What is the Labouchere betting strategy, how do you play it, and will it help you win?

The Labouchere betting strategy has been widely used for over 100 years since being devised by Frenchman Henry Labouchere.

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It’s not the simplest of strategies to get to grips with, though that hasn’t stopped many players trying it out and benefitting from it. Here’s a basic guide to the betting system and a summary of whether it’s beneficial to use or not.

About the Labouchere betting system

This particular betting system is also referred to as the ‘cancellation system’. Though it does take some getting used to, it can be worthwhile as it encourages you to work towards a goal.

Because of the way it works, it’s ideal to have a pen and paper with you, as you’ll be noting things down and crossing things off as you play. It’s best used with even money bets, that is bets where you have an equal, or near equal chance of winning or losing. For most of these bets, you get double your bet back if you win, though you get nothing back if you lose.

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So for example, the outside bets, such as red or black, on roulette are more or less even money bets, as are things like the banker bet in baccarat, or odds bet in craps.

Rules

Set yourself a goal of how much money you’d like to win – $10, for example.

Then write down a list of positive numbers that add up to your goal. These are your units. For a goal of $10, you could have the following arrangement of units:

1-2-3-4 = 10 – your desired total.

You can place your units in any order you want. You can also have as many units as you want, so long as they add up to the value of your desired win. For this example, we’ll keep the sequence as 1-2-3-4. To decide the value of your first bet, simply add the first and last units together. In this case, it would be 1+4, which would equal 5, or $5. If you win, you then cross off units 1 and 4 and carry on with a shorter sequence of 2-3 and a bet of $5 (2 units + 3 units). If you lose, you add the total value of the bet to the end of the list, so it would be:

1-2-3-4-5

Keep doing this until you’ve crossed all the numbers off and reached your goal or you’ve run out of money. If you ever end up wth a single unit in the sequence, simply bet the value of that unit.

Advantages and disadvantages

One of the main advantages to the Labouchere betting system is that it’s flexible. You can order the sequence of numbers based on whether you use a positive or negative betting system. The former has you increase your bets on a win and decrease them on a loss, while the latter has you decrease your bets on a loss and decrease them on a win. If you prefer positive progression, have smaller units on either end of the sequence and larger ones on the middle; do the opposite if you prefer negative progression.

For this strategy, it’s generally recommended you use positive progression. Another advantage to point out is the fact that it encourages you to play with a set goal in mind, rather than having the player chase unrealistic wins and lose their money in the process.

A key disadvantage is the fact that like other strategies, it’s ultimately a matter of luck.

The flaw of the Labouchere system

The key flaw to this strategy is that it ultimately relies on luck. There is no clever mathematics going on that beats the house.

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You could experience a winning streak, cross off all the numbers in your sequence and reach your goal; on the other hand, you may experience a losing streak, in which case your bets may start to rise and you could end up running out of money before you can reach your goal.

Those with higher goals may even reach a game’s betting limits before they’ve managed to secure enough wins to reach their goal. That’s why it’s suggested that if you use this strategy, you do so with a somewhat restricted budget, i.e. placing lower-value bets.

Summary

The Labouchere betting system has you work towards a set goal, devising a sequence of units and crossing them off as you win. One of the advantages is it gives a element of discipline and planning to the player’s gameplay. That means placing ill-advised arbitrary, or random bets is less likely.

Though the Labouchere it’s quite commonly used, it doesn’t reduce the house edge in the player’s favor.

But maybe it is one to try if you find yourself a bit lost when it comes to setting goals and sizing your bets.

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