Labouchere Betting System

Unlike the betting systems we have covered so far, the Labouchere system is more complex and requires more time to master. In fact, less experienced players often resort to using a pen and a writing pad until they become better acquainted with how the Labouchere works. Players are likely to encounter this system under different names – American Progression, Split Martingale and the Cancellation System.

Who invented this betting system remains a mystery to this day. A certain connection has been made to a finance minister in the service of Queen Victoria. The minister’s name was Henry Labouchere and supposedly, he was keen on playing roulette. However, there is no real evidence to indicate it was Queen Victoria’s minister who came up with the idea of the Labouchere betting system.

To a certain extent, the Labouchere resembles the Martingale since it, too, is based on a negative betting progression. From this, it follows that players, who adopt the Labouchere system, are required to increase the size of their stakes after each loss and decrease it after each winning bet. One major difference between the two systems is that unlike the Martingale, the Labouchere aims at recovering consecutive losses through multiple winning bets.

How Does the Labouchere Betting System Work

The first thing you need to know about the Labouchere system is that it is applicable to roulette bets that pay even money, such as High/Low, Red/Black and Odd/Even. In order to use the system, you need to start by writing down an arbitrary line of numbers. For the sake of simplicity, we will use the following line as an example – 1-2-3-4.

The profit you can potentially generate is equal to the total sum of the numbers in the line or 10 betting units in this case. The first bet you place should be equal to the sum of the first and the last number you have written down, or 5 units in this case.

If you happen to win with your first wager of 5 units, you cross out the first and the last number in the line, or 1 and 4 in this example. Then, your second wager will again amount to 5 units or the sum of the remaining numbers, 2 and 3. But if you lose after the first spin, you are supposed to add the amount you have wagered to the line of numbers like so – 1-2-3-4-5.

This is basically how the Labouchere system works. Players remove two numbers after each winning wager and add the sum of the first and the last number to the sequence if they lose. The only exception to the general rule is when only one number remains in the sequence, in which case players wager that amount. Then, if the last bet is a winning one, this betting cycle is completed and the player starts from scratch with their original line of numbers.

It is highly recommended for players to avoid long and aggressive lines of numbers, at least in the beginning, until they get used to the Labouchere system, as this will help prevent confusion. Using a longer line might also exhaust players’ bankrolls if they encounter a longer losing streak where more numbers are added to the line.

Long sequences work to the disadvantage of the players because it is impossible to achieve the full profit potential until all numbers are crossed out and the cycle has been completed. Obviously, completing a betting cycle with a longer number sequence will require more time than crossing out all the numbers in a shorter line. That is why experts recommend 1-1 and 1-2 as starting lines that are suitable for beginners. Sequences consisting of two numbers will require only one extra win to complete the betting cycle.

If players experience a longer losing streak, which requires them to add more and more numbers to the line, they can abandon the sequence altogether and choose another point. This might help them reduce their losses.

The Labouchere System
Spin Sequence Bet (units) Outcome Total Profit
1 1-2-3-4 5 LOSS -5
2 1-2-3-4-5 6 LOSS -11
3 1-2-3-4-5-6 7 WIN -4
4 2-3-4-5 7 WIN 3
5 3-4 7 LOSS -4
6 3-4-7 10 LOSS -14
7 3-4-7-10 13 WIN -1
8 4-7 11 LOSS -12
9 4-7-11 15 WIN 3
10 7 7 LOSS -4
11 7-7 14 LOSS -18
12 7-7-14 21 WIN 3
13 7 7 WIN 10

The Reverse Labouchere

The Reverse variation of the system was introduced in an attempt to remove one major downside of the Labouchere – the possibility of depleting your entire bankroll on a lengthy losing streak, in which case there is no guarantee you will be able to offset the losses.

Players are again required to choose an arbitrary sequence of numbers, like 1-2-3, for example. But you can choose any sequence you like as long as each number is either equal or higher than the previous one. Of course, shorter sequences are again recommendable, but it is also important to mention that if you opt for starting with higher numbers like 3-4-5-6, you will risk larger sums of money with each bet.

