Many bettors like to have the guidance of a betting system to help inform their gambling, and the Labouchere system is one of the best-known examples. In theory, it will eliminate your losses on all even-odds money bets. You create a customized sequence here, and tailor it to suit your preferences for staking and risk.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the Labouchere. We’ll explain how it works, cover the main pros and cons, suggest alternative systems, and more.

## Introducing the Labouchere Betting System

The Labouchere strategy is designed to help you avoid losing money on games, like roulette, entirely, while attempting to offset the house edge. It does so by operating on a sound mathematical basis, explained on this page. Do be aware, however, that this strategy isn’t foolproof. Like all betting systems, it does have its drawbacks.

Based on its track record, the Labouchere betting system is clearly proven. But what does it actually involve?

### Basics

Firstly, this is a negative progression system. That doesn’t mean the Labouchere strategy is ‘negative’. It means that you’ll be increasing your stakes after a losing streak on even money bets, and reducing them after wins. That’s opposite to positive progression systems – like the Paroli, 1-3-2-6, and Oscar’s Grind – where you increase stakes after a win.

The aim is to reduce your losses. In fact, if everything goes to plan, you’ll eliminate them altogether.

### Details

At first glance, the Labouchere might seem slightly more complicated than other negative progression systems. With the roulette Martingale strategy for example, you literally just double your stake after losing a wager (the Labouchere system is actually referred to as the Split Martingale by some – you’ll see why shortly).

The first thing you must do is decide your unit size. As a rough guide, this will be at most 10% of your bankroll. If there’s \$100 in your account, one unit might be \$10. In this guide though, let’s say you start off nice and slow with \$1 units.

Next, you write down a sequence of numbers in order. You can simply write down the numbers 1 to 7, for example, to get you started.

Now it’s time to start betting. Crucially, you must bet on a 50/50 proposition – Labouchere himself might suggest red/black in roulette.

Begin by adding the first and last numbers of your sequence together, then multiplying it by your unit size. If you’re using 1 to 7, then you’ll bet \$8 (1 + 7 = 8. 8 x \$1 = \$8).

If that first bet wins, you cross the numbers you used off, and proceed to the next ones. Should you keep winning, you’ll simply keep going until all the numbers are crossed off, and you’ve made a nice profit.

If you lose you add whatever your previous stake was to the end of the sequence. In this case, you’d now be using 1-8. If you lost again, you’d be using 1-9, then 1-10, and so on.

## How Does Labouchere Betting Work?

The best way to get to grips with the Labouchere strategy, is with an example.

Here’s how Labouchere betting progression works in practice, using the same figures as those mentioned in the previous section:

• Decide your unit stake. In this example, it’ll be \$1
• Write down your sequence. Here, you’ll use 1-7
• Add together the first and last numbers. 1+7 = 8
• Multiply that figure to get your stake – \$8
• Bet \$8 on red in roulette
• Lose your bet, and add the number 8 to your sequence
• Bet \$9 (1+8) on red
• Lose again, and add 9 to your sequence
• Bet \$10 (1+9) on red
• Win, and get \$10 back
• Cross out the numbers 1 and 9
• Bet \$10 (2+8) on red

That’s how the basic Labouchere in gambling works. You’ll keep either adding or crossing out numbers, depending on whether you win or lose. Eventually (since you’re crossing out 2 for wins, and only adding 1 for losses) you’ll cross out all the numbers – in theory – and will have made back your initial loss.

## Does the Labouchere Betting System for Online Gambling Work?

In short, the system will work in theory… but there’s no guarantee it’ll work in practice. That’s because – like most systems – the Labouchere staking system falls foul of Gambler’s Fallacy.

In this case, the Labouchere cancellation system relies on you getting wins eventually. Will that happen? In all probability, yes. But the problem is that your stakes are growing after each losing streak. If you do lose enough wagers in a row, then – in theory – there’s always the risk that you could blow up your betting account before recovering your losses.

To summarize, the Labouchere betting system has a solid mathematical basis. When it works correctly, it will cancel your losses completely. Like all systems, however, there’s no guarantee it’ll actually work in practice.

