What Is The Labouchère and Does It Work?

Henry Labouchère created a betting system for even-money bets in the late 1800s but does the system work and is it valid today?

The gambling world is jam-packed with betting systems promising to beat the house. The Martingale system is the most popular with the Fibonacci system a close second. British journalist and politician Henry Labouchère devised the Labouchère system in the late 1800s. It is a lesser-known and adopted betting system, but does it work and is it still valid today?

Labouchère came from a wealthy banking family, meaning you could say he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Being wealthy allowed Labouchère to follow his passions, including journalism, politics, and gambling. He is a controversial character in British political history because he is remembered for the Labouchère Amendment, which criminalised male homosexual activity for the first time in the United Kingdom. However, his penchant for gambling led him to create a betting system.

The wealth Labouchère attended Eton and Trinity College in Cambridge, United Kingdom. This elite establishment is located near the famous Newmarket race course. Labouchère admitted to losing £6,000 ($10,520) over two years, a princely sum back in the late 1800s. He later developed a taste for playing roulette, which is where his betting system came into play.

What Is The Labouchère System?

The Labouchère system has several names, including the American Progression, Cancellation System, and the Split Martingale. It follows similar principles to the Martingale in that it is a negative progression system. However, it does not attempt to recover all your previous losses with a single win. Instead, it recovers those losses with multiple wins, making it more complex.

Labouchère designed his system for use on even-money bets. Therefore, it lends itself to outside bets in roulette, blackjack, and baccarat, in particular. Some gamblers use the system for their sports betting activity.

Start by writing down a sequence of numbers such as 1-2-3. Your potential profit is the sum of this sequence, $6 in this example ($1+$2+$3). Each bet is the sum of the first and second number in the sequence, which means $4 in our example. Winning a bet results in you crossing off the first and last number of your sequence. However, losing a bet sees you add your losing bet to the end of the sequence.

For example, using 1-2-3 and losing a bet sees your sequence now read 1-2-3-4. Your next bet is $5. Should that lose, your sequence reads 1-2-3-4-5 and your next bet is $6, and so on.

Again, using the 1-2-3 sequence, we lose our first $4 bet so our sequence reads 1-2-3-4. We bet $5 the next hand and win, so cross off the 1 and 4. Our next bet is $5 because our sequence only contains 2-3. The sequence ends if you bet $5 on this bet and win. You write another sequence and start again.

Pros and Cons of the System

Knowing how much you can potentially win is in your hands. Your sequence always adds up to your possible wins. Want to win $50? Consider a sequence of 5-5-5-10-5-20. This will always result in a $50 profit once you end your sequence. Does it seem too good to be true? That is because it is.

The Labouchère is doomed to fail from the start like all progressive betting systems. First, a losing streak results in your list of numbers growing exceedingly large, so much so that you may have to go on a historic winning streak to complete it.

Second, table limits and your bankroll constraints come into play. This is not a major issue if you bet relatively small amounts. However, a sequence such as 10-10-15-15-25-25, which locks in $100 profit, results in large bets following losing streaks. Imagine losing four consecutive bets, your sequence now reads 10-10-15-15-25-25-35-45-55-65. Your next bet is $75 but you have already lost $200 getting here. Are you willing to spend $275 over five bets?

Try the Labouchère by all means just accept its flaws and start with a low sequence.