# Labouchere System – What is the Labouchere Betting System?

A betting system describes a predetermined set of rules dictating how you structure bets and regulate stakes. The Labouchere system is a popular example of this and can be used across sports betting sites and casino verticals.

In this guide, we’ll look closely at the Labouchere betting system. We’ll also provide some examples of this system in action while addressing its unique pros and cons!

## What is the Labouchere System?

The Labouchere system is categorized as a negative progression system. This means you must increase your stake with every consecutive loss before resetting to your original bet unit when your next bet wins.

Because of this, the Labouchere system, also known as the cancellation system, is focused on recovering previous losses by optimizing the value of individual wins. In this respect, it’s similar to the iconic Martingale system, although it’s more conservative and doesn’t attempt to recover all previous losses in one go.

To create your iteration of the Labouchere system, you’ll first have to create a unique sequence of numbers. This sequence can take any form you like, although you should ideally consider it as it will impact how aggressively you chase losses. Each sequence should also initially feature at least three numbers, but you can include as many as you like.

With every bet, your stake will be the sum of the first and last number in the sequence. If you lose, the amount previously staked will be added to the end of the sequence, causing your next wager to increase incrementally. The potential profit for each cycle will always equal the total value of your chosen numbers and increase with each successive loss.

In instances where your wager is successful, you’ll remove the first and final number in the sequence.

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## How Does the Labouchere System Work?

Regarding functionality, the Labouchere system is one of the most complex available. However, it becomes easier to understand when you examine practical examples of the Labouchere gambling strategy, especially when starting with a fixed unit bet and a simple numerical sequence. Below, we’ve highlighted a simple step-by-step example of how the betting cycle would work.

• Set an initial bet unit and use this to inform your sequence.
• Then, write down your sequence. If your unit bet is \$4, create the sequence 1-2-3.
• Place your first wager of \$4.
• If this loses, add 4 to the end of your sequence (1-2-3-4). Then, increase your stake to \$5.
• If you lose again, add 5 to the sequence (1-2-3-4-5). Then, increase your stake to \$6.
• If the next wager wins, remove the first and last numbers from the sequence (1 and 5).
• Another win will see you remove 2 and 4, creating a final stake of \$3.
• If this also wins, the betting cycle comes to an end.

Throughout this cycle, you’ll have staked \$24 across five different bets. You’ll have staked \$9 in losing bets and \$15 in winning wagers, creating a \$6 profit when you’re betting at odds of 1/1 or 2.00.

You can also see how your stake amount increases with every loss and either consolidates or decreases with each win. Just remember, the actual efficacy of the Labouchere system will be heavily impacted by your chosen online gambling vertical and the odds of each wager.

## Examples of the Labouchere System in Action

The above example highlights the potential benefits and pitfalls of the Labouchere betting system. Firstly, it’s a conservative negative progression system that doesn’t look to fully recover previous losses. This creates relatively small margins, so the Labouchere system is synonymous with casino games like roulette and even-odds bets.

However, you can also use the Labouchere system for sports betting. In this case, you may start with the same initial sequence (1,2,3), but place your original \$4 on the Detroit Tigers to defeat the Texas Rangers in the MLB. The odds here are 2.00, so every \$1 you wager successfully will deliver a \$1 profit.

If the Tigers win, you’ll earn a \$4 profit. Your next bet is \$2.00, and you use this to back the Miami Marlins to overcome the San Francisco Giants in the same competition (at odds of 2.10). If the Marlins prevail, you’ll bank \$4.20 in profit, ending the cycle. You’ll be left with an \$8.20 profit across these two wagers.

You can also see how the odds of each pick will impact your performance, especially when engaging in sports betting. Successfully backing higher-priced betting underdogs would secure significantly higher profits. However, this strategy also increases your chances of incurring consecutive losses and will see you risk more of your bankroll in pursuit of a win.

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## Labouchere System Pros and Cons

Like every betting strategy of this type, the Labouchere system has its unique pros and cons. Understanding these is key to determining its viability and your precise methodology, so let’s consider the benefits and disadvantages of this cancellation system.

#### Pros:

• It maximizes the value of each win.
• It can be used across casino and sports betting verticals.
• It provides a structured approach to betting.
• You can create initial sequences that reflect your desired returns.
• It lets you conservatively chase previous losses.

#### Cons:

• It can place a strain on your bankroll.
• It’s a relatively complex betting system.

## The Reverse Labouchere System

You may have also heard of the Reverse Labouchere system, an example of a positive progression betting system. It’s the mirror opposite of the classic Labouchere system, as it simply reverses the outcomes for winning and losing and ultimately requires you to increase your stake with every successful bet.

