No Thought Required: Do Betting Systems Really Work?

Money Management & Betting Systems

If there was a betting system invented that was a guaranteed success, then we could all pack up the form books and the head-to-head guides and plan our next trip to Hawaii with the profits we make.

Unfortunately, no such betting system exists. Why? Well, because professional sport is so unpredictable, that’s why. Bad luck, injuries, loss of form….none of these things can be predicted and yet each will have its own impact – often devastating – on a sports person or team; with the ultimate upshot that even ‘dead certs’ can lose, and do so regularly. The number of people ripping up their bet slips in disgust at around 5pm on a Saturday evening is testament to this.

This hasn’t stopped many punters, mathematicians and economists from trying to create their own foolproof betting strategies however, and while none can guarantee a regular income some can actually deliver fantastic success rates and return on investment.

And the good news is that with logic and some mathematical calculations, even the layman punter can utilise these methods for financial gain.

Let’s investigate three of the most popular and discuss their success rates/potential ROI:

The Kelly Criterion


This calculation was founded by mathematician John L. Kelly back in the 1950s, and this actually revolves around understanding the odds for a specific event and whether these represent value or not.

Thanks to his day job, the Kelly Criterion looks like one of those scary equations that many of us dreaded at school:

((odds + 1) x winning chance – 1) / ((odds + 1) – 1)

Yes it looks tricky, and it is tough for a novice to calculate, but with practise it does become easier.

Here’s a working example to get you started:

We are going to back Novak Djokovic to beat Roger Federer at odds of 2/5. To get the ball rolling we need to convert this price into a decimal, which is 1.40. The winning chance as outlined in the Kelly Criterion is based on the market, and because there are only two outcomes here (Djokovic wins or loses) our winning chance is 50%.

Let’s update the equation above with these numbers:

((1.40 + 1) x 0.50 – 1) / ((1.40 + 1) -1)

The resulting number reflects how much of a betting kitty to stake on this bet at the price, and so while it does not guarantee success from a punting perspective it does enable bettors to manage their budget more effectively by dictating how much they should wager each time.

But with the complicated maths required it’s not exactly ‘user friendly’ system, and punters will instead prefer to adopt one of the next two systems.

The Martingale Proposition

Even the most knowledgeable and dare we say it luckiest of punters will experience a losing streak of some kind. The Martingale Proposition determines that a run of losses needn’t be a disaster; in fact it can unlock greater profit.

Each bet must be made at odds of Evens; and this can be in any market. The punter can decide their own wager amount, but this must be staked consistently for each and every bet in the sequence. The idea is that, by doubling up, you will eventually win.

So let’s say our wager amount is to be £10. The math is as follows:

Bet 1 – Placed at £10, wins £20 or loses £10

Bet 2 – Placed at £20, wins £40 or loses £30 (the £10 from Bet 1 plus the £20 from Bet 2)

Bet 3 – Placed at £40, wins £80 or loses £70 (the total of Bets 1, 2 and 3)

Bet 4 – Placed at £80, wins £160 or loses £150 (the total of Bets 1, 2, 3 and 4)

Bet 5 – Placed at £160, wins £320 or loses £310 (the total of Bets 1-5)

And so on.

So as you can see, you will ultimately win double your original wager amount, whether that’s from Bet 1 or Bet 101. This is a great way to manage loss while guaranteeing a win, and for that reason is one of the most popular betting systems around.

Betting on selections priced at Evens is important as it will enable you to calculate your winnings more accurately, but the downside is that you may need a large bankroll to underwrite your eventual win if it takes, say, five or more bets in the sequence to come up trumps. Of course, your maximum win amount is capped at a certain level.

The Fibonacci Equation

This is a rather straightforward mathematical equation that guarantees long-term betting success. It works in a similar way to the Martingale Proposition, where a chain of bets ultimately leads to profit.

The formula is simple: N3 = N1 + N2.

And so the premise is simple. Your wager amount (N3) needs to be the sum of the first two bets in the chain (N1 and N2). The caveat is hugely important though: only bet on selections where the odds are 1.6/1 (or relevant other fractions) or greater to ensure the maths are sound. This process continues until a winner is revealed.

And so our run of bets will look something like this:

Bet 1 = £10

Bet 2 = £20

Bet 3 = £30 (£10 + £20)

Bet 4 = £50 (£20 + £30)

Bet 5 = £80 (£30 + £50)

And so on.

So as you can see, by implementing the Fibonacci System with level stakes you can guarantee an eventual profit; assuming that is that you eventually pick a winning selection!

The Fibonacci System is not without its drawbacks, the main one being that you may need to invest significant amounts of money if you do endure a lengthy losing streak to secure your eventual win. If you don’t have a decent-sized bankroll to fall back on, then this can be a strategy that is financially crippling.

That’s the downside to the progressive betting systems or ‘chases’ as they are known; there is no reason why your selection is guaranteed to win – you could lose hundreds of bets in a row. Sure, this very rarely happens, and with a bit of research and insight you should be able to pick a winner soon enough. You must be patient for any betting strategy to come to fruition….and be prepared to put the money in.

But in truth, few in the betting industry would recommend that punters try any of the progressive betting systems outlined in this article. These are based on the laws of probability – rather than taking into account the unpredictability of professional sport – and have been known to leave individuals financially broken as they seek to chase their losses and win back their stake amounts as prescribed by Martingale etc. In short: stick to sensible betting philosophies such as level stakes, singles or small multiples and doing your research if you want to attempt to secure long term profit.

notice: does explicitly disadvise all progressive stake stategies!