What is the Labouchere System?
The Labouchere betting system is a negative progression system. This means that it requires you to increase your bet after a loss and decrease the bet after a win. In this respect it is similar to the Martingale, which is also a negative progression system. However, there is an important difference in approach. The Labouchere does not attempt to recover all previous losses in one game round. Rather, it aims to recoup them over a series of wins.
The betting system was created by Henry Labouchere and he created it specifically for roulette. However, it can actually be used with any games that offer even money bets. When it comes to roulette it means you can use the Red/Black, Odd/Even and 1-18/19-36 bets.
How to Use the Labouchere System?
The first thing you need to do is create a betting line. This determines the size of your bets as well as how long you will bet for. Furthermore, the potential profit from the system is equal to the sum of all the numbers in the betting line.
To keep things simple, we will use an example betting line of 1 - 2 – 3
With this betting line, the potential profit from a complete cycle is €6. When you place a bet, it should be equal to the leftmost number of the line added to the rightmost number of the line. In this instance, it means that you would start with a bet of €4.
If you win your bet, then you remove the leftmost and rightmost numbers from the betting line. With the above example this simply leaves you with 2. Therefore, your next bet would be 2. You repeat this process until there are no numbers left in your betting line. At this point you can either stop playing, start again with the same line, or devise a new line.
However, things become a little more complicated if you lose. Were you to have lost your first bet of €4, rather than remove numbers from the betting line, you add your bet to the end of the betting line. This means that your betting line is now 1 - 2 - 3 - 4.
You would then place a bet of €5 in the next round. If that won, then your betting line would become 2 - 3. If that won, then the next bet would be €5 (2 + 3), but if it lost, then your betting line would become 2 - 3 - 5.
As long as you remember to remove the numbers after a win and add the last bet after a loss, then the system works.
A More Complex Example
The above example was very straightforward. However, things can become a little more complicated, especially if you initial betting line is a bit more imaginative.
Here is a worked example using the betting line 1 - 3 - 4 - 2 - 1 - 2:
- First Bet: 1 + 2 = 3, so a first bet of €3. The bet loses and the line becomes: 1 - 3 - 4 - 2 - 1 - 2 - 3
- Second Bet: 1 + 3 = 4, so you bet €4. The bet wins so the line becomes: 3 - 4 - 2 - 1 - 2
- Third Bet: 3 + 2 = 5, so you bet €5. The bet wins so the line becomes: 4 - 2 - 1
- Fourth Bet: 4 + 1 = 5, so you bet €5. The bet loses so the line becomes: 4 - 2 - 1 - 5
- Fifth Bet: 4 + 5 = 9, so you bet €9. The bet wins so the line becomes: 2 - 1
- Sixth Bet: 2 + 1 = 3, so you bet €3. The bet wins and the line is complete.
As mentioned, once a betting line is complete, your profit will be the total sum of the numbers from the original betting line. This means that in the above example your profit would be 1 + 3 + 4 + 2 + 1 + 2 = 13
Regardless of how many wins or loses you incur along the way, as long as you see your betting line through to the end, then this will always hold true.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Labouchere System
The great advantage of the Labouchere system is that it is extremely flexible. As you are able to set the betting line, then you can adjust the levels of risk and reward. For example, you can start with a short sequence of low numbers for low risk and small profits or a long sequence of high numbers for greater risk and more profits.
However, you have to be careful. There is always the chance of hitting a long losing streak and this can quickly result in very large bets. One way of mitigating this risk is to include a few 0s your betting line. If you space them out, then it will help prevent you having to bet larger and larger amounts.
The problem that you will always come up against is the house edge. While it is true that if you always follow your betting line through to the end you will make a profit, it is also true that the house always has an edge and in the long run, there is a real chance of hitting a very long losing streak.
When this happens, you may either run out of funds or hit the table’s upper betting limit. Even if you then move to a table that accepts larger bets, at some point you are going to hit the point where you cannot place a bet of the required amount and this will most likely wipe out all your profits.
Ultimately, the Labouchere system comes up against the same problems as any other betting systems, the house edge, a limited bankroll, and table betting limits. However, it can be an enjoyable system and if you budget carefully and construct your betting line sensibly, then it may well help you to play for longer in a single gaming session. As such, it is certainly a betting system that is worth understanding and experimenting with for yourself.