For as long as there have been wagers on future events, there have been people trying to get an edge by any means possible. The methods employed by gamblers range from the criminal to the analytical. One method used by gamblers is the betting system. Betting systems seek to turn the odds in favor of the player through any combination of careful manipulation of bet sizes, bet timing, setting specific conditions under which bets may be placed and placing certain combinations of wagers.
Betting systems have been devised for all forms of gambling. Casino gambling, sports betting and lotteries are all prime targets for systematic wagering. The goal is to reduce subjectivity and give players a concrete, easy-to-follow plan for placing wagers.
A healthy dose of skepticism is advised when looking into betting systems. The idea of a simple, paint-by-numbers approach plays to our base desire to make money the easy way. In that way, betting systems are like those “work from home” ads you see posted all over jobs sites. Both often promise to give you a method for making money that requires little thought or effort.
The old adage of “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” holds true in any discussion of betting systems. Rarely is it that simple. The subject is attractive to those who have their own method for easy money: selling pipe dreams to unsuspecting gamblers.
The viability of any betting system is largely dependent upon the rules of the game. Any system that targets traditional casino games or the lottery is probably bunk due to the simple fact that you cannot change the underlying payout odds from which the house advantage is derived. Sports betting systems can work if the system is capable of identifying mispriced lines.
In any case, it would serve you well to take a moment to consider the motives that would drive anyone to share a betting system with you. If the person is asking for money in return for some secret method, proceed with caution. Always remember there is no such thing as an easy, guaranteed dollar in gambling.
Casino Game Betting Systems
Online betting systems are sold under the guise of giving the player the ability to change the odds of the game and win money. Run a couple searches online and you’ll find all kinds of people promising to help you make money through “secret” and “never before seen” systems. All they ask in return is a one-time payment that you’ll surely make back with your fancy new betting system.
What these people always forget to tell you is that their new secret methods for beating the casino are just rehashes of the same old betting systems we’ve been hearing about for years. They also fail to mention that betting systems are all bunk. That’s right; there’s no such thing as a method that can change the odds of a casino game.
Betting systems look good on paper and manage to trick new people every day. The problem is that no matter how you arrange your bets, you do nothing to change the odds of the game. Once you understand how the odds work in a casino game, you’ll see that there’s no possible way to change the outcome.
Let’s use roulette as an example. A wager on red or black pays 1:1 if successful. If you wager $50 on black and the ball lands in a black slot, you win $50. This would be an even money wager (and there would be no house advantage) if it wasn’t for the green 0 slot which results in a loss no matter which color you bet on. Your odds of winning are therefore less than 50% and the house has a built-in advantage.
It doesn’t matter how you manipulate your wagers because there’s nothing you can do to change the payout rules or how often you win. You will always win this bet less than 50% of the time. The fundamental flaw in all betting systems is that they do nothing to change the underlying math behind any casino game.
Most systems also prey on our natural inclination to fall for the gambler’s fallacy. In a nutshell, gambler’s fallacy is the belief that a random event becomes “due” after a certain period of time. An example of gambler’s fallacy would be to see the roulette ball land on red 5 spins in a row and believe it’s due to hit black any time now. In reality, the ball has the same chances to land in a red, black or green slot no matter what has happened in the past. The roulette ball has no memory and each spin of the wheel is a separate, random event.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common online betting systems. These are all old systems and none of them work in practice. Any “secret method” you see on the internet is likely a rehash of one of the following systems.
The Martingale System
The Martingale System is the most well-known offender of them all. This system is designed to work with even money bets such as red/black, pass/don’t pass and is sometimes adapted for games such as blackjack. The Martingale is classified as a negative progression system, which means you alter the size of your wager after losses.
Long story short, you double your wager after every loss. The theory is that eventually you have to win and will recoup all your previous losses when you do finally win. So if you bet $1 and lose, your next bet would be $2. If that bet loses, you would bet $4 and so on until you win. Eventually, you’ll win one of those wagers and be back to even.
There are three problems with this system:
1. It doesn’t change the odds of the game. Each wager is a separate event and is subject to the same house advantage as the previous bet. No matter how you increase or decrease your bet sizes, the house advantage always exists.
2. You have a limited bankroll. Start with a $1 wager and lose 10 in a row and your next bet would be $1,024. Now you find yourself risking more than a thousand dollars just for a shot at breaking even. The money you’ve lost is already gone – it has no meaning at this point. Betting an extra thousand dollars is just subjecting even more money to the house advantage. Losing streaks are not as rare as you might think. Play the Martingale System long enough and you’ll eventually hit a bankroll-destroying streak of losses.
