Is there an optimal way to play Casino War?

Casino War

Casino war game is available to play in both land and online casinos. You will find both traditional and casino version of the game along with few other variants of this game to play. In the game of traditional casino war what you do is split a regular 52-card deck evenly between two players. Each player keeps their stack of cards in front of them in a pile, face down.

Then  at the same time  each player flips over their top card face up in front of them. Whoever has the highest card per regular poker hand rankings  in order from best to worst like so: A, K, Q, J, T, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2 wins that round. The winner collects both cards and places them at the bottom of their pile of cards, face down.

If both players turn up a card of the same rank  for example, K-K  then they go to war. The next step is to deal a second card face down for each player and then a third card face up for each player.

Then both players flip over their second card. Whoever has the highest hand wins. If both players share the same 3-card hand, they go to war again. You deal another card the fourth face down and then a fifth face up. Then they flip over the 4th card and compare hands. Then rinse and repeat. The players continue the game like this until one of them collects all 52 cards in the deck and that player wins.

Casino war played at casinos

Casino War

In the casino variant of casino war you as a first step make the mandatory ante bet. This is the only time you can make the optional ‘tie’ side bet. This pays 10:1 if you and the dealer have the same cards. Once you make your bet, one card is dealt face up to both you and the dealer. If your card’s value is higher, you win. You’re paid 1:1 on your ante bet. If it’s lower, you lose your ante bet. If you made the tie bet, but you didn’t tie the dealer, you lose the bet. But if you tie you’ll receive a payout equal to 10x your ante bet. When you tie, you’ll also have the option to go to war. Similar to the card game. The key difference here is you have a choice. You can go to war or you can surrender. But, if you surrender you’ll get only half your ante bet back. But if you decide to go to war you’ll have to make an additional bet equal to your ante bet.

In case of war the dealer will give you one more card face down. Then he’ll burn 3 cards, followed by giving himself one more card. Then both your cards are flipped face up and compared.Whoever has the highest hand wins. If you win you’ll receive even money on the war bet, but you’ll push on the ante bet, which is where the casino’s primary edge comes from). If you lose, you lose both your bets.

Few casino war variations with side bets

Casino war game

There aren’t many variants or side bets but here are the few variations and side bets you can fund at casinos. Some Las Vegas casinos  have a bonus if you tie with the dealer twice. The first time’s normal; you go to war; if you win you’ll push the ante bet and receive even money on the war bet. But if you tie a second time, you’ll receive a bonus equal to the size of your original wager.

Also Gamesys war game has a rule where the player will be paid 3x the ante bonus if he gets a tie after a tie. This cuts the house edge by more than half, to 1.24%. In some casinos pay out 2 to 1 on war wagers if the player gets a tie after a tie.

So you get a sort of optimal way to play casino war. You see, both you and the dealer have a 46.3% chance of winning on the first card. Because of this you’d think casino war is a fair game. But that’s not the case. There are two reasons why:

  • The more decks the casino uses, the more the house edge increases. The house edge also increases if you choose to surrender.
  • The house edge is 2.8% when you choose war. But it’s 3.7% when you surrender. So the best strategy should be obvious to you is never ever surrender. Always go to war.

Beyond that, the best thing you can do is find a casino who uses the smallest number of decks. The next best thing you can do is to avoid the tie bet. The house edge for this bet is a whopping 18% when 5 decks are used.

Here’s a table from the Wizard of Odds which shows the house edge for casino war based on the number of decks in play, if they pay bonuses, and if you choose to surrender or play the tie bet.

1 2.06% 2.42% 2.94% 35.29%
2 2.24% 2.70% 3.40% 25.24%
3 2.29% 2.79% 3.55% 21.94%
4 2.31% 2.84% 3.62% 20.29%
5 2.32% 2.86% 3.67% 19.31%
6 2.33% 2.88% 3.70% 18.65%
7 2.34% 2.89% 3.72% 18.18%
8 2.34% 2.90% 3.73% 17.83%

So the optimal way to play casino war is to follow the above tips and your goal should be to get to as close to the 2.06% house edge as possible.