How to Play Casino War

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Played with one or more standard decks of 52 playing cards, Casino War is a variation of a popular children’s game called “War.” As such, it is among the easiest of table games to learn and play. The main difference is the addition of wagering.

Most casino tables and online versions of the game use six decks of cards so that up to seven players can be seated to compete against the dealer. For multi-deck forms of the game, a dealing “shoe” holds the cards and a discard tray is used to collect cards as they are taken out of play.

Players wager on the turn of the cards. The goal is to win by receiving a card ranked higher than the dealer’s card. For Casino War, the Ace outranks the King and the King outranks the Queen, which in turn out ranks the Jack. The rest of the cards follow in order from ten down to two.

As soon as each player has wagered, one card is dealt face up to each player in turn, clockwise from the dealer’s left. The dealer’s card is dealt last, also face up. The players’ cards are then compared with the dealer’s one by one. If a player’s card outranks the dealer’s, even money is paid. If the dealer’s card is higher than the player’s, the wager is lost. After all of the players’ cards have been compared, the hand ends and a new deal begins.

A special situation arises whenever a player’s card and the dealer’s card are ranked the same. In this event, the player must take one of two choices: surrender or “go to war.” A decision to surrender means giving up half the wager and no more cards are dealt. Going to war, however, requires that the original bet be doubled.

When “war” is declared, the dealer burns three cards from the deck and then deals one more card face up to the warring player and one more face up for the dealer. These new cards are compared, and the higher ranking of the two wins. If the dealer’s card is higher, the player loses the raise as well as the original bet. If the player’s card is higher or the same as the dealer’s card, the player wins even money on the original bet and the raise is returned.

Some casinos use a slightly different payout system when the two “warring” cards also tie. The player is paid 3-to-1 on the raise but loses the original bet. Mathematically, this is equivalent to the standard payout, but it adds a bit of excitement to the chip exchange.

As an even-money game, Casino War can be played with progressive betting systems, such as Labouchere or Martingale. However, despite the appearance of 50-50 odds of winning, ties occur on about 7.4% of all deals. Because the raise bets have no payout and can only be lost or returned, the House edge overall is a bit over 2%.

When fewer than six decks are used in Casino War, the odds improve slightly for the player. Conversely, each additional deck added increases the margin for the House. Keep in mind that tables offering a surrender option have an even higher House edge than those which do not; surrender is never a good choice for the player.

One other variation becoming quite common is an optional side bet for “Ties.” It typically pays 10-to-1, which makes it a bad gamble. The margin for the House is between 18% and 35% on this particular bet.

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