I am guessing that almost all casino players have a method of betting, even those few who just throw out their money willy-nilly wishing and hoping for some blind luck from the non-existent gods and goddesses of such luck. That’s a system, although an uninformed one. 

Sadly, those divine beings of luck departed long ago and they included the Greek and Roman civilizations whose many citizens hoped there was something more to existence than just the plain-old existence they experienced in their daily lives.

Most other players will play some aspect of a set method or several methods of them. They too probably think that somehow or other these methods will lead to long-term wins and not just simply good luck tonight. Hope is eternal. Players want their hopeful anticipation to be realized. Some players still don’t know how the casinos get their edges over these hopeful players and they think everything is luck, luck that can be (at times) counted upon.

If you flat bet, meaning make the exact same bet for the exact same amount time after time, the casino edge will slowly wear you down. Oh, yes, you will win some, lose some, but in a short or medium or long time, you will lose a given percent of all the money you wagered. That’s the way it is. Lady Luck? Ultimately she is nowhere to be found. She will not belong to the player. 

The casinos do not rely on luck. They make their profits not from wishful gambling, but from solid math and probabilities. 

[Please note: People are superstitious and even sometimes casino people are superstitious. The famous tale of the super-evil-unlucky craps table at Caesars Palace tells us such a story. You see, this table was a seemingly long-term loser. Day after day, night after night, the super-evil-unlucky table kept losing. Finally, the casino manager decided Caesars was getting killed by Brutus the table and had the table removed, brought to the rear of the property, chopped to shreds with the shreds finally being burned to cinders. The new table? Wonderful because it won what it was expected to win over the right periods of time.]

Positive Progressions: The Paroli 

Many players are not just satisfied with a win, especially if it is small or, worse, trivial. They want to go up and up and maybe up some more. The most typical way to go up and up is to increase one’s bet after a win. Doing so is called a positive progression because the player is ahead when doing this.

The classic system in doing this is called the Paroli Betting System or the Paroli. It is more often called the parlay method of wagering where the player doubles his or her bet three times before going back down to their initial bet. Thus, bet $25, win, now bet $50, win, now bet $100, win, then go back down to $25 and start all over again.

The parlay can be for more steps or it can end at the usual three and the player then stays at his original bet until he or she decides to parlay some more. 

The parlay can also be for less money. The player could put (let us say) $10 or $15, more, or less, on his or her original bet. The player makes the choice of how to play his or her parlay.

The Anti-Parlay

Yes, there is such a thing as the Anti-Parlay where the player increases his or her bet after a win (or two) and then decreases his or her bet below the original bet. 

Some roulette players like to do this on an early win in order to stay in the game longer when the inevitable losing streak occurs. Savvy roulette players know that long losing streaks can occur when they bet only one or two bets directly on a number or two.

They think of the anti-parlay as a safety measure.

The Spread the Wealth Paroli

Some blackjack and Pai Gow Poker players enjoy playing more than one hand, thinking that such a technique increases their chances to win. This is called the Spread the Wealth Paroli. The assumption is that the more bets, the better the chance to beat the house and win some money.

Well, does it do what these players think it does? Yes, it can at times win the player money, maybe even a lot of money. Hot streaks can occur on both hands or three (or more!) hands. That’s the good news. But…

The Bad News Folks

The bad news is that the house edge is working on all the money being wagered. It doesn’t matter if you are only betting one bet, no matter how low or high that bet or those bets, you can trust that the casino will be extracting its percentage over time. 

What that time is can be questioned of course.

Some players can fall into a hole right away and never see the light of day or the bright lights of the casinos because of the fog of losing bing-bam-boom, just like that. 

All the Paroli systems are (now do you want to hear this?) losers. You cannot overcome house edges with betting styles. I’d like to put the word “period” at the end of the last sentence but that would be rubbing it in. 

Hey, who knows, maybe there is a magic craps table out there, or a bent and broken roulette wheel, or an unlucky dealer or ... come on, just play smart and give the casinos your original bets and let that be that. There is no magic coming your way over any lengthy period of time.

All Paroli betting techniques are based on initial positive results. The player wants to increase his or her wins and starts moving the bets skyward. That will ultimately end in losses or reduced wins. Let that be a warning to you. Although I am thinking you already know this.