The first wager is again equal to the sum of the first and the last number, or 4 betting units in this example. If you win, you add the amount of the stake to the sequence like so – 1-2-3-4. Should you lose, you cross out the first and the last number and the sequence becomes 2-3. Similarly to the regular Labouchere, if only one number remains in the sequence, you bet that amount. When all the numbers are crossed out, you start all over again with your sequence.

Many roulette players consider this variation of the Labouchere more appealing because it provides them with the opportunity to generate greater profits since the size of the bet increases after a win. If the player succeeds in winning several times in a row, this will enable them to balance out the losses they have sustained on previous losing bets.

Another advantage of the Reverse Labouchere is that it enables players to put a ceiling on the amount they can lose at the end of each betting cycle. The losses of the betting cycle will be equal to the sum of all the numbers in the initial sequence. So, if you choose the sequence 1-2-3 from the above example, you will lose no more than 6 betting units in a single cycle if your luck fails you. Needless to say, the shorter the line of numbers, the smaller losses you sustain at the end of a bad betting cycle.

The Reverse Labouchere System
Spin Sequence Bet (units) Outcome Total Profit
1 1-2-3 4 LOSS -4
2 1-2-3-4 5 WIN 1
3 2-3 5 WIN 6
4 1-2-3 4 WIN 10
5 2 2 LOSS 8
6 2-2 4 LOSS 4
7 2-2-4 6 WIN 10
8 2 2 LOSS 8
9 2-2 4 WIN 12

Adjustments to the Labouchere System

It is possible to make the Labouchere system more profitable by making a few small adjustments to reduce the number of additional wins you will need to complete the line. This can be accomplished by starting the sequence after your first loss and adding an extra unit to each wager.

For example, if you lose the very first bet of 5 units, your next wager will amount to 6 units, so your sequence will run as follows 5-6. You hypothetically lose again, so the line will look like this 5-6-12 because of the extra betting unit. You experience a losing streak and lose one more time. At this point, your sequence will be 5-6-12-18 so your fourth bet is equal to 24 units. This time you win, so you cross out numbers 18 and 5 from the sequence. The line is now 6-12 so your next wager is equal to 19, with the additional betting unit. If you win once more, you will complete the full betting cycle, offset the losses and turn a profit.

Adjustments to The Labouchere System
Spin Sequence Bet (units) Outcome Total Profit
1 5 5 LOSS -5
2 5-6 12 LOSS -17
3 5-6-12 18 LOSS -35
4 5-6-12-18 24 WIN -11
5 6-12 19 WIN 8

Advantages of the Labouchere Betting System

One of the advantages of using the Labouchere stems from its flexibility. As was mentioned above, players get to choose any arbitrary sequence of numbers they like. There is the option to go for a safer, shorter sequence or a longer, more aggressive one.

In addition, players can maintain their line by winning only one-third of the time since the sequence is reduced with two numbers after each winning bet and is increased by a single number after a loss. Then, there is the possibility of winning more often than one-third of the time, in which case all numbers in the sequence will be crossed out more quickly and the player will turn a greater profit. Finally, since the betting progression is not that steep, the chances of hitting the table limit are much smaller.

Disadvantages of the Labouchere Betting System

The trouble with the Labouchere system begins when players experience a lengthier losing streak interspersed with single winning bets. In this case, more and more numbers will be added to the end of the sequence. The more the line escalates, the bigger the size of the bets will get. If this happens, you may fail to cross out all the numbers in the sequence, unless you miraculously enter a longer winning streak. Unfortunately, there is no 100% guarantee this would happen.

Similarly to other betting systems, the Labouchere instils disciple in players and helps them to organise and manage their bankrolls more adequately. That being said, the Labouchere system cannot reduce the house edge in any way since it has zero effect on the outcome of the spins that are to follow.