This can be similarly complex and requires comprehensive understanding, but it has a different focus as a positive progression system. Instead of targeting the recovery of losses, it enables you to effectively safeguard your bankroll by only encouraging you to raise your stake with every win.

Like the classic Labouchere system, the reverse iteration was designed specifically for even money games and markets. Both systems, therefore, deliver similar results and outcomes, but you’ll choose based on your preferred betting strategy and appetite for risk. The Reverse Labouchere is recommended if you’re risk-averse or have a small bankroll.

## Labouchere Betting Strategy at a Blackjack Table

In addition to roulette and sports betting, blackjack players also widely use the Labouchere system. Classic blackjack has a published return-to-player (RTP) rate of 99.41%, creating a minimal house edge of just 0.59%. This means your chances of fielding a winning hand are close to 50-50, making the Labouchere system a viable option.

Once again, you’ll create a sequence based on your starting bankroll and desired returns. If you decide to set an initial unit bet of \$5, for example, your initial sequence of 1,2,3,4. From here, your stake will increase incrementally with every loss, while most blackjack winnings will be paid out at even money odds.

One interesting element is that some blackjack outcomes pay much higher than even money returns. For example, a blackjack often pays out at 3:2. There are no fixed rules for doubling down or splitting cards when using a blackjack Labouchere system. However, you’ll usually reinvest any additional winnings into your bankroll without altering your number sequence.

## Labouchere Betting Strategy for Roulette

Various bet types are available when playing roulette, broadly categorized as ‘Inside’ and ‘Outside’ wagers. The former describes high-risk and high-reward bets and includes examples such as a straight-up wager on a single number. This boasts odds of 35/1 (when playing the European iteration) and has a win probability of just 2.63%.

Conversely, outside bets are dominated by even-money wagers such as high-low, red or black and odd or even. These wagers all payout at 1:1 and boast a 47.37% win probability. You can also place dozen and column bets on 12 numbers at once, with these paying out at 2:1 and having a 32.43% chance of occurring.

So, when devising a Roulette Labouchere cancellation system, the key is to evaluate your starting bankroll and desired returns. For example, if you’re a high-stakes bettor who wants to target inside bet types, you’ll most likely incur numerous losses before winning. This means you’ll need a significant bankroll to fund your initial losses over a sustained period.

However, if you prioritize outside bets at odds that imply a high probability of winning, you’ll complete betting cycles quite quickly and potentially bank nominal returns. In this case, both the Labouchere and Reverse Labouchere could be effective betting systems, especially if you also have a relatively small bankroll.

## Labouchere Betting with Other Casino Games

The question remains whether you can use the Labouchere betting system with other casino games. The short answer is yes, with the relatively niche discipline of baccarat offering a relevant case in point.

Like classic blackjack, baccarat boasts quick gameplay and an incredibly competitive RTP rate (98.94% for a banker bet on average and 98.76% for a player wager). This makes a baccarat Labouchere system perfectly viable and can be structured and applied the same way.

Once again, it would be best to consider the precise bets in baccarat. For example, the banker’s bet pays out at a rate of 1:1 and boasts a win probability of 45.86%. The player’s bet offers a payout of 0:95:1 and a win probability of 44.62%, while your potential profit here will be slightly less than your original stake.

Some baccarat iterations also feature the ‘tie bet,’ which pays out at 8:1 and has a win probability of just 9.52%. The house edge here is as high as 14.36%, so you’ll have to balance the potential for higher returns with a much lower likelihood of winning in the first place.

You can also utilize a Labouchere cancellation system when betting on craps. However, this is best reserved for specific, even money bet types, such as pass, don’t pass, don’t come, Big 6 and Big 8. Remember, there’s a significant range of wager types available when playing craps, but Labouchere may not be suitable for many of these. However, you can at least use the Labouchere system across multiple bets when playing craps, affording you genuine flexibility and optimizing your chances of securing a return.

## The Labouchere System and Sports Betting

As we’ve discussed, sports bettors also use the Labouchere betting system. However, this type of system is less common in soccer and basketball wagering, primarily because of the variable odds available and the sheer range of betting markets you can target.

If you develop a Labouchere system for sports betting, however, there are a couple of things to remember. Firstly, you’ll have to target even money bets where possible here, including markets with just two potential outcomes (such as both teams to score and the over/under on points or goals scored) and outcomes with an implied probability of close to 50%.

You can also back match winners in some instances, especially those priced at +100 or as close to this as possible.

Secondly, it’s important to factor in the additional variables that impact the outcome of sporting events. These include form, injuries, suspensions, and load management, which can directly influence performances and enable you to identify superior value in published odds. As a result, you may be able to back higher-priced teams without overly inflating your starting bet level.

