The Labouchere, invented by a Victorian finance minister of the same name, is pretty peculiar for an old-hat system because, for one thing, it usually wins. It works on the premise that, if you set a number of predetermined bets and add only the bets you need to cover your losses, you will eventually make whatever the return on the original set of bets would be.
To play it, you need to bring a pen and a notepad to the casino and need to only bet one even-money proposition. What you’ll do is write down a string of two or more numbers on the piece of paper. Your first bet will be the sum of the first and last number, and if you win, you’ll cross both numbers off. If you lose, on the other hand, you will add the total amount you lost to the end of the line. You’ll continue this process until you’ve crossed out all the numbers in the line, at which time you can either start a new line or leave the table.
The only problem most Labouchere players run into is that either their lines are too long, their numbers are too high, or both. Because the guaranteed winnings for a Labouchere number line is the sum of the original line’s numbers, most folks think, “Heeeeeeell, why not make it 10-20-30-40-50-60-70-80-90- 100? That’ll net me, like, $550!“ The problem with this type of thinking is that your losses can get as high as 200 to 300 percent of your original planned profit before the line clears. Of course, that’s all well and good if you’ve got the extra cash to back up a long line and are playing in the high rollers’ area. But, for those of you who don’t belong to the jet-setting class, you’ll sooner go broke than clear this line.
A better strategy is to start with a 1-1 line at a $1 table. That way, you might only net $2 for the line, but you will clear it quickly and be able to start another. If you can get through about ten 1-1 lines in an hour, you will end up making a relatively decent salary as a professional gambler and eventually be able to move up to higher numbers and longer lines.
Variations on the Labouchere exist, including one system in which you null bet until a loss, then start making real bets and begin the line with the amount of your first real loss. The problem with this is that, because your line is blank to begin with, you’ll break even when the line clears. So to make this variant work, you will have to add a one-unit “kicker” to each of your bets and subsequently will have larger betting amounts in your line as time goes on. This type of modification really has no point because, while it limits the amount of time it takes to clear a line, it runs into that other Labouchere problem of requiring large bets. Really, you could just start with a one-number line and make that number a biggun, say 20. You’d still win just as much over time, but at least in this case, you’ll know how out of hand your total risk can get. With the “kicker” Labouchere, you can’t really tell because the total number of necessary raises can’t be predetermined.
The other major variant is the “grid” Labouchere. In this version, you start with a large, three-row number line with one number that is twice the table minimum and eight exactly at the table minimum:
Every time you bet, you wager the sum of the two largest numbers so you can cross them out first. All losses, on the other hand, are added to a subsequent column:
Essentially, because you always eliminate the largest numbers first and begin with a good smattering of small numbers, this version is great for maximizing profit and minimizing risk. It does, however, require you spend quite a bit of time with one line. We suggest, then, that you give yourself several hours of playtime if you’re going to try it and that you make sure your total bankroll is at least three times your projected winnings (for the example line, we suggest about $30 for a $1 table and $300 for $10).