I know I did. It seems this is the very first concept most gamblers have and it is expressed in the following phrase: “I have to win sooner or later, right?” 

The above sentence is in fact right as well as totally wrong when it comes to casino games when using the Martingale. 

First, what is the Martingale betting system? That’s simple: the player doubles his bet if he loses a decision in the hopes that “I have to win sooner or later, right?” So it would go like this, the player bets $10 and loses; now he bets $20. If he wins the $20 bet he has recouped his original $10 loss.

Betting on red at roulette

But don’t get too comfortable here. If the $20 bet loses, the player will double that to $40. If that loses he goes up to $80. If that loses, he goes up to $160. If that loses, he puts up $320. If that loses he goes to $640. If that loses, he might be allowed to go to $1280 but many casinos limit the maximum a player can wager. That $1280 might be too much.

Wait a minute! That means a bad streak of six, seven (or eight) losses in a row can probably sink the player. Yep!

Please Note: The Martingale is much like the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. The loss of six to eight hands in a row seems like a real longshot; but the fact is that anyone who has played roulette has seen streaks of red or black, odd or even, or high or low coming up with such frequency many times. Casinos put a cap on how much a person can bet so that such relatively short streaks can sink the Martingale player.

When a player gets to the upper reaches of the Martingale what is he looking to accomplish? Very little. Using the above dollar amounts, even should the player bet $640 or $1280, he is looking to win a mere $10. That is an awful lot to wager for a $10 win. At every step of the traditional Martingale the payoff is merely that $10. The untraditional Martingales are even worse! If you must allow yourself the Martingale then stick to the original.

The Martingale betting technique can be summed up as a method of playing against losses without capitalizing on wins. It is a negative flow strategy increasing bets because previous bets have lost. True, on far more occasions the player will win that $10 but it is inevitable that the devastating losing streak will happen. The saying “I have to win sooner or later,” should be changed to “I will get clobbered sooner or later.”

Please Note: While the devastating loss is inevitable when using the full Martingale system there will be plenty of $10 wins along the way. Are they enough to make up for the big loss? No.

SCOBE’S SIMPLE GUN AND RUN MARTINGALE

I would use a Martingale only on the even-money outside bets at roulette, the odd or even, high or low, red or black. These bets give the player 18 chances to win with 20 chances to lose on the American double-zero wheels and 18 chances to win with 19 chances to lose on the European Roulette (single-zero wheels). Obviously, if you can play the European wheel that is the preferred one as long as the betting ranges fit your bankroll.

Your first bet is $10 (or whatever your normal bet size is) on one of the even-money proposition wagers. If you lose that bet, you go to $20. Now, you sit out two spins; correct, you do not bet. After two sit-outs, on the next spin, you will increase your bet to $40. If you lose that? You quit and go back to your original bet. You’ve lost $70 on this sequence.

Run and gun martingale roulette

My goal with this roulette strategy is to keep you away from the devastating loss that the Martingale ultimately entails. Plenty of times on the two spins that you sit out there will be a winning spin – had you bet it. More times there won’t. Remember the casino has that edge on all of those even-money wagers. That fact should always be front and center in your mind. Never think you are playing an even game even on bets called “even-money” bets.  

If you have lost that $70 you can choose to start all over again or you can head to another wheel to start all over again there or you can take a break. It is up to you.

If you started with a $500 bankroll for this session, you would now have $430 left with which to play.

SCOBE’S SIMPLE PAROLI SYSTEM

The Paroli betting system is another that many novice casino players think they have discovered. It is a positive betting system, attempting to make money at a game where the player has been winning in the immediate past. The Paroli system players figure wins will follow wins. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.

The Paroli system is merely the parley system that many gamblers use; that is, you increase your bet after a win and keep increasing your bet as the wins increase. Generally, a Paroli player will go three decisions before decreasing his bet to its original amount. So it would go $10, then a win and a $20 bet, then a win and a $40 bet. Then the winning bets are kept and the original $10 is wagered to begin a new series.

Please Note: There are, sadly, Paroli players who wish to go long winning distances by continuing to double their previous wins. The excellent movie The Gambler shows the results for such a player who does this.

My take on the Paroli system is to use the three-win method but to start it after the session bankroll has gone up. So the first bet, if won, does not entail an increase in the betting for the second bet. Instead the second bet is the same as the first, $10. If that bet is a winner then the player’s bankroll, $500, is above the minimum. Now with that second win, the third bet entails the player going the full Paroli bore. With any loss, the player goes back to the original $10 bet. 

Here is sequence:

1st Bet $10 (win)
2nd Bet $10 (win)
3rd Bet $20 (win)
4th Bet $40 (win)
Total Win $80

The pattern here is interesting. The first two wins bring your session bankroll up to $520. Now that third bet of $20 could be lost but the player is still even for the sequence, $500, as he returns to his original $10 bet and attempts to Paroli himself a win.

A loss of that $40 means the player returns to the original $10 bet as well. This is a relatively safe system (as systems go) and as long as the player does not try to magically accomplish a truly prolonged Paroli he might find this a pleasing method of play.

Once again, the Paroli system at roulette should be done on the even-money bets. 

WHICH ROULETTE SYSTEM IS THE BEST?

I will pick my favorite of the two systems but here is the rub; over time the total amount of money wagered will fall prey to the house edge, only the pattern of the wins and losses will be different. You can’t escape the 5.26 percent edge on the American Roulette wheels and you can’t escape the 2.70 percent on the European wheels.

Roulette player considering his options on a big roulette layout

I prefer the Paroli method because you will not be sweating out your sessions the way you will when you have a long sequence of losses in the Martingale. Think of getting to a bet over $600 and knowing that this is the last double you can do. There is no fun, as I see it, having to sweat like this. 

With the Paroli the losses, when they come, can be quickly terminated. You find you are down “X” amount you can quit.

I do believe that if you use my “gun and run” Martingale, the agony will not be as bad. Still, I prefer the “gun and run” Paroli.

But every gambler has to decide for him or herself just how to play and bet the games.

All the best in and out of the casinos! 

About the Author
By

Frank Scoblete grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He spent the ‘60s getting an education; the ‘70s in editing, writing and publishing; the ‘80s in theatre, and the ‘90s and the 2000s in casino gambling.

Along the way he taught English for 33 years. He has authored 35 books; his most recent publisher is Triumph Books, a division of Random House. He lives in Long Island. Frank wrote the Ultimate Roulette Strategy Guide and he's a well known casino specialist. 

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