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What they are and how they work
Betting systems vary widely in method and promised results. Generally, there are four types of betting strategies: those applicable to card games, to roulette, to horse racing, and to sports events. Betting systems are not the same as card-counting strategies, which work on the principles of memory and mathematical odds, but rely on basic probabilities that do not usually require mathematical calculation.
Horse racing betting systems are among the most popular and widely known. These generally involve a knowledge of the past history of the horses involved, their likely state of health, injury reports, and a comparative study of the merits and weaknesses of the animals in the race. Some systems involve hedging one’s bets, or betting on more than one horse in the same race. Others involve arbitrage, or placing a number of bets on horses with a low probability of winning, thus maximising the return on a minimal investment if even one of the horses wins their race.
A general system that can be applied to nearly all repeated gambling events is the Martingale system. Popularised in France during the late 1700s, it is extremely simple in theory. The Martingale system involves doubling your bet each time you lose, with the assumption that statistically you will win and recoup any losses due to the size of your stake. While this has been proven to be less than effective in most games that favour the house, some betting systems are still based on this general principle.
The Kelly criterion is the basis of most successful betting systems. It involves a complex formula weighing the expected rewards of winning a bet against the expected loss to determine the optimal betting pattern and incorporating the estimated odds of each outcome. Kelly systems tend to reward underbetting in cases where the precise odds and outcomes are not known to the gambler. The Kelly criterion has gained such wide acceptance that it has been incorporated into most modern investment systems as well as gambling strategies.
Betting systems for sports competitions and horse races are usually partially or completely based on handicapping, or weighting various advantages and disadvantages of the teams against each other. This results in a predicted point spread, the amount by which the favoured team is expected to win. Some betting systems are devoted to “beating the spread”, or determining whether or not the gambler should vote over or under the spread in various situations.
The best betting systems are obviously those that produce winning results over time. The best advice for gamblers is to find a betting system that works consistently and stick to it, offsetting temporary losses with wins to achieve the best results possible in the long run.