You probably played “War” as a child. It’s the most basic of comparing style card games. You each get a card. The player with the higher ranked card wins. If there’s a tie, you and your opponent deal three dead cards and another face up card for each of you, and the winner of that hand wins.
Casino war is a gambling version of the game that’s available at some casinos, and at first glance, it seems like a game where the casino would have no edge. After all, isn’t the casino just as likely to lose each hand as you are?
Like any casino game, casino war is a game of exceptions, and the exceptions are what gives the house an edge in casino war.
This page covers the basics of how to play casino war, how much the house edge is, and what kind of casino war strategy makes for a winning casino player.
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How to Play Casino War
You play casino war at a casino table similar to a blackjack table. On one side you have a dealer, and on the other side you have the players. You place a bet, the dealer gives you a card, the dealer takes a card, and the ranks of the cards are compared.
If the dealer’s card ranks higher than yours, she wins your bet.
If your card ranks higher than hers, you win even money from the casino.
Sounds like an even-odds game so far, doesn’t it?
But what happens when there’s a tie?
Ties in Casino War
In many casino games, especially blackjack, a tie almost always results in a “push,” which means that the casino doesn’t win your bet, but they also don’t have to pay you any money either.
But in casino war, when there’s a tie, you have to put up another bet equal to your first bet in order to “go to war.” The dealer deals three dead cards to you and a face up card, and then she does the same thing for herself.
Still sounds like even odds, doesn’t it?
But here’s the catch.
If you win, after going to war with the casino, you only win the amount of the original bet. If the casino wins, they win both bets.
Other Casino War Options
If you have a tie, you do have another option besides going to war with the casino. You can choose to surrender. In that case, you lose half your bet to the casino. That hardly seems fair, to lose half your bet to the casino in the case of a tie, but that’s the deal. Surrender or go to war.
Betting on the Tie
You can also place a side wager at the beginning of the game that the result will be a tie, and if you do, then you’ll win 10 to 1 in the event of a tie. 10 to 1 odds might sound pretty good, but if you do the math, you’ll find that the casino has an 18.65% edge on this bet. That’s an outrageously high house edge, so you’d have to be a crazy person to make a bet with that much of a disadvantage. (You’d be better off playing roulette.)
Casino War Strategy
So the only decision you get to make is whether or not to surrender or go to war during a tie. I’ll share the house edge with you for a strategy where you make one decision every time over the other decision, and then we’ll see if you can figure out the correct strategy.
If you surrender every time there’s a tie, the house has a 3.7% edge.
If you go to war every time there’s a tie, the house has a 2.88% edge.
So the correct strategy is simple. Every time there’s a tie, go to war.
The best strategy for casino war is simply this:
Should You Play Casino War?
That’s up to you, but I don’t think a 2.88% house edge is outrageous, especially if you don’t want to have to think about strategy.
The problem with casino war is that it’s just kind of boring. It’s so straightforward and lacking in nuance that it’s hard to find the game compelling in almost any way.
But try it for yourself to see if you like it. The house edge is lower than the house edge on most slot machines, so it’s not a mathematically awful game. It’s just not very entertaining to me. You might be more easily entertained though.