A betting strategy or betting system is a structured approach to gambling intended to counter the inherent bias held by the house in casino and card games and by bookmakers in horseracing and sports betting, and gaining in this way a mathematical advantage while gambling. A successful strategy should increase the odds of winning in order to produce long term profits from a pursuit which under normal circumstances will only ever result in a long term loss.
All betting systems are predicated on statistical analysis, seeking to exploit the rare circumstances when the odds are in the favour of the player. Though the basis of all risk is fundamentally the same, betting systems vary in relation to the rules and circumstances of each particular game. The most established betting systems include:
- Card games – Card counting, many systems exist for Blackjack to keep track of the ratio of ten values to all others; when this ratio is high the player has an advantage and should increase the amount of his bets. Keeping track of cards dealt confers an advantage in other games as well.
- Roulette – Martingale
- Horse racing – Hedging, Arbitrage
- Sports – Handicapping
Other widely used systems include:
- Due-column betting – A variation on fixed profits betting in which the bettor sets a target profit and then calculates a bet size that will make this profit, adding any losses to the target.
- Fixed profits – the stakes vary based on the odds to ensure the same profit from each winning selection.
- Fixed stakes – a traditional system of staking the same amount on each selection.
The following betting strategies apply to games which operate on independent events. For such games, the odds of a particular outcome are identical for every bet played. No such strategy can beat the house edge (if any) in the long run, and all of them trade off many small wins for a big loss or vice versa. I’m not particularly fond of these methods, but anyone can deepen the understanding of each of them through the following links:
- Martingale – doubling bet after each loss until a win is achieved (or fails when the amount of the bet becomes excessive)
- Kelly criterion
- Split martingale
- Contra d’Alembert
- Paroli of Three
Horse racing systems
Horse racing betting systems are based on a number of criteria, some of which include analysis of the horses’ form.
Often horse racing systems are based on financial systems such as hedging (betting on multiple outcomes in a race – in finance, a hedge is a position established in one market in an attempt to offset exposure to price changes or fluctuations in some opposite position with the goal of minimizing one’s exposure to unwanted risk) and arbitrage (lay the horse at a low price and back it at a high price). See also the free Arbitrage Stakes Calculator tool for practical use.
Other horse racing systems exist which are based on items such as horse name, jockey form, trainer form, and lane draw. Modern horse racing systems can rely on specific betting possibilities only offered on betting exchanges.
Loss recovery systems such as Martingale can also be applied to horse racing.