3. Even if you had an unlimited bankroll, every casino has betting limits. Go on an extended losing streak and eventually you’ll run into the maximum bet allowed. Once again, the Martingale System runs into a wall.
If you’d like to read more, you can see this thread on 2+2 to see why the Martingale System wouldn’t work even if you had an unlimited bankroll and played at a table with no maximum bet.
The Labouchère System is also a negative progression system and is similar to the Martingale System in that it involves increasing your bets when you lose. It is not quite as simple as the Martingale System but is also designed with even money games in mind. To use the Labouchère System, you must first decide on a set of numbers and a base stake. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll use a base stake of $1 and the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
To start with, you would write down your six numbers in a line. Each time you make a bet, the size of the wager is the first and last number in the line added together and then multiplied by your base stake. So to begin, you would wager $7 (1 + 6 = 7 multiplied by $1).
If your bet wins, you cross of the first and last numbers on the line and then repeat. Your next wager would also be $7 (2 + 5 = 7, multiplied by $1). However, if you bet loses you don’t cross of any numbers. Instead you add the size of your last bet to the end of the line. So if you lost your first bet, your line would look like 1-2-3-4-5-6-7, and your next wager would be $8 (1 + 7 multiplied by $1).
The system works on the theory that you will win enough wagers during a session to cross off all the numbers in your line – ensuring a profit – before starting the process again. The same flaws of the Martingale System also apply here; a long losing streak and either your bankroll will run out or the table limits will prevent you from placing the required wager.
A lot of the systems you see people touting on the internet take something like the Martingale and then dress it up to look new, complex and super-secret. In reality, it’s just a more time-consuming way to lose money.
The D’Alembert System
The D’Alembert system is also designed for even money wagers. This one works on the premise that losses become more likely after wins and wins become more likely after losses. This system is flawed from the beginning. Cards, dice and roulette wheels have no memory and simply do not care what happened in previous rounds. This is a perfect example of Gambler’s Fallacy in action.
The system is actually pretty simple. You basically start with a base stake – say $10 – and then you increase your stake by a certain amount – say $1 – when you lose. You decrease it by the same amount after you win.
So if you start with $10, you would increase that to $11 if you lost then $12 if you lost again and so on. The purpose of increasing your wager after each loss is to play catch-up because you become increasingly due for a win with each bet you place.
If you win money, you decrease your next wager. The assumption here is that the odds of losing increase after a win (you’re due to lose) and need to lock in your wins.
The size of the wagers don’t increase at the same rate as they can in the Martingale or Labouchère systems so table limits are less likely to be a problem. But even so, the system will not increase your chances of winning at all. In fact, you‘ll just lose more money on a losing streak than you would if you had just left your wagers alone.
The Paroli System
The Paroli system is sometimes described as the opposite of the Martingale system, which is pretty accurate. The goal of the Paroli System is to use house money to try for big wins. You increase your bets when you win and decrease them when you lose. Like the other systems described so far, the Paroli System is designed for even money wagers.
With the Paroli system you first choose a base stake (assume $1) and whenever you lose, you revert to your base wager. So if you start with $1 and lose, your next wager is also $1. If your bet wins, you double your wager to $2. If you win again, you double the stake once more to $4. If you win three bets in a row or lose at any time, you reset your wager back to the original base level.
The Paroli System is much lower risk than the Martingale system since it doesn’t tell you to continue doubling up forever. If you do hit three wins in a row a few times, you may well have a winning session. However, any winning sessions you experience aren’t a result of the Paroli System; you just had a good night at the tables. The house edge is always there and will eventually catch up no matter which betting system you use.
Sports Betting Systems
Sports betting systems are designed to use known information to make accurate predictions and/or identify mispriced lines. Instead of starting your research from scratch every time, you look for situations that meet very specific criteria. To use a simplified example, a basic sports betting system might tell you to always bet on underdogs playing at home.
The ultimate goal of sports betting systems is to identify exactly which stats or data are reliable indicators of future outcomes. Considering the almost limitless factors that can influence the outcome of a sporting event, it’s no surprise that some sports betting systems can become extremely complex. The story of Billy Walters and the Computer Group shows just how in-depth some sports betting systems can be.
Sports betting systems come in all shapes and styles. You’ll find systems that obsess over specific stats and others that take an all-around approach. Some systems are simple; others are very complex. Some place an emphasis on line moves while others rely on historic statistics.
