What is Casino War?

As it is the easiest game to play in a casino, it is fair to say that Casino War has a fair amount of admirers. Based on the popular card game “War,” which many players will have come across in their youth, Casino War is not much different. The game is distributed by SHFL (a company under the Scientific Games banner). Sensing an opportunity to create a game that adults could play with an easy-going and carefree nature, their idea was an instant hit in casinos around the world.

If you played any type of card game as a junior, the chances are that you may have started with “War.” If this is the case, you will remember just how simple the object of the game was. You would split a deck in two, and place one card face down on the table. Your opponent would do the same. The card with the highest value would win, with the player who had that card taking each card from the table.


If you and your opponent placed down a card of the same value on the table, then war would be activated. This would then require both players to place four cards down on top of the two cards of the same value. From here, both players would reveal the top card. The player with the strongest card would collect all cards on the table. The first player to run out of cards would lose the game.

When playing the game as a kid, it taught me a few things. For one, possession really is 9/10ths of the law. Additionally, taking every card for yourself can give you a bit of a power trip and make you feel like a 4-foot dictator with ice-cream stains on his shirt (and I’m not referencing that guy).

More than anything, the game was so drawn out, unpredictable, and downright inconvenient at times. Tables flew and there was collateral damage (kind of like an actual war). Casino War is a much more enjoyable experience overall. I don’t have to give my older brother my candy when I lose, for a start, but I do have to hand over my chips to the dealer. Who is kind of like my older brother in that sense…


In Casino War, the game is much quicker than “War.” Rather than several cards being used between players, you will play against the dealer with one card, to begin with. We will explain how everything works, below.

So, without further ado, here are the rules of Casino War.

How to Play Casino War

The name Casino War may suggest a battle. The more competitive among us may be relishing the opportunity to reach for their uniforms, walkie-talkies, and combat boots. Sorry to burst your bubble, guys, but you won’t be needing them. However, if you want to insert a pun regarding Casino War and Private Joker from Full Metal Jacket here, please, be our guest.

If you are planning on doing some last-minute studying of the rules of Casino War before you hit the tables later, we have some good news for you. It should not take long at all to get to grips with the game.

The Rules of the Game

As simple as the game is, the first thing you need to do is find a Casino War table.

Once you have your chips and a seat at the table, you will be free to play the game once bets are open. Ensure that you wait until a previous game is played. Shouting “I declare war” before “invading” the table and singing the national anthem isn’t going to go down well. This isn’t a real war, it is just a game.

This is why rules exist. Anyway, here they are:

  • Casino War is played with six decks of cards and the cards are all ranked according to standard poker rankings.
  • Aces are always high in this game.
  • Suits follow no rank and have no effect on the game.
  • Once you have placed your bet, the dealer will provide you with one card and take one for themselves.
  • Your card is then pitted against the dealer’s card. If your card is higher than the dealer’s card, you win your bet at even money. If the dealer’s card is higher than yours, you lose your bet.

It is really that simple.

A Tie

In the case of a tie, you have the option to “surrender” or go to “war.”

Surrender: If you choose to surrender, you will forfeit half of your bet. For example, if you have bet $20 on a game, and you tie with the dealer, you will receive $10 back.

War: If you opt for war, you need to raise your bet in order to enter a type of showdown with the dealer. The amount you must raise by should match the amount of your initial bet. For example, you bet $20, tie, and opt for war. Therefore, you must place another $20 down to play.

The dealer will proceed to burn three cards before dealing one card to the player and taking one for themselves. Both cards are then compared.

If the player’s second card is equal or greater in value than the dealer’s second card, they win even money on the raised bet. The initial bet will push.

If the dealer has the higher card, the player loses both bets.

Casino War Bets and Odds

Depending on what casino you play at, there may be slight variations when it comes to odds. For the most part, a bet on a game pays even money. Therefore, a $20 bet will win you $20 in addition to your $20 stake. The standard bet is on the ante and this is clearly marked on any Casino War table.

Just above the oblong shaped area for the ante bet, you will see another oblong shape for the tie bet. Tie bets typically pay at 10-1, which means a $20 on a tie will see you win $220 (including your $20 stake). As you have probably gathered by now, it is a very easy game to play. The most you can win from a game which does not tie is even money, which makes it is a pretty fair game to play. Both the player and the dealer have a 46.3% of winning. You may be wondering at this point where the house edge comes in. In Casino War, the house edge comes from a tie.

The House Edge

The tie may be the most exciting part of the game, but can also work against a player.

When the game goes to a tie, you have the option to surrender or go to war. If you opt to surrender, you will lose 50% of your bet. If you are an optimist – but slightly conservative – you may see this as recouping half of the amount of your bet. Your $20 bet now becomes $10 lost with $10 returned to you.

In order to go to war, you must wager another unit. The $20 on the table will be held with another $20 bet on the outcome of the showdown. If you beat the dealer, you will win $20 and receive your $40 stake back. In other words, the initial bet is a push. However, if the dealer wins, there is no push on the first bet; the house takes both chips. Does this sound unfair? Well, “all is fair in love and war,” as the old saying goes.

