The Labouchere betting system tells casino players how much they should stake when playing popular games like roulette and blackjack. It is a reasonable complex system that requires strong concentration and a large bankroll, but it is very popular among experienced casino players. You can use the Labouchere system when playing blackjack, roulette, baccarat and craps, but it should only be applied to even chance wagers like red/black on the roulette wheel. This guide will explain everything you need to know about the Labouchere system, its pros and cons, and how to apply it to various different casino games at the best online casinos.
How Labouchere System Works
The Labouchere betting system is a negative progression system. It is slightly more complex than other negative progression systems, such as the Martingale and the D’Alembert system, so it is important to gain a thorough grasp of the Labouchere system before trying to apply it at the casino table.
A famous roulette player called Henry Labouchère invented the system back in the late 19th century. For that reason, it is interchangeably referred to as the Labouchere system and the Labouchere system. You might also hear the Labouchere system referred to as the Cancellation System, the Split Martingale or American Progression.
Despite the French name, Henry Labouchere was actually a British aristocrat. He was a writer, journalist, publisher, theatre owner and politician. Labouchere represented Northampton as a member of the Liberal party, but clashes with Queen Victoria ensured he never received a ministerial position. He was a highly controversial figure, but today he is best known for his Labouchere system.
Labouchere was an avid gambler, and he created the system in a bid to apply mathematical rigour to his roulette strategy. The Labouchere roulette strategy is devised to be used on even bets, such as red/black, odd/even and 1-18/19-36. It can also be used for blackjack hands and in other games.
A negative progression strategy means that you increase the size of your stake when you lose, and decrease it when you win. You are essentially chasing losses rather than trying to capitalise upon streaks, so it is a reasonably cautious approach.
You must begin your Labouchere strategy by writing down a sequence of numbers. There is total flexibility here. Most betting systems are very rigid, but the Labouchere system allows you to adjust the initial sequence of numbers to suit your particular level of risk tolerance.
First you have to decide how much you want to win. Then you separate that number into several smaller numbers that add up to your ultimate goal. For instance, if you want to win €100, you might choose this sequence: 10-20-10-10-10-20-10-5-5. Alternatively, if you want to win €200, you might go for 20-40-60-40-40, or if you want to win €150, you could choose 20-30-50-30-20.
If you choose a long sequence of high numbers, you can make a large profit if you manage to complete the change. If you decide to go for a smaller sequence of lower numbers, your potential profit drops, but the level of risk is also lower. Make sure you write your sequence down, as it can be tricky to remember your sequence and calculate everything in your head while playing.
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You start off by adding the first and last numbers of the sequence. This forms your initial stake. If the sequence is 10-20-10-10-10-20-10-5-5, your first bet would be for €15, as you add 10 plus 5 to calculate your stake. If your bet wins, you cross those numbers off from the sequence.
For your second bet, you would again add the first and last numbers in the sequence. With 10 and 5 crossed off from the example above, your second bet would be for €25, as you would add 20 plus 5. Repeat the process until you complete the chain and win your target amount.
If you lose, you add the amount you staked for the losing bet to the end of the sequence. For example, if you lost your opening wager on a 10-20-10-10-10-20-10-5-5 sequence, you would be left with a new sequence of 10-20-10-10-10-20-10-5-5-15. Your next stake would then be €25. If that also lost, you would have 10-20-10-10-10-20-10-5-5-15-25 as your sequence, meaning your next bet would be for €35.
As you can see, the size of your wager continually increases each time you lose. You have to keep adding losing stakes to the end of the sequence and crossing out the first and last numbers when you win until you complete the chain. It is therefore a time consuming process, and you often need a large bankroll and high table limits to make it work.
This chart explains a hypothetical application of the Labouchere betting system in practice:
|#️⃣ Wager||🔢 Sequence||💰 Stake||🥇 Result of Bet||⚖ Balance|
|1️⃣ First Bet||20-30-50-30-20||€40||Loss||-€40|
|2️⃣ Second Bet||20-30-50-30-20-40||€60||Loss||-€100|
|3️⃣ Third Bet||20-30-50-30-20-40-60||€80||Win||-€20|
|4️⃣ Fourth Bet||30-50-30-20-40||€70||Win||€50|
|5️⃣ Fifth Bet||50-30-20||€70||Loss||-€20|
|6️⃣ Sixth Bet||50-30-20-70||€120||Win||€100|
|7️⃣ Seventh Bet||30-20||€50||Loss||€50|
|8️⃣ Eighth Bet||30-20-50||€80||Loss||-€30|
|9️⃣ Ninth Bet||30-20-50-80||€110||Win||€80|
|1️⃣0️⃣ Tenth Bet||20-50||€70||Win||€150|
In this example, the player wins the target goal of €150, created with the sequence 20-30-50-30-20 (which adds up to 150). That is despite winning just half of the wagers placed. In theory, the Labouchere system allows you to hit your target, but there are no guarantees, and you could end up on a losing streak.
