Playing the Labouchere System

french_rouletteAs we already discussed, the Labouchere system has a solid foundation – a player will cancel two losses with each win, while at the same time, hitting the table limit seems to be not very likely. It is logical that if losses surpass wins by over 2 to 1, this will be quite an unpleasant situation. However, that would be the case with any other betting system.

Long sequences are not an advantage

Too long and too aggressive starting sequences are the issue, which the majority of players using the Labouchere system encounter, an issue which may consume their bankroll rapidly.

If a player chooses a vast starting sequence such as 1-2-3-4-5-2-1 and manages to clear it, he/she will score a net result (gain) of 18 units. However, different scenarios may occur. Let us take a look at the one below:

Bet Number Bet Amount Outcome Net Result
1-2-3-4-5-2-1 2 win 2
2-3-4-5-2 4 win 6
3-4-5 8 loss -2
3-4-5-8 11 loss -13
3-4-5-8-11 14 win 1
4-5-8 12 loss -11
4-5-8-12 16 loss -27
4-5-8-12-16 20 win -7

As we can see, there have been eight ball spins and the size of the bet has begun to increase rapidly. The player is losing money, regardless of that there have been an equal number of wins and losses. How can this be the case, given the fact one win should cancel two losses? Such a long starting sequence could be cancelled by four wins, given that no losses have been recorded! And in this case, there have been four losing bets. Two of the wins cancelled the four losses, while the other two wins simply cut short the length of the original sequence. Thus, two additional wins will be required to clear the entire sequence. These additional wins make too long starting sequences appear not advantageous at all. It is so, because a player cannot achieve the full potential for profit, until the entire sequence is cleared.

This leads us to the conclusion, that a betting sequence should always be cleared as soon as possible. Or, when using the Labouchere system, one should keep his/her starting sequence short, in order to reduce the number of additional wins required to clear that sequence. Experts recommend starting sequences, consisting of two numbers, because they require only one additional win to clear. Such sequences may be 1-1, or 1-2. Many Labouchere players use the 1-2-3-4 starting sequence, when the table minimum is set to 5 units. In fact, it would be better, if these players use the two-number sequence of 2-3.

It is important to note that when the sequence begins to grow or the bets placed begin to increase in size, a player can always abandon that sequence. Using a proper judgement, he/she can always choose a moment, when the loss may be minimized. If we go back to the example above, a suitable moment to abandon the sequence would have been after the third win. This way the player would have secured a net gain of 1 unit.

Modifying the Labouchere System

If a player maintains the starting sequence short, he/she will need a lesser number of wins to clear the sequence. If he/she takes this a step further and clears the starting sequence altogether, no additional wins would be needed. This is achieved by beginning the sequence with the first loss. The player may begin using an arbitrary bet of 5 units, for instance. In case this bet turns out to be a winner, it will be ok. In case the bet loses, then the first number in the new sequence will be 5 and the next bet will be 5 units. In case the second bet loses, then the sequence will be extended to 5-5 and the third bet will be 10 units. Let us look at the scenario below:

Bet Number Bet Amount Outcome Net Result
none 5 loss -5
5 5 loss -10
5-5 10 loss -20
5-5-10 15 loss -35
5-5-10-15 20 win -15
5-10 15 win 0
sequence cleared

Two wins were sufficient to cancel four losses, while no additional wins were required to clear the sequence. However, the player did not score any profit! Thus, some adjustments will be needed. The player will add one additional unit to every bet, in order to achieve an accumulating profit. This modification is shown in the table below:

Bet Number Bet Amount Outcome Net Result
none 5 loss -5
5 6 loss -11
5-6 12 loss -23
5-6-12 18 loss -41
5-6-12-18 24 win -17
6-12 19 win 2
sequence cleared

Again two wins were sufficient to cancel four losses and to clear the sequence. As can be observed, the bets increased in size, but, in the end, the net result turned out to be a gain of 2 units, or on average 1 unit per winning bet. In case the player added 2 additional units, he/she would have scored a net gain of 4 units.

What was demonstrated is considered to be the most fine-tuned variation of the Labouchere system, which would show decent results, unless the wheel runs more than 2 to 1 against the player.


Every modified Labouchere system player should be aware of another hazard – a situation, where there have been a few short strings of losses separated by single wins. Similar to the traditional system, if the sequence becomes quite long or the bets become quite large in size, a player should look for a suitable moment to abandon the sequence.

Last but not least, a player using the modified Labouchere system should begin a new betting sequence on an even-money bet, which has already lost at least once or two times in a row.

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