Labouchere System Explained

A student practicing the game of roulette. Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP.

The Labouchere system is a negative progression system that helps you chase down losses when playing casino games. It can be applied to bets with a roughly 50/50 chance of success, such as a blackjack or baccarat hand, red/black on a roulette wheel, or pass/don’t pass in craps. Read on to learn more about the Labouchere system.

What is the Labouchere Betting System?

Henry Labouchère, a prominent 19th-century roulette player, created the system in a bid to beat the casinos. It is also known as the Split Martingale, the American Progression, or the Cancellation System.

You start by deciding the amount you want to win. You can then break that figure down into several smaller components, in any order you like.

For example, if you want to win $200, you could come up with a sequence of 20-30-40-30-40-30-20-10. The sequence just needs to add up to the amount you want to earn, but it is flexible. If you want a quicker time at the table, you could go for 40-50-60-50, for example. If you wanted to enjoy a more leisurely session, you could go for 5-10-20-10-10-30-30-30-30-10-10-5.

The idea is that you add the first and last numbers of the sequence together to form your initial bet amount. If your first bet wins, you cross those numbers off the list. You then repeat the process, by adding the first and last numbers left in the sequence to form your second bet amount. Keep going until all the numbers are crossed off, and you will win the desired amount.

After a loss, you add the amount wagered for that losing bet to the end of the sequence. You then try again, adding the first and last numbers together to form your next bet amount. That ensures your stake grows progressively larger after each loss.

Labouchere Betting System Example

Let’s say you want to win $200 and you start with a sequence of 30-50-50-40-30. You would start off by adding the first and last numbers of the sequence (30 +30) together, meaning you would bet $60.

If that bet were to lose, you would add 60 to the end of the sequence, making it 30-50-50-40-30-60. For your next bet, add the first and last numbers together to arrive at a $90 bet. If that loses, the sequence will become 30-50-50-40-30-60-90.

Your next bet would be for $120. If that were to win, the sequence would become 50-50-40-30-60. If that wins, cross out the 50 and the 60 to arrive at a sequence of 50-40-30. Keep going until the numbers are crossed out and you are up to $200.

Labouchere Betting System Pros and Cons

The Labouchere betting system is a fun, flexible negative progression strategy that helps you chase down losses in a moderately aggressive manner. You can hit your desired profit amount despite losing more than half of the bets you place, which is helpful when you are playing casino games with an inherent house edge.

However, it can quickly wipe out your bankroll if you go on a losing streak, so you need a large bankroll and broad table limits. Other downsides are that it can be painstaking to keep continually write down and cross off numbers, while it does not capitalize on winning streaks, nor does it chase losses as efficiently as some rival strategies.

Labouchere Betting System Alternatives If you want to chase losses in a more aggressive manner, you can opt for a Martingale System. The Fibonacci System and the D’Alembert System are less complex negative progression systems to follow, while the Paroli System, Oscar’s Grind, and the 1-3-2-6 Betting System can help you cash in on winning streaks