Labouchere Betting System Pros and Cons
There are several key benefits to using the Labouchere betting system:
|👍 You can hit your target level of profit despite losing more bets than you win when applying the Labouchere betting system. All casino games have a house edge, meaning you are theoretically likely to lose slightly more times than you win, so the Labouchere system can help you walk away with a profit even if you lose more than half of your bets.||👎 The Labouchere betting system can decimate your bankroll when you suffer a lengthy losing streak. It is a negative progression system, so your stake always increases with each loss. If your bankroll cannot sustain a bad run, the system will fail and you could end up losing a substantial sum of money.|
|👍 The Labouchere system is one of the most flexible betting strategies, because it allows you to choose your own sequence. Provided you stick to the basic rule of dividing your target profit into several smaller numbers, you can make it as long, short, bold or cautious as you like. For example, if you want to win €150, you could go for 10-10-10-20-20-20-10-20-10-10-10, or you could go for 30-50-20-30-20.||👎 You also have to be careful when it comes to table limits when following the Labouchere system. Once again, if you go on a lengthy losing streak, you might not be able to place a large enough bet to continue the sequence, so it can fall apart if the upper limit on the table is too low.|
|👍 The Labouchere betting system is less aggressive than the Martingale system, which requires you to double your stake after every loss. The Martingale attempts to recover your losses with a single win, which means you can end up staking very large amounts of money and quickly come up against the table limits. The Labouchere system tries to recoup your losses with several wins. Losing streaks are therefore less alarming when following the Labouchere system compared to the Martingale system.||👎 It is arguably less efficient than the Martingale system at chasing losses. A single win will wipe out your losses with the Martingale system, but that is not the case with the Labouchere betting system. It means you can endure a lengthy losing streak, win a bet and still be down substantially overall, which can be disheartening for some players.|
|👍 The Labouchere system can allow you to spend a long time at the casino table, as it is not as aggressive as alternative strategies. It is very neat and organised, so it appeals to certain players that like to feel in control. The numbers always add up if you apply it correctly, and it is very satisfying when it pays off.||👎 This system is a lot more complex than alternative strategies. You constantly have to write down numbers and cross them out. If you make a mistake along the way, the system will fail, so it requires a great deal of concentration.|
|👍 The Labouchere system helps you to practice sensible bankroll management. It encourages you to work towards a target and progressively change your stakes according to a pre-determined sequence, so it is arguably better than simply wagering random sums of money throughout a session.||👎 The Labouchere system can slow you down when playing at an online casino. If you enjoy the buzz of playing at pace, the laborious process of writing down numbers and crossing them out can be a distraction.|
|👎 It does not help you cash in on a long winning streak. It is a defensive and reasonably cautious system, so if you want to capitalise on a run of victories you could try the Paroli system instead. The Paroli system encourages you to double your stake after a win.|
|👎 No betting strategy can overcome the inherent house edge. You may enjoy using a Labouchere blackjack strategy, a Labouchere roulette strategy or a Labouchere baccarat strategy, but the house edge means that side bets are never actually even chance, so it can be difficult to complete the Labouchere betting sequence.|
If you want to mix it up, you can go for a reverse Labouchere system instead. This is a positive progression system, so you increase your stake after a win. When you win, you simply add the winning amount to the end of the sequence, and after a loss you cross out the first and last numbers. That might feel more positive, and it certainly helps you capitalise upon winning streaks. However, the initial sequence ends up representing the amount you are willing to lose, rather than win, which can be off-putting to some players.
Labouchere Blackjack Betting System
Classic blackjack has a theoretical RTP (return to player) of 99.41%. The house edge is therefore just 0.59%, so your chances of winning a hand are close to 50-50. You can therefore apply a Labouchere blackjack strategy when playing this popular table game.
Start off your blackjack Labouchere system by deciding the amount you would like to win and setting a sequence you are comfortable with. You might decide you want to win €300, and you could then go for a blackjack Labouchere system sequence of 20-30-30-40-60-40-30-30-20.
You can alternatively choose a base unit. For example, it could be €10, and you would then write that sequence as 2-3-3-4-6-4-3-3-2. For your first bet, you would stake €40, as you add the two base units at the start of the sequence to the two base units at the end.
If your first bet wins, you cross out the numbers at the start and the end of the sequence. Your blackjack Labouchere system sequence would then be 30-30-40-60-40-30-30, so you would stake €60 for your second Labouchere baccarat strategy bet. If your bet loses, add the amount you lost to the right of the sequence. In this blackjack Labouchere system example, you would be left with a sequence of 30-30-40-60-40-30-30-60 if you were to win your first bet and lose your second. Your third bet would then be for €90 when following this Labouchere blackjack strategy.
Keep going until you eventually cross out all the numbers on your blackjack Labouchere system sequence and earn the profit you set out to make. You can then either walk away, start the sequence from the beginning again, or create a new blackjack Labouchere system sequence.
There are no rules regarding splitting cards, doubling down or landing a blackjack when following a blackjack Labouchere system. Most players simply add any extra winnings to their bankroll and carry on with the Labouchere blackjack strategy sequence. If you split cards and just one wins, you might decide to leave the Labouchere blackjack strategy sequence untouched for your next bet.
While we’re on the subject of blackjack, we have written an extensive blackjack strategy guide that outlines everything you need to know to become a pro at the popular casino table game.