Labouchere Betting System

Also known as the “cancellation system,” the Labouchere Betting System is quite elegant in its simplicity. Bets are structured in a series of predetermined numbers. Each time the player wins, two of the numbers are crossed off. Each time the player loses, a number representing the amount of the loss is added at the end of the series. Because numbers are crossed off twice as quickly as they are added, this system holds great promise even money games such as Blackjack.

Labouchere Betting System Background

Despite his French-sounding name, Henry Du Pré Labouchere (1831-1912) was a British writer, publisher and Victorian theater-owner. He served in England’s Parliament twice, in 1865-1867 and 1880-1906. He was also an avid gambler, who spent much of his free time playing Roulette and trying to devise a way to win consistently.

At some point, the politician read the works of 18th-century French mathematician Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, whose own betting progression based upon the “principles of equilibrium” had become quite popular. In brief, d’Alembert advised increasing a wager by one unit following a loss and decreasing it by one unit following a win. Over time, wins and losses will be about equal. The progression ends whenever the required bet is zero.

The advantage of Labouchere’s version is that equilibrium is not necessary. As long as a player wins at least 34 percent of the time, he/she should eventually come out ahead. Although the original system was developed for Roulette, it can be applied to virtually any “even money” game, including Blackjack as well as Baccarat and the Pass Line when playing Craps.

Labouchere Betting System Basic Play

To begin, a profit objective must be set; for example, five units. The Blackjack player structures the desired amount as a series of units, such as (a) 1+2+2 or (b) 1+2+1+1. The order of the numbers doesn’t matter, nor do how many numbers appear in the series, just as long as their total is the same as the profit goal.

The amount that the Blackjack player wagers initially will be the sum of the first and last numbers in the series. For series (a), this would be 1+2 or three units. For series (b), it would be 1+1 or two units.

Upon winning, the player crosses off the two numbers wagered. For series (a), only the middle 2 would remain. For series (b), it is 2+1. Again, the next bet should be the sum of the first and last numbers, but when only one number remains, that is the bet. For a), the wager would be two units. For b), it would be three units.

Upon winning gain, the remaining units are crossed off in both examples, the progression ends, and the player claims five units in profit. Upon losing, however, the player adds the amount of the loss at the end of the series. For series (a), this would result in 2+2. For series (b), it would be 2+1+3. The next bet must be the sum of the first and last numbers, i.e. four units for or five units for series (b).

Play and betting continues in this way, crossing off two numbers each time a win is recorded or adding to the end of the series each amount lost. Gradually, all of the numbers will be crossed off, resulting in five units of profit.

Applying the Labouchere Betting System

Unlike the Martingale Betting System, Labouchere does not require risking huge amounts at unfavorable odds to recover previous losses, as long as the initial series are not too aggressive. Another advantage is that it does not look like progressive betting to outside observers. The wagers don’t always get larger. They increase and decrease in relatively small increments.

The Labouchere Betting System does have one major drawback, however. As the original small numbers are crossed off, subsequent losses start to add bigger numbers to the series. These can become fairly large rather quickly if a losing streak occurs. A series that begins as 1+2+3 can soon end up looking like 10+18+22, requiring a wager of 32 units on the next hand.

Whenever this happens, it may be advisable to break up the large numbers into smaller series, such as (1+2+3+4)+(4+4+5+5)+(5+5+6+6). Then wager only seven units (1+6) on the next hand, just like starting over with a new objective.