One of the most popular and versatile betting systems for roulette is the Labouchere strategy, a complex, yet an easily customizable system that can be used by both experienced players and complete novices. Designed to work with even bets, it is a wonderful strategy in roulette, as well as in other casino games where two possible outcomes have approximately a 50% chance of success. The system can be found by various names such as the Cancellation System, the American Progression, or the Split Martingale.
This casino strategy is named after an English aristocrat, Henry Du Pré Labouchère, who was a 19th-century politician and known for his diverse interests and occupations. Labouchere was a member of the parliament, but also a writer, a publisher, a theater owner, and supposedly an avid gambler. Although there is no actual evidence that he had any part in the invention of betting strategies at all, the Labouchere system still bears his name and is most popular among roulette players.
The strategy relies on a negative progression, in which the amount of the bet increases after every loss. Unlike many other popular progressive systems such as the Martingale, for example, the Labouchere system does not try to compensate all losses with winning one big bet. Instead, players who use the system aim at recovering their losses through multiple wins. This happens through the application of a seemingly complex mathematical system and a strictly arranged sequence of numbers.
Even though the Labouchere strategy sounds too complicated at first, it is easy to understand and apply in gaming sessions. Once players learn its basic concept, they can change it and customize it in various ways to suit their own needs. This is why there are so many variations of the Labouchere system in existence – it is flexible, simple to use, and very versatile. It could be molded so that it fits risk-averse players but it can also be changed to suit those who are willing to play with higher stakes. Below, you can find a full description of the Labouchere system, how it works and what variations it has.
How It Works
This strategy works best with even-money bets in roulette such as red/black, high/low, and even/odds. It can be used with inside bets or other types of bets, but they all have lower odds of winning than the even-money, outside bets. This is why the Labouchere, as well as most of the other betting systems popular in roulette, can be extremely risky and dangerous if applied to bets with lower probability.
The Labouchere system is different from most betting strategies in the way it is formed and in the way it functions. Unlike them, it does not consist of a sequence of consecutive numbers that represent each following bet. Here, we start with a sequence of arbitrary numbers and their total represents the net profit we try to achieve at the end of the session. In other words, the sum of the numbers in our sequence will be the amount we wish to win. In the example 1-2-3-4, the total of the numbers is 10 units, which could be $10 (for the sake of simplicity, 1 unit will be $1).
In fact, players determine not only the target, $10, but also how it would be distributed in the sequence – it could be 1-1-1-1-2-2-2 or 4-2-4, for example. In order to start playing with the system, players simply take the leftmost and the rightmost number and add them to get the stake amount for the first bet. So, let us take a longer sequence as an example – 1-1-1-1-2-2-2. The first bet would be $3 and if it wins, the player crosses out the numbers that have been just used and continues with the next set of numbers in the sequence, which sum is also $3. The process remains the same for all winning bets until there are no more numbers in the sequence.
If the first bet loses, however, players add its value to the rightmost side the sequence and the progression would be 1-1-1-1-2-2-2-3. Following this simple rule, the next bet we place would be $4 – if it wins, we remove the first and the last numbers of the sequence but if it loses, we add it to the progression. The idea is that the larger bet created by adding the numbers from the two sides of the sequence would eventually win and that the winning bets would be able to compensate for any losses.
|Total Bet Amount:||$43||Total Payout:||$48||Net Profit: $5|
Additional TipsAs we can see, reaching the target profit may take longer than initially anticipated and after a dozen spins of the wheel, we may still be far from the amount we wish to win. However, the session may continue for as long as the player wishes it to be – it may always end after even a small profit has been made. Of course, the end goal is to win the initial amount, $10.
Players should also take into consideration the fact that even if we still have not reached the target, we gained half of it by losing half of the spins. In fact, in order to be successful with the Labouchere system, players need to win only one-third of the spins plus two. This applies to both long and short gaming sessions – in this example, the required minimum of spins is 5, while if you have 30 spins, you will need to win only 12 of them in order to make a profit. This is a very simple formula that could make players better understand the Labouchere system.