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## Our Tips for Using the Labouchere System

The Labouchere system offers value across different gambling verticals. However, much depends on your execution and how your initial number sequence reflects your starting bankroll and profit expectations. So, here are some Labouchere betting system tips to keep in mind!

• Build Your Sequence from a Logical Starting Point: When you create your initial number sequence, this must have a logical starting point. This can vary depending on your outlook, but it must be well thought out and based on your broader wagering strategy. For example, risk-hungry players may want to base their initial sequence on a desired profit level. If you’re risk-averse, however, you could set an initial bet unit based on the total size of your bankroll and how this is managed.
• Understand the Risk of Chasing Losses: The Labouchere system is a negative progression betting strategy. This means that you’ll have to increase your stake with every loss. While this optimizes the value of each win, it also reflects an aggressive approach of chasing losses over time. Although this system is less aggressive than the Martingale strategy, chasing losses is largely frowned upon and should be avoided if you have a modest bankroll.
• Keep Your Sequence Simple: Theoretically, you could create an initial number sequence with numerous digits and a high total value. However, simplicity is often the best approach. This is especially true, as your sequence can grow significantly during a typical bet cycle. So, we’d recommend starting with a three or four-digit sequence with a relatively low cumulative total, with 1,2,3 probably providing the best starting point for beginners.
• Combine Labouchere Betting with Other Systems: Bettors can combine the Labouchere system with other compatible strategies. For example, you may also want to use the Kelly Criterion system to help determine your initial bet unit. You can further develop your number sequence from here while setting the optimal stake amounts for individual wagers.
• Simulate Outcomes Before Wagering With Real Money: Using the Labouchere system can drive sustained losses over time. You must test your chosen number sequence before wagering with real money. You can use websites such as GSimulator to practice with different Labouchere simulations. Bettors should also access historical data to help gauge potential returns. This may help you to adjust and optimize your initial number sequence over time.

## Alternatives to the Labouchere Betting System

This guide has explored the Labouchere and Reverse Labouchere systems in detail. However, these systems may not suit your broader betting strategy or starting bankroll size. If that’s the case, it’s important to consider relevant alternatives. These include:

• The Martingale System: The single most aggressive negative progression betting strategy. The Martingale system requires bettors to double their stake with every loss. Its a simple system, ideal for bettors with large bankrolls who can fund consecutive losses while scaling their stake dramatically. This can unlock huge wins that help you to recoup all previous losses. However, this high-risk approach is less suitable for sports bettors due to the number of variables involved.
• The Fibonacci System: This system is built on a mathematical sequence referred to as the ‘Fibonacci Sequence’. Interestingly, it combines elements of both the Martingale and Labouchere systems. The Fibonacci system compels bettors to increase their bet unit by combining the two previous stakes. When done after every losing bet, it enables you to chase losses in a more manageable way. Although this is a highly structured way of betting, it has similar issues to the Martingale system when wagering on sports.
• The Paroli System: This has more in common with the reverse Labouchere system. The Paroli system is a positive progression approach wherein you wager more with every win. Bettors can preserve their bankroll effectively by minimizing the size of individual losses. This makes it an ideal system if you bet with a relatively small bankroll. As a result, it’s a little more widely used in sports betting. Look into this system if you like to back short-price favorites and build potential winning streaks.
• The Kelly Criterion Model: This mathematical model is commonly used in financial trading. Starting as a betting system in roulette, Kelly betting is now widely used for sports betting. This system uses a fixed mathematical equation to help determine an optimal stake for each bet. This stake is based on the published odds and implied probability of your chosen outcome occurring. This also helps you to strike the optimal balance between risk and reward.
• Flat Betting: This is neither a negative nor a positive progression strategy. Flat betting simply requires you to maintain a consistent bet unit, implied probability values, or winning and losing sequences. The primary purpose of this is to guard against sustained losses while also preventing overexposure during winning streaks. Flat betting is most common among casual or novice sports bettors. This is due to its simplicity and compatibility with stringent bankroll management.

## Responsible Gambling

Bankroll management is a key consideration here, as negative progression betting systems may require large wagers before you win. Similarly, the mere concept of chasing losses can cause you to wager irresponsibly and outside your means. With that in mind, you must set stringent bankroll management rules when deploying the Labouchere system.

To learn more about responsible gambling, we’d urge you to check out our responsible gambling page. If you struggle with compulsive betting, you can also check out the National Problem Gambling website. This body can also be contacted directly at 1-800-GAMBLER.

## Resources

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

##### Lewis HumphriesSports Betting Expert

Lewis is a seasoned sports writer and betting expert at ReadWrite. He has been written about sports, remote betting and sportsbooks for more than 10 years, with his work featuring in publications such as The Boot Room, Yahoo Sports and 90min. He writes most extensively about soccer, basketball, American football and boxing, but retains an interest in a huge range of sports.

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