Of all of the well known systems though, it’s fair to say that the Labouchere is the most complicated, at least initially.
Saying that, it doesn’t take a genius to get to grips with it, but be warned – just like with all of the other systems, while it can work out well in the short term, it will ultimately be scuppered by a losing streak that either eliminates your bankroll or hits the upper betting limit of the table.
The system was invented by Henry Labouchere who was a very enthusiastic roulette player, politician, and theatre producer. He was also English, surprisingly enough, and served as the MP for Middlesex, then Northampton.
His system requires some basic maths during play, and the overall concept is that you can make up your losses from a string of losing bets in a lower number of wins.
It’s known as a negative progression system, so players will bet more aggressively the more they lose, and it runs in cycles.
Here is how it works.
How Does the Labouchere System Work?
To use the Labouchere system on roulette you will need to come up with a sequence of numbers that fits your bankroll. Any sequence will do, but you will be using these numbers to dictate how many betting units to wager on each spin of the wheel, so it’s usually best to keep them small.
For this reason, breaking your bankroll down into units is a good idea, and you can do this however you see fit, but bear in mind that stake sizes can get pretty big pretty quickly, so keep betting units relatively small in comparison to your overall funds.
The system only works using even money bets, so you would need to stick to red or black, odd or even, and high or low bets that pay out at 1:1.
Your potential profit from each cycle is the sum of all of the numbers in your sequence, so many people approach this from a ‘how much do I want to try and win’ point of view, then break that figure down into smaller numbers to create the sequence.
To explain this simply, we will use the sequence 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, with £1 equalling 1 betting unit and a £100 overall bank. We could put the numbers in any order, we have just chosen to keep it numerically simple.
For us, the potential profit for the cycle would be:
- 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 = 15
So that’s 15 betting units, or £15 since we are using £1 as one betting unit.
With this system you always bet the sum of the first and the last number in the sequence, so to begin with we would bet 6 units (1+5), and if the bet won we would mentally cross off the 1 and the 5 in our sequence, leaving us:
- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Our next bet would actually be 6 units again because now the first and last numbers are 2 and 4.
If we won this second bet our final bet would just be for 3 betting units because that would be the only number left in the sequence.
Assuming that bet won we would have made our 15 betting units profit; 6 from the first bet, another 6 from the second, and 3 from the third.
However, if a bet loses you do not cross off the numbers in the sequence, but you do add the amount you have lost to the end of the sequence.
If we lost our first bet our new sequence would look like this:
- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
So our second bet would be for 7 betting units (1+6).
It gets more difficult when you win and then lose, because once numbers are crossed off the list they do not return; so if our next bet won, our sequence would be:
- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
So now we bet 7 units (2+5), and if we lose that bet we need to add a 7 to the sequence, making:
- 2, 3, 4, 5, 7
The 1 and the 6 we used for the winning bet are gone, so our next bet would be for 9 units (2+7).
As you can see, keeping track of this in your head could become very tricky if the cycle continued for a long time, not to mention the spiralling stake sizes.
Example of Labouchere System in Action
To try and make this as simple as possible to understand, here is a table of bets and results using the Labouchere system, and the impact it has on your overall bankroll:
*£100 starting bankroll & £1 units for this example
|Bet||Sequence||Stake||Result||£ Lost/Won||Bankroll Remaining|
|Bet 1||1, 2, 3, 4, 5||£6||Win||+£6||£106|
|Bet 2||2, 3, 4,||£6||Lose||-£6||£100|
|Bet 3||2, 3, 4, 6||£8||Lose||-£8||£92|
|Bet 4||2, 3, 4, 6, 8||£10||Lose||-£10||£82|
|Bet 5||2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10||£12||Win||+£12||£94|
|Bet 6||3, 4, 6, 8||£11||Lose||-£11||£83|
|Bet 7||3, 4, 6, 8, 11||£14||Win||+£14||£97|
|Bet 8||4, 6, 8||£12||Lose||-£12||£85|
|Bet 9||4, 6, 8, 12||£16||Lose||-£16||£69|
|Bet 10||4, 6, 8, 12, 16||£20||Win||+£20||£89|
|Bet 11||6, 8, 12||£18||Win||+£18||£107|
So you can see the stakes started getting pretty high there, and if we had won and lost a few more times instead of going on that final 3 game winning streak then we might not have had enough left to continue the system.
The above is an example of the Labouchere working, because we completed the cycle using all of the numbers in the sequence, and came away with £15 more than we started with. That £15 is of course the sum of our starting sequence; 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 = 15.
The thing is there is no guarantee that the wins and losses will come in an order that allows you to clear the sequence before you either run out of funds or hit the upper table limit, and if that happens (it will eventually) you lose everything.
Questions About the Labouchere System
Can the Labouchere System Guarantee a Profit?
Hopefully we have explained this well enough for you to understand why, but in short, the system can make you money so long as you have infinite amounts of money, time, and a casino that has no upper betting limit.
It only takes one of these things to fail to sabotage the system.
So while it can make you money in the short term if your luck is in, there are no guarantees. It should be seen more of a way to hedge or cover yourself and manage your money, with the understanding that there are holes in the plan.
Can You Adapt the Labouchere System?
You can do if you find something that works for you, but you will never beat the game.
You could give yourself a loss limit for each cycle; so for example if you find the cycle has eroded 50% of your bankroll you might decide to cut your losses and start a new cycle with perhaps a smaller number to play for.
This would give you more longevity at the table and more chance to slowly build back up, but you could just as easily go on another losing streak.
Obviously you can also arrange the numbers in your sequence in any way you wish, which gives you some control over how risky you want the game to be. A £10 profit target can be split into 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1 or 3, 5, 2 – for example.