Style of Play and Variations of the Labouchere System
As the Labouchere strategy allows players to determine the numbers in the sequence, it is quite flexible, giving you the option to play more conservatively or with more risk involved. Of course, the riskier roulette play style is associated with higher bets, so devising the proper progression is key to success. Some players would prefer high-stakes play and would, therefore, opt for a longer sequence with larger numbers. Those who have a more cautious approach would, in contrast, go for shorter progressions with smaller numbers.
Below, we have illustrated several styles of play and variations of the Labouchere system, which should be suitable for different types of roulette players.
The Johnson Progression
As we have already mentioned, the Labouchere strategy is very flexible and customizable to players’ individual experience on the roulette table, their bankroll, and their willingness to take a risk. Even before they become comfortable using any particular system, however, they can try one version of the Labouchere, which is extremely safe and suitable even for beginners. Also known as the Johnson Progression, it incorporates several zeros into the sequence.
A good example of this interesting system would be 0-0-0-0-0-0-1 where the target would be $1. If the initial $1 bet loses, the second one would also be $1. If the ones in the progression are all crossed out and all it is left are zeros, the session ends and players could start all over again. The more zeros in the progression, the safer it is, in general. So, let us try the sequence with 10 zeros in the following example:
|Total Bet Amount:||$11||Total Payout:||$12||Net Profit: $1|
Players should take into account that this is quite a long sequence and it starts with several losses in a row. After a total of eleven spins, the system has managed to make a profit and reach the target of $1. This may not be much but progressions of this type are a great tool for less experienced players who want to learn the basics of the Labouchere strategy and apply it in real-money games.
Moderate Style of Play
Most players would not even bother with a progression full of zeros and ones. What most people are usually interested in is the net gains expected from various betting strategies. To avoid excessive risk, however, many fans of the game would simply take a lower target and split it to several numbers in their progression. In fact, the Labouchere system is most often used in this moderate way.
This variation of the strategy allows for relatively good bankroll management over a longer period of time – players will not lose large amounts of cash and their winnings would be relatively small, but reliable. If we take $10 for our net profit at the end of the sequence, we would divide it in 1-1-2-2-3-1. In the table below, we have shown the results of nine random outcomes – in this case, the bet loses four of the spins and wins in five of them. The balance in our bankroll remains positive for most of the time and even though the profits are not substantial, they are consistent.
|Total Bet Amount:||$42||Total Payout:||$52||Net Profit: $10|
Aggressive Style of Play
Some players would, of course, prefer a riskier, more aggressive style of play and the Labouchere system can be easily adjusted to suit these parameters. When used in an aggressive manner, the strategy tends to lead to higher bets and considerably higher losses. Often, roulette players who choose this option would need to have a more impressive bankroll. If the initial sequence contains really high stakes such as $50 or $200 per spin, there is a risk of reaching the maximum limit of the table before making a profit.
To demonstrate this variation of the system in a clear, simple way, we would not try a progression of 50-50-50-200, but something easier to understand instead. Let us take this example – we want to win $10, so we make a sequence of 1-2-3-4. As seen from the table below, it takes only 11 spins to reach a net gain of $10, even though six of the bets lost and only 5 of them won. In addition, looking at the profit column, we can see that most of the time, we are in the red. Still, at the end of the sequence, we manage to recoup our losses and make a profit.
|Total Bet Amount:||$96||Total Payout:||$106||Net Profit: $10|
The Reverse Labouchere Casino Strategy
The Reverse Labouchere strategy was devised more recently by players who believed the original system led to rapidly increasing bets in case of a long losing streak. Indeed, when using the Labouchere, the wagers go high with every loss and the progression of numbers stretches out quickly. Players with particularly bad luck would rarely reach the table limits but there is a very real risk that these increasing bets would drain their bankroll before a substantial gain could be made.
With the Reverse Labouchere Casino Strategy, on the other hand, they would lose only small amounts of money. Of course, profits would be rare but considerable in size and many players find this variation of the system to be much more sustainable in the long term. So, how does it work – it is very similar to the classic Cancellation System but the rules are reversed and from a negative progression, the strategy becomes a positive progression.
