The Martingale

This is the oldest and simplest system (though it is often misnamed "martindale"). It was first devised in the sixteenth century by the mad Polish inventor Joseph Wronski. Thousands of people rediscover it each year, as it is a very seductive system.

The player doubles his bet every time he loses. If the table minimum is \$20, a Martingale sequence would go like this: \$20, \$40, \$80, \$160, \$320, \$640, \$1280.... You can see that if you win at any point you would be \$20 ahead. In theory, you could keep on doubling your bet and never lose. This would, however, only be true if you had infinite capital, as well as infinite time. The Martingale bettor will almost certainly win in the short term. This convinces a lot of players that it works. In fact, all they are doing is giving them selves a good chance of a small win offset by a small chance of a large loss. Six losses will take you beyond many table maximums.

The anti-Martingale is a system in which the opposite strategy is played. You double your bet every time you win, and reset it to the amount of your first bet when you lose. Consequently, you have a large chance of a small loss and a small chance of a large win.

There are numerous other variations on this most popular of betting systems. Without exception, they have no effect on the long-term odds of the games. In the short term, however, they can have a significant effect. A player who uses the Martingale is certain to walk away from the tables a winner, provided he does not encounter a streak of sufficient length to wipe out his bankroll, but when this does happen, the loss is so great that it counterbalances the series of small wins the bettor is enjoying. In effect, the gambler is trading a small chance of a great loss for a large chance of a small win. If he wishes to win a very small amount, he is likely to do it, but if he plays the Martingale system for any length of time, total ruin is inevitable. A Martingale bettor should expect to win his initial bankroll 50 percent of the time (minus the house edge), before encountering a streak of sufficient length to wipe him out.

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The Basic Strategy

The basic strategy for a pair hand that you think is currently the best hand at the table is to bet and raise with it. However, you must take into account the number of opponents ,,on face and tile prospects of your hand remaining best if it doesn't improve. Vulnerable hands, even if they are probably in first place after the flop, may warrant more conservative play. For example, suppose you hold K • T 1l and the flop is T • 6 V5V. Your pair of tens is like a car with good low-end torque that is fast off the line, but can be passed quickly by a hand with more high-end horsepower. If there are three or four other players in and a J, Q, or A falls on the turn or the river, one of them will likely make a higher pair than your tens. Add to this the presence of a flush draw and a straight draw, and you’ll be luck to win with your pair. In such a situation, you should check from early position. In later position, you should bet or raise only if you think it will significantly cut down on the number of your opponents