What is a ‘Side Count’?
A side count, in the game of blackjack, is an additional method to card counting employed as part of an advanced system for gaining an edge over the house. With optimal play, by employing basic strategy, blackjack players can cut the house edge down to around 0.5%. By then employing card counting, the player assigns a numerical value to each card drawn, keeping a running count which determines whether conditions are favourable or unfavourable to the player, and adjusts their bet size accordingly to gain a small edge over the house themselves.
A side count is an additional count kept by players of specific cards, often aces – as these can count low and high – which aims to give the system better accuracy and thus give the player a higher edge. It is one of a number of more complicated counting systems, including those where cards are given a broader range of values.
‘Side Counts’ Explained
In a standard counting system, all cards will either be assigned a value of -1, 0 or +1, making the counting system simple and easy to follow. However, side counts and a broader range of values can significantly increase the complexity of the system and make it harder for an individual player to track.
While more advanced systems purport to be more accurate, there is debate over whether they significantly affect the player’s edge. Since casinos have responded to card counting by using an increased number of decks, this particularly negates the effectiveness of side counts.
Card counting, while perfectly legal, is frowned upon by casinos, and many establishments who catch or suspect a player of card counting will often ask them to stop playing blackjack, or even leave the casino entirely. Therefore, part of an effective card counting strategy also includes methods of disguising the fact that the player is employing the technique.