Roulette betting systems are always worthless. Don’t bother with them. If you’re going to play roulette, the best approach is to accept that it’s a mathematically losing proposition if you play long enough. As long as you’re getting your money’s worth in terms of entertainment, you’re doing fine.

Why don’t roulette betting systems work? It’s all in the math.

Casinos are some of the most profitable businesses you’ll ever find. That’s because the games are all set up in a way which guarantees the casino a mathematical certainty of winning over time.

They do this by offering payouts that are slightly less than the odds of winning. In roulette, for example, a straight-up bet pays off at 35 to 1. The odds of winning, though, are 37 to 1. It doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to understand why this results in sure winnings for the casino over the long run, but here’s a clarification.

Assume that you play exactly 38 spins on a roulette wheel, and you see mathematically perfect results. You’ve bet on the same number for all 38 spins. In a mathematically perfect example, you’ll have won once, and you’ll have lost 37 times.

If you’re wagering $100 per spin in that situation, you’ll have won $3500 on the hand which you won. But you’ll have lost $3700 on the other losing spins. Your net loss for this hypothetical situation is $200.

Of course, in reality, you don’t see mathematically perfect sessions like this. The rule of thumb is that over time, the more results you see, the closer they get to mathematically perfect. That’s why a player who spends an hour or two at the table might walk away a winner, but the casino still makes a profit over the long term.

A small casino might have four roulette tables with an average of four players at each table per hour. That’s 16 players per hour placing an average of 40 bets per hour, or 640 bets per hour. Over 24 hours, that casino has taken 15,000+ bets. Over the course of a month, that’s about half a million bets. And over the course of a year, that’s six million wagers.

The casino will see close to mathematically true results over that volume of bets. A single player won’t even come close to that kind of long-run expectation.

You can win at roulette. You just have to get lucky. But nothing you can do will affect your chances of getting lucky. The math stays the same no matter what you do.

That’s why roulette systems are nonsense. They’re unable to change the math of the situation.

Most roulette systems are variations of progressive betting systems. The most famous of these is the Martingale System, in which you double your bet after every loss. At first glance, the Martingale System sounds like a sure thing. But it falls apart under closer examination.

A Martingale player will make a $10 bet on an even money bet on the table and hope for a win. But if she loses, she’ll double the size of her next bet in order to recoup her losses and still wind up a single betting unit ahead. If she loses twice in a row, she’ll double up again. This betting progression, if you’re on a losing streak, might look like this:

$10 – $20 – $40 – $80 -$160 -$320 – $640 – $1280

And so on.

The flaw in this betting system is that you’ll see losing streaks more often than you think you will, and when you do hit a bad losing streak, you’ll have lost a massive amount of money.

Another flaw is that eventually you’ll wind up needing to place a bet that’s either more than you can afford or that’s over the table maximum at the casino. In that case, the system breaks.

In the example above, if you’ve lost that many bets in a row, your next bet would be $2560. You’ve already lost $2550, so if you win after placing this massive wager, you’ll still only be up by $10.

And what are your chances of winning on this large $2560 bet? About 47.3%.

The odds of each roulette spin are independent of each other spin. You’re not more likely to win after losing 8 spins in a row.

Other progressive betting systems involve other, more complicated, methods of raising and lowering your bets depending on what’s happened on previous spins. But at the end of the day, math will win out.

You might be able to grind out a few small wins using one of these systems, but if you play long enough, you’ll eventually lose all of those and then some when you come upon the inevitable losing streak.

Michael Shackleford runs a website about gambling math called The Wizard of Odds. At one time he offered to bet $20,000 versus $2000 that any betting system would lose over a billion wagers. Daniel Rainsong contacted him via email and agreed to take him up on the challenge.

This simulation used blackjack rules rather than roulette rules, and the house edge on the game variation used was 0.26%. That’s 5% better than you’ll find on a roulette game, so the chances of his betting system working should have been significantly better than if he’d used roulette.

It would have taken 14 hours to run through a billion blackjack hands via the simulator, so they did a test run of just 10 million hands. The system showed a profit of and on for the first 168,000 or so hands, but after that, the losses piled up, and the simulated player was never ahead again.

This is as good a real life demonstration as you’ll probably ever see of why betting systems don’t work on games with a negative expectation.