Players choose a sequence of random numbers and if they lose their initial bet, they remove the first and last numbers from the sequence. When they win, they add the bet at the end of the progression. In order to demonstrate the reversed system, let us take the sequence 1-2-3-4 as an example and see how effective it could be.
|Total Bet Amount:||$72||Total Payout:||$62||Net Profit: -$10|
The Reverse Labouchere Casino Strategy Additional TipsInterestingly, players who use this system will need to determine a stopping point because if they play out the entire sequence, they will lose the exact amount of money they started with as their target. With the Reverse Labouchere strategy, the amount left at the end of the progression is not the net profit, but actually the net loss. This is why players need to determine a “stop win”, which will be the minimum amount of profit they need before they can stop the progression. In the example above, the stop could be placed either after the fourth or the sixth spin while the player is still winning.
As you can see, the reversed variation takes advantage of winning streaks but as long as the player loses, this strategy could bring great losses that are potentially too high to offset with one or two wins. The great thing about this version is that players can easily set limits to their losses by starting with a less risky sequence of numbers. Short progressions with low numbers are always recommended.
Is the Labouchere System Effective?
Compared to most of the other betting systems used in roulette, the Labouchere strategy is much more flexible, interactive, and entertaining. Players determine the amount they will win at the end of every sequence and the risk involved in their game. In fact, individual decisions here influence the final outcome of the game even though they cannot change the odds and house edge in roulette. After all, the goal in this classic casino game is to win more than you lose and with this system, players are able to do this.
Of course, they need to be very careful in how they apply the strategy and plan everything in advance by creating the optimal sequence of numbers. Longer, aggressive progressions with larger numbers may be very risky and rewarding at the same time, which is why players need to decide how much risk they are willing to accept for every gaming session. Inexperienced roulette players are advised to stick to the safest variation of the Cancellation System and learn and adapt while making small profits along the way.
Overall, the Labouchere strategy could be very effective in helping players organize their play and manage their bankroll, both of which could be very difficult. Often, you place bets on the roulette table without any system or thought about what exactly you are doing. When you use the Labouchere strategy or any of its variations, however, you will have clear goals and you will be prepared in advance even for the losses.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Labouchere Strategy
As mentioned above, the Labouchere Casino Strategy is a flexible and versatile one. Its biggest and most obvious advantage is that can be customized to fit every type of player and every bankroll. Those who are still uncomfortable using betting systems on roulette can adjust the Labouchere so they can make a small profit before depleting their bankroll. Players who are more confident, on the other hand, could try more unconventional solutions such as the Reverse Labouchere. They need to be very careful, however, and determine the exact moment when they will stop the sequence.
Another great aspect of this system, especially when we compare it to other popular strategies such as the Martingale, is that the risk of hitting the maximum table limit before turning a profit is quite low. Of course, such a scenario is still possible, but it is highly unlikely. Moreover, the Labouchere system has a disciplinary role and teaches players how to plan for their wins and losses.
The strategy has its disadvantages, as well, and players need to know that it could be very tricky when a long losing streak occurs. In this case, the line of numbers would only grow with higher and higher bets that may easily eat up their entire bankroll. If they manage to reach the end of the progression, however, they will be able to turn a profit. When it comes to the Reverse Labouchere, the problem could escalate even more quickly because once the sequence is complete, the loss is inevitable.
Betting systems such as the Labouchere Strategy are typically applied to even-money bets, so when using them, players should pick one of the following outside bets in roulette – red or black, even or odd, and high or low. Some players believe sticking to the same bet is essential but, in fact, it does not affect the system in any way. Gamblers can bet on red, for instance, throughout the entire gaming session or change their bet from red to black whenever they wish to – the results of the Labouchere system will be identical.
Overall, this is a good strategy for players who wish to experience a new way of playing roulette without risking too much. Other systems could lead to greater losses and in a shorter period of time. Of course, this would depend on the Labouchere variation you have chosen and on the exact sequence of numbers, you start your game with. Last, but not least, beware of long losing streaks if your bankroll is limited and cannot take in big losses. If you play more aggressively, you may lose a lot of money without a guarantee that you will be able to recover it.