The Labouchere System

The Labouchere System for winning at roulette is a strategy with many aliases and a colorful past, thanks to its namesake, a radical English journalist and politician named Henry Labouchere.

Known variously as The Labby, The Cross-Out, The Spilt Martingale, The Cancellation System and the Ian Fleming (since it shows up in a couple of the author's James Bond novels), the Labouchere System involves deciding how much money you want to win, and then devising a number sequence equal to the winning amount.

The Cancellation System is the most accurate of the Labouchere nicknames because it describes how the system works. It is one of the most complicated of all roulette strategies, but one that seems to produce the best results.

What's curious about the Labouchere is that its namesake was not a noted mathematician, such as Leonardo "Fibonacci" Pisano, well-documented inventor of the Fibonacci System. In fact, Labouchere didn't even invent the system that bears his name today.

Henry Du Pre' Labouchere discovered the system named for him in a letter he found in a book he bought in Paris, according to "The Life of Henry Labouchere," a biography written by his descendant, Algar Labouchere Thorold.

The system that Labouchere found was in a letter from Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet, a noted French mathematician, philosopher and political scientist of the 18th century who died in mysterious circumstances around the time of the French Revolution.

Labouchere employed Condorcet's system regularly in his gambling and regularly paid his traveling expenses with his winnings. As a result, "Labouchere's system" became popular and he received credit for its invention.

Using the Labouchere System in Roulette

Like other roulette systems, the Labouchere System is meant for even-money wagers such as red/black or even/odd. For example, black will hit 47.37% of the time and the Labouchere system only requires it to hit 33.34% of the time - giving it a high rate of success.

To create your Labouchere number line, decide how many betting units you want to win and set up a line of numbers equal to the goal amount. The series can be short or long. 

A longer line is safer because the bets are smaller, but it also takes longer to finish the line.  A shorter line is more aggressive and risky because the bets are larger, but it doesn’t take as long to finish the line. 

Once the number series is chosen, you wager an amount equal to the sum of the first and last numbers of the sequence. If the bet wins, the numbers are crossed out and you move to the next numbers inside the line. If the bet loses, you add the last bet amount to the end of the line and continue.

When only one number remains on the list, that number is the amount of the wager. And when all numbers are crossed off, the line is complete. If implemented correctly, your bankroll will have been increased by the number of bets you intended to win. 
Example of Playing Roulette with the Cancellation System
Let’s say you’re playing a $5 minimum bet roulette game at a local casino with a $500 bankroll. You want to win $50 or 10 betting units. So all the numbers in the line need to add up to 10.

A long (and safer) line would be 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2

A short (and aggressive) line would be 1, 2, 3, 4

Using a Long Number Line Strategy
With the long line 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2  your initial bet is 3 units, which equals $15 (3 x $5) Remember, you add the first and last number in the sequence to get your bet for each spin.

  1. Bet $15 (3 units) and win. Crossout the first numbers.
    1. The resulting line is  X 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 X
    2. Bankroll: $515
  2. Bet  $10 (2 units) and lose, adding 2 units to the end of the line
    1. X 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 X 2
    2. Bankroll: $505
  3. Bet $15 (3 units) and win
    1. X X 1 1 1 1 1 1 X X
    2. Bankroll: $520
  4. Bet $10 (2 units) and win
    1. X X X 1 1 1 1 X X X
    2. Bankroll: $530
  5. Bet $10 (2 units) and win
    1. X X X X 1 1 X X X X
    2. Bankroll: $540
  6. Bet $10 (2 units) and win
    1. X X X X X X X X X X
    2. Bankroll: $550

After six spins and a nice winning streak you finish the line +$50. Now, let’s look at how a shorter line plays out.

Using a Short Number Line Strategy
With the short line of 1, 2, 3, 4,  your initial bet is 5 units, which equals $25 (5 x $5). Here’s how a more aggressive Labouchere roulette strategy may go. 

  1. Bet $25 (5 units) and lose. Add 5 units to the end of the line.
    1. The resulting line is  1 2 3 4 5
    2. Bankroll: $475
  2. Bet  $30 (6 units) and win
    1. X 2 3 4 X
    2. Bankroll: $505
  3. Bet $30 (6 units) and lose
    1. X 2 3 4 X 6
    2. Bankroll: $475
  4. Bet $40 (8 units) and win
    1. X X 3 4 X X
    2. Bankroll: $515
  5. Bet $35 (7 units) and win
    1. X X X X X X
    2. Bankroll: $550


The mathematical theory behind this strategy is that, as the player cancels out two numbers with each win for every number added because of a loss, the player can cross out all numbers, thereby winning the desired amount.

The main problems with the Labouchere roulette system (like other systems) are the possibility of a losing streak, reaching the table maximum, and/or not having the bankroll for progressively higher bets.

Before you try out the Labouchere system at the roulette tables in Vegas, we suggest testing it out online first. We’ve compiled a list of the best online roulette games for money. These online casinos offer free practice games and real money roulette games for as little as $1 per spin!