To War or Not to War

When you’re involved in a game of casino war there’s only one decision you need to make that can drastically alter the fortunes of your finances. Of course, the amount you bet and whether you make a tie bet are important decisions, but they pale in significance to the choice you have to make when you’re asked whether or not you want to go to war.

If your opening card ties with that of the dealer you’ll be forced into a situation where you either have to surrender half your opening stake and quit the hand. Or you’ll be asked to match your opening bet and go to war with the dealer in another highest card wins showdown. When you’re put in this position it can be tough to know what to do. For many amateur players the seemingly obvious answer is that you should surrender half your money rather than invest any more into the pot. Indeed, this is perfectly logical line of thought.

However, in mathematical terms deciding to surrender is a huge mistake. Every decision you make in a game of casino war needs to consider the long-term expectation (EV) of the move. This basically means you need to assess whether or not what you’re doing will make you money over a significant number of trials.

Looking at the numbers involved in going to war or surrendering, you'll find that it’s actually better to go to war because the advantage you give the casino is less. Indeed, by being brave and investing more money the casino will have a 2.0% edge, while surrendering gives the casino a 3.7% edge. In one specific hand this difference won’t cost you too much money. However, over a significant number of hands you’ll find an ever widening gap between your profits if you choose to surrender rather than go to war.

Thus, while it may seem like the counterintuitive move, going to war is actually much more profitable than surrendering when you’re involved in a game of casino war.

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