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Baccarat and the Martingale System – Can It Work?
Baccarat has experienced a popularity surge in recent years, thanks to lower betting limits and smaller tables (a.k.a. mini baccarat).
Another reason to love baccarat is that the house edge is only 1.06% when you wager on the banker hand. This makes baccarat one of the best bets in the casino.
But as low as the house advantage is, you’re still facing a long-term losing proposition. And this is why some baccarat players continue to look for different ways to beat the game.
One of the most popular strategies to use in baccarat is the Martingale, which is widely used in casino games with even-money bets.
Will the Martingale improve your chances of beating baccarat? Find out as I discuss exactly how this system works, the downsides and come to an overall conclusion on how successful the Martingale is in baccarat.
What Is the Martingale?
The Martingale is one of the simplest gambling strategies in existence.
All you need to do is double your bet following any loss. You then return to the original stake following a win.
Check out the list below to see how this system works:
- You bet $5 and lose (bankroll at -5)
- You bet $10 and lose (bankroll at -15)
- You bet $20 and win (bankroll at +5)
- You bet $5 and lose (bankroll at 0)
- You bet $10 and win (bankroll at +10)
- You bet $5 and win (bankroll at +15)
You won three hands and lost three hands in the example above. This is a common occurrence in baccarat, because it’s almost a 50/50 proposition with the casino.
Despite the fact that you won and lost an equal amount of hands, you profited by $15 thanks to the Martingale.
The great thing about this system is that you’ll theoretically always win back losses. And when you win, you also bank a small profit at the end of each losing streak.
It’s easy to see why the Martingale is so popular based on the advantages. You could theoretically earn long-term profits with this gambling system.
But the Martingale also has some serious problems that must be addressed before you jump into using this system.
Downsides to Using the Martingale in Baccarat
The Martingale features three drawbacks that hinder its long-term viability. These are as follows:
- You need an infinite amount of money to guarantee the Martingale’s success.
- Most casinos impose table limits that diminish this strategy.
- The Martingale doesn’t lower the baccarat house edge.
Let’s take a look at these issues and the problems they present.
The Infinite Money Issue
Addressing the first point, anything can happen in gambling. This means that there’s always the chance you could lose a large number of hands in a row.
Unless you have an infinite bankroll, you’ll eventually run into a losing streak that you can’t absorb. Considering that the Martingale is predicated on doubling bets after every loss, you can’t use it to the fullest without an endless supply of money.
The Betting Limits Issue
The second major problem is that casinos impose table limits to reduce the short-term effectiveness of the Martingale.
Without table limits, a number of players would leave the casino with short-term wins again and again. But with betting limits, you only have to lose several bets in a row before you can no longer double the next wager.
Here’s an example:
- The table limit is $2,000 per hand
- The minimum bet is $10
- If you lose seven bets in a row, your eighth wager would be $2,560
- The best you can do is $2,000, meaning you’re guaranteed to lose $560
Some players dismiss this point because they don’t think that the odds of losing seven straight hands are very high. But the chances of a 7-hand losing streak increase greatly as you continue playing hands.
Here’s another example to illustrate this point:
- Your mini baccarat table is seeing 60 hands per shoe
- You play through three shoes (180 hands), which takes around an hour
- The chances of you losing seven hands in a row are 50.41%
Obviously, it’s hard to get excited about the Martingale when there’s a 50% chance that you’ll lose seven straight hands.
But what if you only sit at the table for one shoe? Even in this case, you have a 19.76% chance of running into the table limit.
The House Edge Issue
The underlying issue with the Martingale is that it doesn’t help you overcome the baccarat house edge.
All you’re doing with this system is manipulating bet sizes and hoping to avoid long losing streaks. You’re not, however, bypassing the 1.06% house edge with this system.
The Martingale isn’t like being a skilled card counter who has a long-term advantage over the casino. Instead, you only have a short-term edge thanks to the ability to win back losses.
This is why the Martingale’s success hinges on having a great deal of luck.
Can Baccarat Players Successfully Use the Martingale?
How well you do with the Martingale depends upon the minimum bet, the table betting limit and how long you play to play for.
You’ll usually reach the table limit after 6-7 losses in most baccarat games. But some casinos give you more leeway in this department because they have low minimum bets combined with higher table limits.
This is especially the case in Las Vegas, where you’ll find a wide range of baccarat games. Let’s use SLS Las Vegas as an example:
- SLS has $10 minimum baccarat bets
- Max bet is $10,000
- You can lose up to eight bets and still make the Martingale work
- Even losing nine straight bets puts you at a $5,120 wager, which is almost half the table max
The chances of losing eight straight hands over three shoes (180 hands) are 21.17%. This is a little better than the chances of losing seven consecutive hands (50.41%).
