Labouchere System Roulette Strategy

Labouchere System Made Simple: A Rookie’s Guide to Roulette Strategy

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Updated on: 24 Apr 2024
Dean McHugh

Roulette is just a game of luck, and there’s nothing you can do to improve your chances of ending up in profit, right?


While it’s true you can’t influence how often you win, by using a mathematical strategy such as the Labouchere system, you do have some control over the possible returns.

The Labouchere system won’t increase the probability of a win, but by carefully balancing your stake and the potential returns, it’s a clever way of gaining an advantage. When compared to a flat betting strategy, Labouchere can deliver greater wins over the course of a gaming session.

We’re going to explore in detail how the Labouchere system works, how it’s best used, and how it compares to other roulette betting systems.

What is the Labouchere System?

Let’s start by making one thing clear: the Labouchere system isn’t known for being straightforward. If you’re looking for a roulette betting system that’s easy to follow, there are better alternatives, such as the Martingale system.

Labouchere is more complex and harder to learn, but it’s still achievable for anyone with practice. There are specific advantages to the Labouchere system that make it attractive to players of all levels of experience. This is why it’s still one of the most popular betting systems for roulette, despite its complexity.

Labouchere is a progressive betting system, which means the bets increase during gameplay. The system was named after its inventor, English politician Henry Labouchere, who created it during the 19th century. Although the Labouchere system was originally designed for betting on horse racing, it also works well for other even money bets, such as outside bets in roulette.

Let’s rewind right back to the start, though: what is the Labouchere system, and how does it work for roulette?

The Principles of The Labouchere System

Most betting systems start with deciding the stake that you want to bet, but Labouchere does things the opposite way around. To get started with Labouchere, you need to first think about how much you want to win in a single session. In theory, this number can be anything you want, but remember: the higher the number is, the more difficult it will be to achieve, and the more you’ll have to bet in the process.

Take the amount you want to win and divide that into a series of numbers. It doesn’t matter what the numbers are, but they must add up to your chosen win goal. You could divide the number into equal parts or into large and small numbers. It doesn’t matter how long the string of numbers is, but lots of numbers can make it harder to reach your goal.

Write the numbers in a string. For example, if €10 was your target, you might have a series of numbers like this: 1-1-2-2-3-1.

Place your first bet by adding the first and last numbers in the string. In the example above, this would mean 1 + 1 = €2 as a first bet.

If the bet wins, you cross the numbers off and move to the new first and last numbers in the string. In our example, this would mean the second bet would be 1 + 3 = €4. Continue in this way for every winning bet.

However, if the bet loses, you add the amount you just bet to the string of numbers. Using our example again, if the first bet of £2 lost, the number 2 would be added to the end of the string and it would now look like this: 1-1-2-2-3-1-2. Repeat this action of adding your last bet to the end of the string every time your bet loses.

The aim is to complete a string of numbers by crossing them all off. If you achieve this, you will have pocketed your target winnings.

What To Consider Before Using the Labouchere System

a player thinking about strategy in front of roulette table

As you can see from the above description, the bets on Labouchere increase every time you lose a roulette spin. This needs to be taken into account when you’re planning your initial sequence of numbers.

When using the Labouchere system, you need to complete the string of numbers to achieve the goal. If you abandon your strategy halfway through, you won’t receive the potential benefits and could end up losing more.

Therefore, although the stake used for Labouchere doesn’t rise as aggressively as other betting systems, there remains the risk that you might exceed the table limit. This is particularly the case if you’re playing with a high stake. You should, therefore, look for roulette games that can accommodate the size of bet you could end up playing with. Being forced to abandon your Labouchere strategy due to the table limits would be extremely frustrating!

As Labouchere is a progressive system, you need to have strong bankroll management skills. This means not setting your sights too high at the start because values can quickly start to climb.

Multiple smaller betting strings will often be preferable to a single larger string. This is because it provides more flexibility over your strategy. After you’ve completed a string, you can adjust the bet sizes on the next string to take the position of your bankroll into account.

This allows you to account for both short- and long-term goals and balance the potential gains against the risk that each goal presents. Larger goals and longer strings have a higher variance, but the benefit of Labouchere is that you can set your own risk level by lowering the goal and/or shortening the string.

Finally, don’t forget that, like many other betting systems, Labouchere is designed to work on bets with even odds. For roulette, this means outside bets offering 1:1, such as red/black, odds/evens, and high/low. It’s not a suitable system to use for inside bets due to the high variance and greater risk.

How to Create a Betting Plan

With the Labouchere betting system, the key is betting in increments which are affordable and can be sustained.

Things to consider when creating your betting plan include:

  • How long do you plan to play for
  • The value of your bankroll, and how much you can afford to lose
  • Your attitude to risk
  • How much you want to win

Long sequences are more difficult to win, but if you’re concerned about the bet value rising too quickly, you might prefer to break the string down into smaller numbers. As long as the numbers add up to your target value, you can choose any numbers you want.

Shorter strings can be easier to complete, but if you hit a losing streak, the bet value will increase more quickly.

The key with Labouchere is striking a balance between an affordable bet value and a string of a reasonable length.

Practical Tips for Using the Labouchere System

No betting system offers cast-iron guarantees because roulette relies on luck to land a winning number. However, providing you understand how to properly use the Labouchere system, you could make the most of any wins on the wheel.

There are lots of demo versions of roulette available online. It’s an excellent idea to practise the Labouchere strategy using these first. This will allow you to see how the system works during gameplay and familiarise yourself with how to bet.