Some systems are sold outright while others are used to sell picks. In the latter case, you receive the picks but the details behind the system are never revealed. A lack of transparency indicates the system is legit… or that it’s garbage. As you can see, there aren’t many absolutes here. Sports betting systems need to be analyzed on a case by case basis to determine if they’re worthwhile.
Finding the Variables that Indicate Success
One of the most important jobs of a sports betting system is to determine which statistics are the best indicators of success. In stats-speak, this would be called “regression analysis.” Regression analysis is the process of determining the relationships between variables.
An NFL betting system, for example, might consider 3rd down conversion percentages, turnover differential, average yards per drive and so on. Different systems value specific stats differently, but the end goal is always to figure out which stats are most important and then help you make picks when those stats meet some minimum threshold.
Accounting for the Intangibles
Some factors that play into victory aren’t easily represented by stats. Travel schedules, psychology, performance in weather and performance in certain stadiums are all intangible to some degree. Some sports betting systems account for these intangibles by collecting statistics on past similar situations and applying them to the future.
For example, a system might look back at a baseball team’s record and find that they tend to score more runs when playing against rivals or that they perform better-than-average when playing as road underdogs. A system can put these variables to numbers and give handicappers concrete suggestions based on past performances.
Underdog Betting Systems
Underdog betting systems are popular. Underdogs require less risk up front, provide a higher upside and are often undervalued by the public. You don’t even need to have a winning record to profit with underdogs thanks to the higher payouts. It is entirely possible to post a losing record but still be up for the season.
Systems that focus on underdogs look for factors that indicate the underdog has a better chance of winning than what the common perception suggests. The goal isn’t to find guaranteed winners every time, but to simply find teams that show value relative to the line. A system capable of consistently identifying overpriced underdogs will help you win a lot of money.
There are so many factors that can be analyzed when looking for profitable underdogs. Systems may look for underdogs coming off wins, teams with underrated defenses, teams that match well in some key area against the opposition, teams coming off a rest, teams playing at home and so on.
An underdog system may also take into account the betting lines. If the line is too stilted against the underdog, it may advise passing on that game as the favorite is just too strong. Instead, it might look for a “sweet spot” where the line is around +120 to +160. These are just random examples, but they show the methodical approach taken by sports betting systems.
Paying for Access
One thing to remember is that paid betting systems cut into your long term ROI (return on investment). If you pay $50 a month for a betting system but you only place $500 worth of wagers every month, is it really worth it? Even the best handicappers in the world rarely achieve a 60% win rate for any significant length of time. Paying 10% for a system would make it tough to win even if you did have a legitimate winning system.
A myriad of systems have been devised over the years for various lotteries. Lotto systems do nothing to change the odds of winning but most people realize this and implement systems anyways for the entertainment factor.
Be wary of anyone selling a system that guarantees more frequent wins or better chances of winning. At best, these people aren’t giving you the whole story. At worst, they are lying. Sure, you can double your chances of winning by buying two tickets, but that doesn’t change your ROI. I’ve seen many people make claims that you can increase your odds of winning when in reality all they’re doing is giving you some convoluted system that results in buying lots of tickets. This is hardly a “winning” system.
As long as you’re aware that systems cannot change the odds or predict the future, feel free to have fun with them. Just please don’t ever pay anything for access to a system. It is a waste of money 100% of the time to pay for some top secret lotto system.
The most widespread and widely-misunderstood lottery system is the wheel. There are a million variations, but generally what wheels do is take a set of numbers and have you buy tickets that cover every possible combination of those numbers. Oftentimes a wheel has you choose one number more than the total number of picks made on the ticket.
For example, let’s say you have a Pick 4 lotto that you’d like to play. A wheel for that lottery might have you choose 5 numbers and then pick 4-number permutations of those five numbers.
You could stop here or go on to pick every single possible permutation. Most people opt for abbreviated wheels because it gets expensive real fast to choose every possible outcome. People who sell wheels and wheeling software like to make guarantees that you’ll win some prize if at least X of your numbers are chosen. These guarantees are accurate (usually) but meaningless.
For example, a six-number wheel for a Pick-5 game guarantees that you’ll get a 3-win if at least three of your six numbers are chosen. This would be worded as “3 if 3.” All this means is that you’ve picked every possible winning combination of those three numbers.
Wheeling itself does not increase your odds at all – not even a little. Your increased odds of winning are just a byproduct of purchasing additional tickets. Your chances of winning would be just as good buying a bunch of tickets at random. This is why I strongly recommend against paying for wheels. Paying for a lottery system only cuts into your bottom line for no actual benefit.