Trading binary options using the Martingale strategy is a contentious subject with many reputable traders, as well as mathematics itself, suggesting it can only have limited success before depleting a trading account entirely of its capital. But what about those binary options traders who use this method alongside their own, back-tested system which has proven to give them a clear edge in the markets? Further exploration of how this method can be effectively used for binary options trader needs to be undertaken, however, it is clear that for certain trading opportunities and strategies, it can be an effective way to successfully use an increased probability of success to an advantage.
The Martingale trading strategy was first introduced by casino gamblers, and especially roulette players, to continue betting after a loss in order to not only cover the previous losses but to also profit from the increasing probability that their bet will be win. Essentially, Martingale trading involves increasing the stake after each loss in order to increase the returns when the winning bet eventually come in; with the understanding that a winning bet is always on the horizon. The classic scenario of a gambler consistently doubling their bet on the red of a roulette table until the ball eventually lands on red (a perceived 50% probability) shows how the simple theory could, in practice be profitable as long as a gambler is willing to spend a considerable period of time at the table.
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Are there any advantages of Martingale in binary options trading?
As attractive as the Martingale strategy may look to both binary options traders, increasing the investment on each high-probability trading set-up, it is initially flawed by two misconceptions. The first of these is the so-called ‘gamblers fallacy’ and an assumption that both the roulette wheel and a financial market have a memory to remember what happened on the previous bet/trade. This assumes that since the roulette wheel has landed 15 times on red, it will realise this and throw a black in there to make amends. In fact, each roulette spin is entirely unconnected to the last and has the same probability of continuing to land on red for the eternity as far as it is concerned. Financial markets, on the other hand, do formulate memory and, whilst this is not guaranteed, the probability of a particular set-up is only based on history which gives a small advantage to the binary options trader using Martingale strategies to counter failed, high-probability set-ups.
The second misconception which may distinguish between using Martingale in a purely gambling sense and for trading binary options is the understanding of the chances of success. Casinos often outlive the gambler for a reason and this is that it always has a statistical ‘edge’ over its customers. Whilst the red and black of a roulette table may seem like a 50% game of chance, the introduction of the green ‘0’ square makes it an unfair game over time with a skewed bias towards the success of the casino. Binary options, on the other hand, can involve methods of trading which, on extensive back-testing, can reveal a bias in favour of the trader and, therefore, the possibility that if Martingale is employed strictly can result in a favourable skew in the direction of the trader.
The risks involved with using Martingale methods with binary options
The major problem for most binary options traders in using Martingale, even with a great strategy producing a 70% win rate, is the possibility of a run of statistically improbable trades. Many binary options traders employing Martingale will have assessed, historically, that their system has only ever encountered a maximum of 6 failed trades in a row. However, since history is not a definitive predictor of future price-action, it is possible that this could be exceeded dramatically. Psychologically, and financially, a run of 9, 10 or even 11 failed trades using the multiplier of Martingale can push an account to depletion. Many strategies when seen on paper look profitable using Martingale may incur periodic drawdowns beyond the resources of the account and here lies the fundamental problem. Having said this, many binary options traders can successfully reduce the risk of this occurring by beginning by trading only a very small fraction (up to 2%) of their account. Although losses can accumulate quickly, this is the only way to mitigate the risk of an improbable, but highly possible run of account-depleting trades.