When you’re ready to go live, the importance of managing your bankroll can’t be overstated. If you miscalculate your unit value, you could wipe out too quickly and eliminate any chance of securing a good win. Each unit should be a tiny proportion of your total play budget, typically around 1%. This will give you the scope needed for the stake to increase if you get stuck in a losing loop.

If you’re aiming to win a higher value, consider breaking it down into smaller chunks. It’s easier to complete shorter Labouchere strings, but even then, there’s no guarantee! Completing a string should put you in a good position, and if you’re targeting a higher value, the aim would be to complete multiple strings. A longer string has higher variance and is more challenging to complete, presenting a bigger risk of you ending up out of pocket.

If you hit a losing streak on roulette while playing with Labouchere, you don’t need to stick with the numerical sequence you previously created. It’s possible to break the numbers down into smaller chunks; this can help to stop the bet value from increasing too steeply. Of course, this means that wins will be smaller, but it ensures you’re always in control of how much you want to bet.

Comparing Labouchere With Other Betting Systems

comparing roulette systems

There are many different betting systems available for roulette players. Each one has its own advantages and drawbacks, and not every system will suit every player. It’s, therefore, important to ensure you fully understand each system and the best way to implement it before diving into the action.

Here’s a look at some of the other common roulette betting systems and how they compare to Labouchere.

Martingale strategy

The Martingale system is easy to use, but it can be intimidating, especially for beginners. Created by a French mathematician but named after a casino owner who popularised its use, Martingale is a progressive betting system that can require a hefty bankroll.

While Labouchere aims to grind out lots of small wins, the aim of Martingale is to instantly recoup losses. Similar to Labouchere, it only works with even bets but requires the player to double their bet every time they lose. After a win, the bet reverts to the original amount, and the process starts once more. The doubling of the stake is intended to wipe out losses immediately and allow the player to break even.

The problem with Martingale is that losing streaks can hit a bankroll heavily. A series of losing spins on the roulette wheel will lead to the stake increasing sharply. Depending on the size of the original bet and the table limit, there could be a risk of hitting the maximum stake.

The mathematics for Martingale stack up, but the problem is that without any guarantee of a win, players could quickly accumulate big losses and wipe out their bankroll before the required payout lands.

D’Alembert system

If you like the idea of the Martingale system but feel uncomfortable with the potential for the stake to spiral, one alternative could be the D’Alembert system. This follows a similar pattern but without such aggressive increases in the stake.

With Labouchere, you must decide on your target win amount; with D’Alembert, you need to choose how much a single unit will be worth. This unit value is how much you will increase each losing bet by, so it should be a sum that your bankroll can manage.

The D’Alembert system typically starts with a bet of a single unit, but you could start with several units, should you prefer. The crucial element is that you know how much a unit is worth.

Every time you lose, the bet amount increases by one unit. Conversely, every time you win, the bet amount decreases by one unit.

This means that even though your bet will increase during a losing streak, you won’t rapidly reach the very high stake value as you would with Martingale.

As you’re increasing the bet value by smaller sums, the wins will also be smaller. You are unlikely to get the same big wins that Martingale offers. In this way, D’Alembert is similar to Labouchere; both offer a system of small but methodical potential wins.

Fibonacci strategy

Fibonacci is a sequence of numbers that was first identified by a 12th-century mathematician, Leonardo Pisano, also known as Fibonacci. Fascinated by recurring patterns within nature, Pisano noticed that some numbers fell into a pattern. Although the numerical sequence was first seen in rabbits, the mathematician continued to observe nature and found the same pattern replicated in many different ways. This sequence of numbers became known as the Fibonacci sequence.

Fast forward to the modern day, and Fibonacci is used in many ways for statistical modelling in areas such as trading. It is also popular in gambling, specifically for games like roulette.

All of this makes Fibonacci sound complicated, but it’s a very simple premise. The series starts with 0 and adds 1. From here on in, the next number in the sequence is always found by adding the previous two together, which looks like this: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144.

Similar to D’Alembert, you’ll need to decide how much a unit is worth to use Fibonacci. You can, of course, simply decide that 1 = €1, but you can also allocate a different value to every unit. Each new step shows the number of units that need to be bet.

Like Martingale and others, Fibonacci is a negative progressive betting system. This means you go up to the next number in the sequence every time you lose. If you win, you move back two steps in the sequence.

The idea is that when you win using Fibonacci, the value will be sufficient to give you a profit or at least neutralise any losses. This is the same basis as Martingale. However, like Martingale, there is the risk that you hit a long losing streak and don’t have the bankroll to continue playing until you secure a win. You may also reach the table limit too quickly and not be able to continue with the sequence.

Summing Up the Labouchere System

As can be seen from the betting systems described above, there are many different ways to try and recoup roulette losses, and this often involves increasing the bet value following a loss. However, Labouchere differs from the other systems as it offers far more flexibility and ensures the player is always in control. With the ability to vary the bet and break down larger stakes without abandoning the strategy, Labouchere is a unique option.

As we said right at the start, the Labouchere system isn’t the simplest because it offers the possibility of varying the bet value as you play. And, of course, like all betting systems, there are never any absolute guarantees of a profit. However, the mathematical basis offers a distinct advantage compared to flat betting and provides structure to the gameplay, which can be very useful.

Experimenting with different unit values and number strings is the best way to find the Labouchere sequence that works well for you. Next time you’re at the roulette table, you’ll be perfectly equipped to try out your newfound knowledge of Labouchere.