The Labouchere Betting System

The Labouchere Betting System

The Labouchere betting system is named after Henry Du Pré Labouchère who was an English politician, writer, publisher and theatre owner. Labouchere was a wealthy man and had a keen interest in gambling, especially roulette. He became famous for inventing a roulette strategy, which today is named after him – The Labouchere System. The system is also known as the Split Martingale or the Cancellation System.

Like the Martingale, D’Alembert Fibonacci betting systems, the Labouchere is a negative progression system. As such it does involve increasing your stake. However, unlike the other systems, it does not try and win back any loses with one single bet. Rather it is designed to recover losses over a number of winning bets.

System explained

The Labouchere system is very flexible system that can be applied to most markets. However, it is best used on odds around 2,00.

To correctly use the system, you will need to write down a sequence of numbers and be able to edit those numbers. You can either use pen and paper or a document or spread sheet on your computer.

Before placing your first bet, you need to decide how much money you aim to win and write down a sequence of numbers that in total add up the target winning amount.

Let’s say that the target is €10. The sequence could then look like this.

1 – 2 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 1 

You can choose any target amount you like and decide what the sequence shall look like. It is important to know that your stake will always equal the sum of the numbers furthest to the left and to the right. The higher the numbers in the sequence are, the higher you stake will be. The only exception to this rule is when you are left with just one number. When this happens, your stake will equal that last remaining number.

  1. Starting the sequence: Your first bet must be equal to the sum of the number furthest to the right and furthest to the left. In the sequence above the initial stake will be 1 + 1 = €2
  2. Next step after a winning bet: When you win a bet, you must cross out or remove the two numbers you just used to calculate your stake. In this case the sequence will now look like this

1 – 2 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 1. The reason for crossing out or removing the numbers after a winning bet is that you have now won part of the winning target. In this example we have now won €2 out of the target winnings of €10. To calculate the stake for the next bet, you apply the same method of adding the numbers furthest to the right and left together. Here the stake will now be 2 + 1 = €3. When there is just one number left, that number will be your total stake.

  • Next step after a losing bet: When you lose a bet, you must not remove or cross out any numbers. Instead, you add the total stake to the right side of the sequence. Using the initial sequence of 1 – 2 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 1 and with a first bet or 1 + 1 = €2, you must add the number 2 to the right side of the sequence after the bet lost. The new sequence now looks like this 1 – 2 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 1 – 2. Your next stake will then be the total sum of the numbers furthest to the right and left, 1 + 2 = €3.

Example

Target winnings €10 and the sequence is 1 – 2 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 1.

Bet no. Sequence Stake Outcome Profit
1 1 – 2 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 1 €2 Win €2
2 2 – 3 – 2 – 1 €3 Lost -€1
3 2 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 3 €5 Win €4
4 3 – 2 – 1 €4 Win €8
5 2 €2 Win €10

The Labouchere system is a negative progressive betting system and the stakes increase after losing a bet. However, they do not increase as fast as for example the Martingale system. This means that the system is more manageable and you do not the same size bankroll as you do with the Martingale system.

On the other hand, a losing streak can still increase the stakes beyond what is affordable to you. Also, the sequence may become very long and it can be hard to win back any loses.

Who should use this strategy

Due to the more complex nature of this system, it is not recommended for beginners. Using this system doesn’t require the same size bankroll as other negative progressive betting systems. However, a medium sized bankroll is recommended as the stake will increase after losing a bet. It is very important to stay disciplined regardless of the outcome of your bet. Betting systems only work when you follow the rules.

Remember, there is no guarantee of profit regardless of which betting system you use.

Pros and cons

Thumbs up for these Pros

  • Greater chance of being profitable than other negative progressive betting systems
  • The betting stakes does not increase as fast as with other systems

Beware of these Cons

  • More complicated than other negative progressive betting systems
  • Need to constantly cross out or add numbers, which can make it easy to lose track

Variations to the system

Flexibility

The Labouchere system is extremely flexible and you can adjust the initial sequence to adjust the risk profile and target winning amount. This customisation aspect is fun to play around with so you can find a target amount and sequence that fit your betting style. 

Minimum risk sequence

As the risk and associated sequence of numbers is completely your choice you also have the option to decrease risk by adding in one or several zeros. This will decrease the risk of the stakes escalating beyond your bank roll and make is easier to manage a losing streak.

If we add some zeros to the sequence used in the example above, it could look like this.

0 – 1 – 0 – 2 – 3 – 0 – 2 – 0 – 1 – 1

The stake for the first bet is 0 + 1 = €1 and if it loses, you will only need to the number 1 to the right side of the sequence rather than the number 2, which would have been the case without the zeros.

An extreme but very interesting sequence is known as the Johnson progression and looks like this 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 1.

Splitting when losing

Another variation that will decrease risk during a losing streak is to split sequence into sub-sequences when the stake gets too high.

Let’s assume that we lost a bet with a stake of €10. Rather than adding the number 10 to the right side of the sequence, we can make a sub-sequence of smaller numbers that total 10. We then complete the sub-sequence before continuing the initial sequence.

Initial sequence: 5 – 1 – 6 – 5 – 3 – 1 – 5

Sub-sequence: 1 – 2 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 1

The Reverse Labouchere

Yet another variation is the Reverse Labouchere. As you may have guessed we increase the stake when after a winning bet and decrease after a losing one.

  • After a winning bet, add the sum of the bet at the right side of the sequence
  • After a losing bet, erase the numbers you bet