Pros

• Sound logical and mathematical base
• Can be applied to any 50/50 gambles
• Should return all your losses eventually

Cons

• There’s always a chance you’ll go on a massive losing streak, which will swallow up your cash balance
• Can’t be used on bets or games which aren’t 50/50

## Reverse Labouchere Betting System

Obviously we’ve focused on the regular Labouchere system so far. You may, however, be interested to know that there’s also a reverse Labouchere strategy

This system is  simply the inverse of the regular Labouchere, and is therefore more of a positive progression system

You still begin by identifying your unit size, then writing down a sequence of numbers. In this case, however, you cross out numbers when you lose bets, and add them on when you win.

While all we’ve done here is flip things around, it actually leads to a completely different system and objective. Now, the sequence is serving as a stop-loss, which will automatically limit the maximum amount you’ll lose.

There’s no built-in limit on your profits here. Some bettors might keep going until they hit the table limit, but – more realistically – you might want to set your own target at which you’ll cash out.

### Losing Example

The reverse Labouchere strategy can be extremely useful as a stop-loss. In this example, we’ll say you don’t want to lose more than \$10:

• Set \$1 as your unit size
• Use the sequence 1-2-3-4
• Bet \$5 (1+4)
• Lose your first bet
• Cross out the numbers 1 and 4
• Bet \$5 (2+3)
• Lose your second bet

The sequence would end there. You’ve only lost \$10, which was your limit before you started. Obviously the sequence and your stake size can both be adjusted if you want a higher limit.

### Winning Bets Example

The reverse Labouchere doesn’t have a winnings target by default. You can set one yourself, however. And, since this is a positive progression system, you’ll place progressively bigger wagers as you win. In turn, if you keep winning, you’ll rack up bigger profits and hit your target faster.

• Identify \$100 as your target, and \$5 as your stake size
• Use the sequence 1-2-3-4-5
• Bet \$30 (1+5 = 6, x \$5)
• Win your bet
• Add 6 to the sequence
• Bet \$35 (1+6 = 7, x \$5)
• Win your second bet (+\$75 overall)
• Add 7 to the sequence
• Bet \$40 (1+7 = 8, x \$5)
• Win your third bet

After winning your third bet, you’d now be up \$115. Since this exceeds your target, you should cash out on that game, and either enjoy your winnings or start a new cycle.

## Splitting When Losing

As noted in our earlier evaluation, there is one potential problem with the Labouchere Cancellation System: you can rack up some big losses – and be placing some major stakes – before turning things around.

That’s where ‘splitting’ comes in. This is a way to make your stakes more manageable, and recover your losses in more of a ‘slowly but surely’ manner.

Splitting does make things more complicated overall, but isn’t difficult in itself. All you do is split your current sequence into smaller, more manageable chunks. If your sequence started at five numbers, for example, but had now swollen to 20, you could split that into two 10-number sequences. You’d then complete one sequence first, and the second sequence after.

You’re still recovering the same amount of money overall – you’re just doing so in multiple stages, rather than one. Since the sequences you’re using with the Labouchere system are smaller, your stakes will be smaller too. In the above example, by simply changing your final figure from a 20 to a 10, you’re significantly reducing your stake in turn.

## Labouchere for Sports Betting

This betting system is popularly referred to as the Labouchere roulette system, since that was creator Henry Labouchere’s game of choice, and is mainly talked about in the context of casino games. There’s absolutely nothing to stop you from also using it for sports betting, though.

All you have to do is make sure you’re placing wagers on markets that are 50/50. You can bet on any sport you like, and use any bet type you please, but you must be placing even-money bets with bookies and nothing else.

That might sound limiting, but – if you try to just use this as a nice guideline for your stakes, but with varying prices on the wagers you’re placing – it won’t work at all.

## Modifying Your Sequence

There are two reasons you might want to modify your Labouchere system sequence.

1. You might want to aim for higher winnings. In this case, you’d lengthen the sequence by adding new numbers. If you want to bet more per time, and win more money per wager, you’d add bigger numbers than those you have already.

