Dear Mark: My brother-in-law swears that after every second win, you double your bet. He says you are keeping the first win after raising the bet and then using house money for the raise. So, his method is $5, $5, $10, $10, $20, $20. If you win six hands in a row, you win $70. Losing six hands in a row costs you $30. What are your thoughts on this system?
Bill L.

You brother-in-law’s wagering system is a progressive method of betting where the bet-size is systematically changed, up or down, across a series of hands according to his own predetermined ($5, $5, $10, $10, $20, $20) formula.

There are an almost endless number of variations of both positive and negative betting progressions distinguished from one another by when the progression is invoked, how much the wagers are raised or lowered, and when the progression is terminated.

The progressive system I have suggested in the past is similar to your brother-in-law’s in that, like him, I set a predetermined percentage increase to follow any winning bet, and I retreat to the table minimum after a loss.

My progressive system goes like this. I increase the wager that follows any winning bet – except the first – by 50%: First $5 bet wins, next bet also for $5 wins, and now we’re off on the 50% gallop: $8, $12, $18, $28, etc., then drop to the table minimum – ‘flat betting’ – after every loss.

Like your brother-in-law, I take a conservative approach and lock up that first $5 win, and wait for a second win before bumping up my bets to engage my variation of a progressive system.

Doing some simple Sister Cyrilla fifth grade arithmetic, here are the totals after six hands. For starters, the typical gambler that flat bets $5 per hand would net $30 after six wins. Your brother-in-law nets $70, and my progressive system returns $76. Every winning hand thereafter – taking into consideration that he bumps up his bets incrementally as he has every two hand by $10 – the progressive formula that I use will outperform his.

Every winning streak will have an end sometime, so your brother-in-law’s way or mine, the potential gain when using a positive progressive system when on a Eureka moment clearly out performs flat betting.

Just so long, Bill, as you don’t employ the Martingale system of betting. The Martingale System is a ‘negative’ progression betting system whereby you do exactly the opposite by increasing your wager size after each subsequent loss. In essence, you, the gambler, double your previous bet (after a loss) leaning on the statistical certainty that sooner-or-later you are bound to win.

Far too many players believe the Martingale system is foolproof because you have to win eventually. The problem with this money management technique is: 1) you do not have an inexhaustible bankroll to take on multiple losses, and 2) the casino owns the bank and sets the rules—like table limits.

Allow me, Bill, to show you how lethal this form of wagering can be. You bet $10 and lose, then $20 to recoup that loss; followed by $40, $80, $160, and finally $320. Six wagers and you have just invested $630 to get your measly $10 back. Your next bet needs to be $640, but your $10 games may have a table limit of $500. A string of six defeats and you are up against the table limit, possibly tapped out and still chasing ten buckaroos.

Have you ever met a gambler who has not lost six, eight or even ten hands in a row? I sure haven’t. Ask any dealer and he or she will tell you that it happens far more often that you can ever imagine.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “When you’re on a winning streak, the feeling is better than any other feeling I know.” 
– Colin Hayes, Thoughts of would-be professional poker player