Betting Systems Exposed

| March 1, 2016 | Reply

I got a lot of good feedback from last week’s article by ex-bookie John Trent and today I’m delighted to bring you his second Betting Rant article.

Enjoy and if you have any comments or questions for John, you can reach us at bettingrant@agorapub.co.uk.

Matt Houghton

Hello again. This time I’d like to talk about betting ‘systems’…

Let’s be 100% clear from the outset as to what a betting system is. The definition used by mathematicians is “A variation in the magnitude of the wager as a function of the outcome of previous plays”. In simple English it’s about altering the amount you bet depending on how much you’ve won or lost to date.

It isn’t what many people think of as a ‘system’, i.e. “Back all the favourites at Kempton” or “Back every third runner that the trainer Ben Dover runs at Wolverhampton”. There may, or may not, be some credence in such instructions but they are not betting systems. The whole point of a system is that it will enable you, the punter, to always eventually make a profit – irrespective of the market you are betting on.

In the days when I was a bookmaker I’d often meet people who claimed they had such a system, or read about one, and would I mind if they bet with me using it? Given that the concept of such a system is that they’d make a profit the obvious problem would be that I’d make a loss. You would think, therefore, that I’d shake them by the hand and shuffle them out of the door. After all, being a bookmaker is always about making a profit.

On the contrary, I would (metaphorically) strew their path with rose petals, pour the champagne and welcome them like a long lost brother. Why? Because I have never, ever come across a system that actually delivers what it is supposed to.

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Let me give you a little quote:

“The number of ‘guaranteed’ betting systems, the proliferation of myths and fallacies concerning such systems, and the countless people believing, propagating, venerating, protecting and swearing by such systems are legion. Betting systems constitute one of the oldest delusions of gambling history. Betting system votaries are spiritually akin to the proponents of perpetual motion machines butting their heads against the second law of thermodynamics.” (Richard A Epstein 1967)

I’ll give you some examples of well-known systems in a moment but, firstly, let’s consider why people fall for them. Basically it’s all about self-delusion. That is, you believe that you can’t go on losing forever. Eventually, some God of Gambling will provide you with a winner that will cancel out all your losses (at worst) and give you a profit (at best). Sadly, it’s a fallacy.

Consider the tossing of a coin. We know that there’s a 50-50 chance of an unbiased coin coming down heads (or tails). If we toss the coin seven times and each time it comes down heads our decision for the eighth throw is quite likely to be that this time it’ll come down tails. After all the chances of throwing eight heads in succession has to be small, right?

Wrong. It’s still 50-50. There is absolutely nothing linking the ‘new’ event with any previous event. That’s true of any bet you care to make. Yes, you can study form, previous results, the phase of the moon, or anything else you think might affect the outcome of a bet but all you can actually do, at best, is determine the party that may be ‘capable’ of winning. And, if you have a run of losing bets that you’ve applied the same criteria to there’s no reason, at all, to think that the next race/match/coin toss will be any better.

Let’s look at some such popular systems. Probably the most popular is the “Martingale”…

To explain this simply consider the coin toss we’ve just referred to. Let’s say your starting bet is £1 and the bet is even money. If you win you pocket £1 and start over. If you lose you double your next bet to £2. If you win this time you get £2 but you lost £1 on the first toss so you only make a profit of £1 overall. Now let’s consider 10 tosses in succession and that you lose on all of them. Your losses will be £(1+2+4+8+16+32+64+128+256+512) = £1023. Your next bet will be £1024 – and you’ll be betting £1024 in the overall hope of winning £1.

In theory that’s fine but there can easily come a point where you go bust. Replace the £1 bet on a coin toss with a £10 bet on a horse race, for example, and you’d rapidly get to the point where you’d be betting some very heavy stakes that you most likely couldn’t realistically afford (especially if you back very low price favourites).

The next system is known as the “Labouchere”. This is normally, but not always, applied to roulette where you bet on red/black, odd/even, etc. making the assumption that it’s an even money bet.

Basically, you start by deciding how much you want to win. Let’s say £21 (I’ve chosen that number to keep the example simple). You write down a list of numbers, from low to high, that add up to £21. In our example that’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…

Each bet consists of a stake where you take the first and last numbers and add them together. So, our first bet is £1+£6= £7. If the bet wins, you remove the £1 and £6 from the list and your next bet will be £2+£5 = £7 (again, as it happens). If, on the other hand you lost, you would add the losing stake to the end of the list making it 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and your next bet would be £1+£7= £8.

You continue the process until one of two things happen. Either you win the amount you said you’d win. Or, you run out of money. Note that, if you lose a number of successive bets, your bets get bigger and bigger while your potential winnings stay the same.

Finally, there’s the “d’Alembert”. This is quite simple. Decide on your first stake and decide on a smaller amount to alter your next bet by. Thus, your first bet is £10 and the alteration amount is £2. Your successive bets depend on the result of your most recent bet. That is, if your last bet won you take £2 off your stake for your next bet. If your last bet lost you add £2 to your stake for the next bet.

You can, of course, argue that it is possible over a short time for the system gambler to win. And that may be true. But it is also true that if a gambler follows a system that he initially finds successful he will keep using it. And one day his system will let him down – badly. This is usually because he reaches a limit at which the bookmaker or casino will no longer take his bet. You are, of course, welcome to try any of these systems yourself – or devise your own. Your bookmaker will welcome you with open arms.

Until next time, bet carefully.

Best Wishes,

John Trent

Betting Rant Correspondent

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