This is where the house edge comes into play. When the game ties and goes to war, you are looking at two potential scenarios:

  • You win one unit
  • You lose both units

Put another way, if you are betting $20 units, you are risking $40 in order to win $20.

Casino War Strategy

All things considered, you should have some form of strategy for war (this stuff writes itself).

Although the game is very simple, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t familiarize yourself with ways to play better. Well, at least ways to play smarter. With any game where you are required to stake real money, it is up to you to do everything you can to make it harder for the house to get your cash.

Manage Your Bankroll

Regardless of what game you are playing – whether it is Casino War or roulette – it is always a good idea to have a goal in mind. If you are playing just for fun, how much are you willing to lose before it is no longer fun? If you don’t know the answer to this question, it is always best to decide on your bankroll just in case.

The first step of your strategy, therefore, is to work out how much you are willing to lose playing the game. If you are taking $200 to the table, it is advisable to set unit amount somewhere around $1 of your bankroll. In this case, each bet will have a unit stake of $2. If you are undisciplined (never a good thing in war), and decide to put your entire bankroll down, on one hand, you have a 50/50 chance of winning.


If you lose, it’s lights out. For players who don’t take losses well will know, the urge to win this money back may result in another $200 bet. If that is lost, then things can get emotional. Manage your bankroll. Always. Don’t let a big loss set you on a trail of destruction. Play smart and have fun, if that is the aim. If you are playing Casino War to make some serious profit, then you will likely have your eyes on what happens in the event of a tie.

Playing the Side Bet

You may wonder if the side bet – which is a bet on a tie – is worth it. At odds of 10-1, it is certainly appealing to try your luck every now and again. Casinos very, very rarely get things wrong. The high payout on this bet exists for a reason. For the most part, it is so high as the chances of a tie bet are so low.

A tie bet occurs when both the dealer and the player has a card of the same value. A 2 of hearts for the dealer and a 2 of clubs for the player, for example, will see the game go to a tie. The chance of a tie works out at around one in every seventeen hands, which shows why it is not great value.


A sucker bet? Perhaps. Like any other bet of this type in a casino, chancing your luck and winning tastes very sweet. The odds certainly make it a pretty nice experience, you have to admit. Playing the bet on each round is not likely to be good for your bankroll so we would advise you to err on the side of caution. Well, that or just avoiding it altogether.

Surrender or War?

You almost have to admire the cunning of Casino War’s inventors.Especially when it comes to a macho guy playing the game. Can you imagine a testosterone-fueled dude, surrounded by his friends and partner, opting to surrender? It doesn’t seem likely, does it? Then again, regardless of your age, size, gender, or how badass you consider yourself, the real fun happens when it comes to making this decision.

There will always be a player who has the natural inclination to surrender, arguing that they live to fight another day (or play another hand). You may be surprised to learn that this approach actually benefits the casino, every time. While the odds of winning a tie bet are heavily stacked against the player, the house edge when a tie occurs can change depending on your choice. This should influence your decision.

Put simply:

  • If you go to war, the house edge is 2.88%
  • If you decide to surrender, the house edge increases from 2.88% to 3.7%

In this case, you should always opt for war on a tie. While you may have the impression that playing safe and conservatively is the right option, this is simply not the case.

The Double Tie Bonus

Some casinos offer what is known as the “Double Tie Bonus,” which can pay out an additional bet unit. In some cases, this can be advertised as 3-1, but the first bet loses, which really makes it an even money bonus.

Some Casino War players will always play a game which has this bonus, in order to enhance their chances of an additional win. If you can find a version that pays any additional bonus without risking another bet, you should play.

War. What is it good for? As the Edwin Starr song puts it, “absolutely nothing.” Casino War is surely an exception to this rule. It is a game which is just perfect for any novice player at a casino. It requires little skill to play and the rules are so simple that a kid could master them. As we covered above, Casino War is a game which was developed on one of the first card games many kids learned to play, which is “War.”

Aside from being easy and lots of fun, there is no doubt that Casino War is far from the high-risk type games many play at casinos. The house edge is relatively low, which means that you will not be swimming upstream most of the time, looking for a win. A bet will pay at even money, which means that even a modest bankroll can keep you at the tables for a while.

The house edge does kick in once a tie happens. While it can be tempting to place a side bet on this happening, the chances of a tie are too high to justify frequent punts on this bet. Therefore, players should think hard about placing a tie bet in the first place. Yes, the payout is nice, but you a could have a long wait anticipating matched cards between you and the dealer.

When it comes to a tie, it is always best to grit your teeth and opt for war. Alternatively, you could surrender – and live with the shame – allowing the casino to raise the house edge in the process. When it comes down to it, however, it is entirely your decision.

Now that you know everything about Casino War, you should be ready to try it out for yourself. If you don’t feel ready just yet, you may find that a few hands on a free game, or a demo version of Casino War, could help build your confidence!

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