Edwin Starr’s famous song “War” contains the line “It ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker…” but when it comes to the online casino version of the card game war, is that also the case?
In this post, we are going to take a look at arguably the simplest casino game that you can play, War, and where the game ranks in terms of how advantageous, or not, it is for the casino over the player.
You can play War at any number of top casinos including DraftKings Casino (sister site of DraftKings Sportsbook and DraftKings Fantasy Sports), which has a demo version of the simplest form of the game you can play for free before you play for real cash.
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What Is War?
When you think of card games at a casino, you are probably most likely to think of games like Poker, Blackjack or Baccarat. War is probably one of the lesser card games people are aware of, despite it arguably being the simplest of any to play.
It also sounds beguilingly simple. You sit down at the table and place your choice of wagers. You can place a bet on you winning the game and/or the game finishing in a draw. The odds of the draw are around 10/1 on most games of war. The odds offered on you winning the game are even money.
What happens then is very simple, the player is dealt one card from the pack face up, then the dealer deals one card in the pack face up for the house. Whichever card is the highest value wins the War. If the player wins, they are paid out at even money on their bet.
The cards are ranked from two being the lowest card through to Ace being the highest and rather than all picture cards being ranked as ten, King outranks Queen, which outranks Jack, which outranks a ten.
That is it. Most games of War literally take just a couple of seconds to complete (unless you get a tie hand and go to War) after the bets have been placed. As such it is a game that you can rattle through many hands in a very short period.
Betting On War And Why It Is The Key To The Game
The key thing to note here is that a player can, if they wish, place two bets. One on them winning and one on them drawing. However, depending on the outcome of the hand, if you do this, you will only make a profit on a bet if the cards drawn are the same value.
If you place two bets of the same value on your hand to win and the draw, then this is how it works:
Place $10 on your hand to win and $10 on the draw. The cards are drawn, a player is dealt the 9 of clubs and the dealer has the six of hearts.
The player wins, so they receive an even money pay out for their $10 bet on them to win ($20 return), but they lose the draw bet, so the house collects the $10 placed on that bet. Hence, the players bankroll stays exactly the same.
Now of course, if the dealer wins, then the house collects both the $10 bet on yourself and the $10 bet on the draw, which means you are $20 down.
In the event of both cards being a tie, then the bet on your own hand loses and you lose that $10 bet, but you do win the draw bet, which pays out at 10/1, so you would receive back $100, plus your $10 stake. Which is the only way you can guarantee a profit on a win if you place two bets.
In addition, when two cards are drawn that tie, players have the option of Going to War.
Going to War
With this option, you can either surrender which sees you forfeit the hand and half of your main bet is returned, or you can go to war. The odds are not in your favor if you surrender, so the smart option is always to select war.
When you choose this option, the player places another bet equal to the main bet. You can also place a Tie bet for the second hand of any amount.
The next three cards from the pack are burned and then the dealer deals a hand of three cards to the player and three to the dealer.
If your second hand beats the dealers second hand, then your second main bet is paid one to one, but you lose the additional optional tie bet.
If the dealers hand wins, then the player loses any bet they made on the hand.
If the second hands also tie, then your main bet is paid at odds of 2/1 and the optional side bet on the tie is paid at 10/1.
Of course, at the very beginning you can place just a single bet on your own hand to win, which does offer you the chance to double your money, but if the game is a tie, or the dealer wins, then you lose your bet and perhaps more importantly, when the game is a tie, you lose the opportunity of a higher value payout by going to War.
Is War Popular At Casinos?
Although perhaps not one of the most commonly played games, evidence suggests that War is a popular game at casinos, especially with players that may not be familiar with the rules of some of the other more popular card games.
In addition, the fast-paced nature of the game makes it an ideal one for people who only have a short amount of time to play.
It may not be as well-known a game as the likes of blackjack, roulette or craps, but it is a game that is popular in casinos that offer it. Several dealers that work in casinos have confirmed that the War tables are often amongst the most popular at casinos and that the simplicity of the game is part of the appeal.
That must certainly be the case, as it is not a game that offers players great value in the longer term. To explore why, let’s look at the house edge in the game.
What Is The House Edge In A Typical Game Of War?
There’s’ not good news for people when it comes to the house edge in the simple version of war. Probably only Keno, which has a huge house edge, offers players a smaller chance of making a profit on their time playing the game.
It is easy to see this at work if you play a demo game. If you place two bets on your card to win and the draw and simply keep rebetting the same amount, you can literally watch your bankroll fall as you whizz through the games.
Sure, you win some, but even when you win, you are most likely to just break even. You only make a profit on the tie bet, but ties only happen relatively rarely (and are far less common than the 1 in 10 hands the odds suggest) so in terms of your bankroll, the simple version of War is not that great.
Are There Other Alternatives To War?
Well yes, peace for one, but if you mean the card games then there are plenty of different versions of War you can play. Some of these have much more complicated betting options available, but these do bring the house edge down considerably, but at the expense of making the game a little more complex for players.
The only way to really make a profit on War is when you place the tie bet, go to war and then make much larger War and Tie bets and then get lucky and hit on the tie bet in war. The chances of that happening are slim though and it is a risky bet.
That said, the game is very simple and many people enjoy that aspect of the game and if you are playing for minimum bet amounts, then it can be fun to play. However, there is a reason that player with higher bankrolls tend to leave this game well alone!