Is Doubling Down A Loser Strategy?

The evidence seems to point that way. Let’s take a closer look. The gambling strategy of doubling down when gambling actually goes by another name. Its also called a martingale. No, not the martingale that is a part of a horse’s rein, but a real gambling strategy that is often touted as a way to get out of the hole and back into the game.

Except, that it does not (or at best rarely) turn out that way. Here is how it shows up. This strategy is most often seen in what are referred to as ‘even money’ games such as the red - black bet in roulette or the pass - don-t pass bet in craps. The theory says that if you double your bet after a loss, you would always win enough to cover all of your past losses plus a bit more.

Take a look at the following example. Suppose Player B begins by throwing down a single $1 bet when the games starts. Now suppose Player B keeps playing for 5 rounds. If he lost the first four rounds, but won the fifth round, what does that look like in real money terms? Easy, just add it up like this: $1+$2+$4+$8 = $15, but he lost that amount in the first four bets. Now, on the fifth bet in this example, he wins $16. Obviously, the $16 win is greater than the $15 loss, so the strategy works right?

No, not so fast there. Since Player B is playing with a finite amount of money, he can only continue this strategy for so long. In the long run, Player B is subject to the same laws of mathematics as everyone else at the table. And remember, in the long run, the house will win, no matter what. The way it works out is this: the ratio of money lost to the house advantage always works out to the long term average. Another way to say this is that changing the amount of your bet depending on how much you win or how much you lose has no effect on your long term success rate.

If it helps, think of this another way. Consider the game of roulette. Do you think the wheel knows whether you won or lost? Of course not! So, why would you think that varying the size of the bet would vary your expected results?

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