You stand a 15.67% chance of losing nine straight hands. If you can win the ninth bet at $5,120, you’ll get nearly all of your money back.
But remember that a $10 minimum bet and $10k max wager are the best conditions you’ll find for using the Martingale.
The only thing that would be better is a high-stakes baccarat table with no limits. But the drawback here is that you must place higher minimum bets and you’ll need massive amounts of money to make this work.
Here’s an example:
- The minimum bet is $100
- You have a $1,000,000 baccarat bankroll
- You lose 13 straight bets
- Your 14th wager would be $819,200
- Losing this bet means that you can’t effectively double your bet
The chances of losing 14 consecutive hands within three shoes are 0.51%, or around 200:1 odds.
Most players would take these odds if they could make a few thousand dollars in profits.
But the question is if you’d have the nerve to continue betting when you’ve lost the 11th bet ($102,400), 12th bet ($204,800) and 13th bet ($409,600).
Back to the original question: can the Martingale work?
Yes, if you have a huge bankroll and are on a table with no betting limits. But this isn’t realistic for over 99.9% of baccarat players.
Martingale Variations That You Can Use in Baccarat
I’ve established how difficult it is to use the Martingale in baccarat games. The chances of you hitting a table limit and/or losing a significant amount of money are great.
But there are also variations of this system that you can employ in baccarat. I’ll cover each of these strategies below.
The Anti Martingale
The Anti Martingale (a.k.a. Reverse Martingale) is the opposite of the Martingale. Instead of doubling wagers after losses, you double bets after wins.
Here’s a sequence to illustrate this:
- You bet $5 (minimum) and win (bankroll at +5)
- You bet $10 and win (bankroll at +15)
- You bet $20 and win (bankroll at +35)
- You bet $40 and win (bankroll at +75)
- You bet $80 and lose (bankroll at -5)
- You bet $5 and win (bankroll at 0)
- You bet $10 and win (bankroll at +10)
The Anti Martingale is safer than the Martingale because you’re only increasing wagers following wins. Therefore, you don’t pile up big losses while continually doubling bets.
This system is fun for anybody who likes capitalizing on winning streaks. But like the Martingale, it doesn’t do anything to overcome the house edge.
Another problem is that you put all of your winnings at risk by doubling up over and over. This is why many players put a cap on their winning streaks (e.g., 3 wins) and start over when they reach this point.
The Grand Martingale
The Grand Martingale calls on you to not only double bets after losses, but also add an additional unit. This means that you win a larger profit following any losing streak.
You need to develop a base unit to start with (e.g., $10 = 1). Once you have your base unit, you can proceed to using the Grand Martingale.
Here’s an example:
- You bet 1 unit and lose (bankroll at -1)
- You bet 3 units (double +1) and lose (bankroll at -4)
- You bet 7 units and lose (bankroll at -11)
- You bet 15 units and win (bankroll at +4)
- Your next bet returns to 1 unit
As you can see, you’re always doubling the bet and adding 1 extra unit. And this boosts your profit to 4 units following a 3-hand losing streak.
If you merely used the Martingale in this situation, you’d only win 1 unit at the end of the losing streak.
Obviously, the larger profits are nice with the Grand Martingale. But this system is even riskier than the Martingale and will have you hitting the table limit sooner, too.
The Mini Martingale
This strategy requires setting a limit to the number of times you double wagers after losses. For example, you might return to the original bet if you lose four straight baccarat hands.
The advantage is that you eventually cut your losses before they grow too high. Here’s an example of the Mini Martingale:
- You bet $10 and lose (bankroll at -10)
- You bet $20 and lose (bankroll at -30)
- You bet $40 and lose (bankroll at -70)
- You bet $80 and lose (bankroll at -150)
- Your next bet returns to the original $10
The big downside to the Mini Martingale is that you’ll sometimes have to start your betting sequence over before winning back losses. In the example above, you’ve lost $150 and must now return to the original bet based on the system.
But the good news is that you at least minimize what could otherwise be catastrophic losses. Furthermore, you can always set your loss cap lower than what would make you hit the table maximum.
If your cap is four losses, you start over well before reaching the max bet, which would be around 6-8 losses.
The main takeaway here is that no gambling system can beat the house edge in any casino game. This includes baccarat, which can’t be beaten with the Martingale or any of its variations.
You can have some success by using the Martingale with baccarat. But there’s only so far you can go before hitting a table limit and/or running out of money.
Considering that baccarat already has one of the lowest house edges, I suggest that you stick to wagering on the banker hand. This leaves you facing a 1.06% house advantage and gives you a strong chance to win in any given session.
If you’re really concerned with winning long-term profits, then give card counting, poker, or sports betting a try. But the average gambler will find that basic baccarat strategy gives them one of the best chances to win.