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4 August 2009

E-mail spam is always full of bad ideas on how to get rich quick, whether it's the overseas lottery you never entered, the attorney or bank looking for the next of kin of a deceased foreign national or the desperate but wealthy individual trying to move funds from his own country. All you need to do is provide financial information so they can make a transfer — and then your trouble really begins.

Then there's the roulette system currently making the rounds via spam. A member of an online community called my attention to this one. In their favor, the senders aren't trying to drain your bank account. Casinos will do that quite nicely if you take the system seriously.

It's a variation on the old Martingale that I've been warning readers against for 15 years. In the Martingale, you double your wager after each loss until a winning bet finally wipes out all your losses and gives you a small profit. The wins are fool's gold. Eventually, a losing streak comes along that leads to losses too large to overcome, wiping out all profits and then some.

The spam version is the Martingale on steroids, with bigger bet increases for rapid transit to the point where you can no longer bet enough to make up losses.

With a warning to NEVER try this for money, here's the system.

"Bet \$1 on black. If you win, take your profit and start again. If you lose, bet \$3 on black. If you lose again, bet \$8 on black, then \$20, then \$52.

"Any time you win, you will have a profit, and you then start over with a \$1 bet. For example, if you win the \$52 bet, you will have wagered \$84 — \$1 + \$3 + \$8 + \$20 + \$52, but you will have \$104 — your \$52 wager plus \$52 in winnings. That's a \$20 profit.

"Beyond \$52, always multiply your previous bet by about 2.5. As a 50-50 bet, it's bound to go black eventually, so you always win."

Let's make a checklist:

• Red/black wagers on roulette ARE NOT 50-50 propositions. In addition to the 18 red numbers and 18 black numbers, there are two with green backgrounds — the 0 and 00. Your bet on black doesn't win on 18 of 36 numbers; it's 18 of 38. That gives the house a 5.26% edge that is working on every spin.
• The wheel has no memory. It doesn't know whether you've lost one bet, two in a row, five in a row or 10 in a row. On the next spin, you still have 20 chances in 38 of losing.
• Wagers get very large, very rapidly. Note that with a \$1 start, after four losses in a row, you're betting \$52. Multiplying by 2.5, after five losses that would mean betting \$130, then \$325. After seven losses, it would be \$812.50 — let's say your round down to \$812. At that point, you have risked \$1,371 in your seven bets, and you are still an underdog.
• Casinos have both minimum and maximum bets posted at each table. I have never seen a \$1 minimum table with a maximum bet as high as \$812. Mostly, \$1 tables have minimums of \$50, \$100 or \$200. You run up against the table maximum rapidly, within four or five losses, leaving no opportunity to make the next bet. You just have to absorb the losses.
• Most casinos have higher table minimums than \$1. If the minimum bet is \$5, we're not looking at \$52 as a fifth bet, we're looking at \$260, then \$650, then \$1,625. Never mind that no \$5 table is going to allow a \$1,625 bet, wagering thousands for a chance at a profit based on a \$5 starting point is insane.
• Long losing streaks happen more often than you think. I'm not going to walk through all the math here, but you'll lose five in a row about 4% of the time, and that 4% will wipe out all your winnings from the other 96%, plus leave you with a loss almost as large.

The bottom line is that this system will win more often than it loses. But when it loses, it loses big. Giant, whopper losses that will eat up your bankroll faster than you can say, "Cash me out."

I've never had anything good to say about the double-up Martingale, which is a cash-gobbler in its own right. But now I can say that at least it's not as bad as the latest hot e-mail tip.

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Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

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John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.