Casino Wagering Progressions

Negative Progression Systems

There are some betting systems that are geared to getting you out of losses that you have already suffered. I wish I could tell you that these negative progressions worked but they don’t. Still, they might be fun to play for a short while if the amounts wagered are reasonable for a player’s bankroll. That statement is also true for the positive progressive systems as well.

The most famous negative progression system is the Martingale, named after a person that history has forgotten but whose system has soldiered on and might continue to soldier on through, perhaps, the ages.

Many casino players believe that they have discovered this system, especially those who are relatively new to casino games. I know I did. 

I figured I was a genius for coming up with this idea for beating the casinos and I played the system on my very first trip to Atlantic City way, way back when. I played it at the now long defunct Sands, which was across the street from where I was conceived (the Claridge) way, way, way back when. I knew nothing about casino play because I was in Atlantic City to learn about craps for a play I was starring in.

By the way, my playing that system had nothing to do with the Sands closure. Seriously, had everyone played my way the Sands might still be around.

Here Is the Martingale in its simplest form: You make your bet and you lose, then you double your next bet and you lose and you double the next bet. Like this; you bet $10, lose, then you go up to $20. Yes, at first this sounds like a negative Paroli play. Is it?

It’s not.

Let us say you now lose your $20 wager and you go to $40. Lose that and you go to $80. Notice we are always doubling the previous bet because a win will return our initial bet and the $10 win. 

The idea is that sooner or later you will win back everything you lost and wind up ahead of the casino. Brilliant! (Yep, I really thought I was brilliant coming up with this system as do all the other casino players who also thought they invented this system. Ah, the arrogance of youth! I really thought this method could guarantee a win.)

In about six, seven, or eight plays you will be betting as follows: $10, $20, $40, $80, $160, $320, $640, or higher if the casino lets you. As you can see the escalation is quite heavy and quite dangerous and will result in a severe loss.

And what are you betting that $640 (or higher) to win? A mere $10! You are chasing a $10 win by betting a total of $1270! Losing that much money can be overwhelming.

Truth be told. My Martingale went the whole route on the second day of my visit to Sands and I got clobbered – I lost all that money in order for me to win a mere $10! 

I learned my lesson by actually experiencing the horror of it all. It wasn’t until I started to read books and articles about casino play that I learned the Martingale has hurt many a player through the centuries. Yes, centuries. I was just one of the shell-shocked crowds of the down and out that have trundled as losers who used this method of play.

Scattered Martingale

There is no law of nature that says you must play the Martingale as written about above. You can tweak it and bet a negative progression in any manner that you choose. The same actually goes for the Paroli positive progression. You are after all the commander of your own fate…well, kind of.

The key to the Martingale is not what game you are playing or what bets you are making but the increase in those bets as you go through a hopefully short losing blip in your play. 

One method that some players like is the Scattered Martingale. You are increasing your bets in a negative progression but you are not playing the same bet each time. You are reorganizing the Martingale to your liking.

When playing roulette you might bet the red of the red/black bet and it loses; there is no reason to double up the bet on red. Jump over to black or high or low or odd or even with your increased wager. You are still playing the Martingale but it is not based on the same propositions time and again. You are allowed to jump what bets you make. The Martingale is a money betting system, not a what should you bet system.

However, I would not recommend doing a negative progression on inside bets that pay multiple monies since the payouts are not one-to-one. I would not recommend betting Martingales on most card games.

You could also go game-to-game making one-to-one (or almost one-to-one) wagers. Lost a $10 bet at roulette? Jump over to craps and play a place bet of 6 or 8 for the next higher amount. You can go from a $10 bet on red to an $18 or $24 bet on either 6 or 8. The increase in the bets might be more in this case but you are walking on the Lady Luck’s tightrope anyway and you are challenging fate and you should be aware of that.

The Grand Martingale

Do you love danger and you are not afraid to jump up and off a high mountain playing a Martingale that is more dangerous than the traditional one? Well, the Grand Martingale might suit you.

The grandness of this Martingale is its precipitous skyward thrust. You bet your $10, lose it and then go to $25, lose then go to $60. You can use whatever increase in bets that you desire but (of course) you will hit the table maximum much quicker. 

However, if you get in positive territory your wins will be for more money. 

Obviously, the Grand Martingale can be far more dangerous than the traditional one but it is skydiving for any Martingale player. Enjoy the fall!

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.