2. You might want to reduce your exposure with each wager, while still aiming for the same total. In this case, you would lengthen the sequence, but reduce the value of each number. If you have a very basic sequence of 2,2,2, for example, then you could lengthen it to 1,1,1,1,1,1. You still have the same aim, but will be betting less per time.

While modifying your sequence is certainly possible, we’d advise caution here. If you make any miscalculations, then the system will no longer work, and it’s much more likely you’ll lose your money.

## Tips for Using the Labouchere Betting System

As with all systems, there’s no ironclad guarantee that the Labouchere will work. Even if your stake sizes don’t outgrow your cash balance, simple human error is still always a factor (though you can use a Labouchere system calculator to help minimize this).

That being said, we do believe there are steps you can take to improve your chances of success. Here are four top betting tips for using the Labouchere system

### Stay the Course

If you commit to the Labouchere system, you have to really commit. We don’t mean that in a ‘motivational’ way. We mean that you have to be willing in advance to see the whole thing through, or it won’t work and – unless you get a big win streak – you’ll simply lose your money.

### Be Careful with Calculations

You can’t simply write down a random sequence here, settle on a random stake, and start betting. You need to do your calculations in advance.

For your sequence, identify the amount that you’d ideally like to win, and ensure the numbers in your sequence add up to that figure. If you’d like to win \$20, for example, then 4, 5, 5, 6 would be fine. If you wanted to place smaller wagers instead, you might use 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3.

### Start Slow

The first time you use the Labouchere system, start off with small unit sizes. This might mean \$1 for one bettor, \$5 for another, and \$0.10 for another. It doesn’t matter. The point is that your first attempt is a ‘practice run’.

### Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

While we certainly advise starting off slowly, you should also feel free to experiment once you’re completely comfortable with this system.

That might mean trying out longer or shorter sequences, and even lowering or raising your stakes in conjunction. You could try modifying your sequence as you’re working through it, splitting your sequence if it’s grown too large, or even trying out versions we haven’t touched on here, like the Zero Labouchere or Half Labouchere.

## Alternative Systems

There are a whole lot of systems out there, and the Labouchere might not be the best one for your needs. If you’ve tried it and didn’t enjoy it, or simply don’t like the sound of it, here are some of the most popular alternatives.

• Martingale System – This is the most famous negative progression system there is, and is basically a highly simplified version of the Labouchere. All you have to do here is double your stakes when you lose a wager.
• Fibonacci SystemLike the Labouchere system, Fibonacci uses a sequence. The difference here, of course, is that the Fibonacci sequence has already been decided for you (1,1,2,3,5,8,13, and so on). In fact, all you have to do is decide your starting unit size.
• 1-3-2-6 System – This is another system with a predetermined system. It’s a positive progression system though, in which your stakes grow after wins rather than losses.
• Paroli System – The Paroli is just a positive progression version of the Martingale. You still double your stake size each time, but do so after each win rather than each loss.
• d’Alembert System – The d’Alembert is technically a negative progression system. Unlike most such systems, however, it actually pays genuine attention to both your losses and wins.

## To Labouchere or Not?

There’s no doubt that the Labouchere system is popular, and has stood the test of time. That doesn’t necessarily mean, that it’s actually a good system, which is why we’ve sought throughout this article to give you a balanced view.

Overall, if you’re looking for a betting system to guide your gambling, this is definitely one of the better ones. It’s fairly simple to understand, and the math behind the system is sound. When executed correctly, it will indeed help you recover all your losses.

It does, however, suffer from the common drawbacks of most betting systems – Gambler’s Fallacy, and – specifically – assuming an infinite bankroll. It’s unlikely that you’ll lose lots and lots of wagers in a row… but it’s not impossible. If that does happen, your stakes will grow larger and larger, and could – in theory – grow so big that they swallow up your bankroll.

In short, the Labouchere system is a smart and straightforward system which works well for 50/50 wagers, and can eliminate your losses. Like all betting systems, however, it’s not perfect.