Am I missing something in the odds of the card game "war"?
So I was in Vegas last week on work training and a mini vacation with my girlfriend. At the casino’s I didn’t really plan on gambling much since I know I suck at the card games and I know the slots are a rip-off. I did want to gamble a bit though (being in Vegas and all) so I set aside some money to try my luck at Black Jack, and I studied up on the rules and what not.
Well to my surprise while looking around the casino’s, many of them offered a table game called “Casino War.” For those not familiar with the card game war, you take the deck of cards and split it evenly among those playing (usually two). The players then each lift their top card at the same time, and the player with the higher face card “wins” both cards to go into the bottom of their deck. So for example if I’m playing you and you flip a 10 and I flip a Queen, I “win” and put your 10 and my Queen on the bottom of the deck. Casino War works basically the same way, except rather than playing for the cards in play, you’re playing for whatever you bet (min $10, max $1000), and the bet is decided every “hand” of War.
I was stunned that a game involving no strategy would be there, and moreover as best I can tell the House has no “advantage” in a game of war. I thought about it long and hard and all I could come up with was 50/50 odds. Whats more, if you got a “double war” (where you played war and got the same card a second time) you won, and the house doubled your winnings.
SO I used a strategy I had been told for Black Jack. Basically in Black Jack you’ve got a good 30–40% chance of winning any given hand, so you hedge your bets and every time you lose you double your bet on the next hand. The concept being if I lose 10 on one bet, but I win 20 on the next bet, I’ve made back all I lost and what I would’ve won on the last hand, plus I won the next hands worth. “Essentially” you can’t lose using that method, so long as you’re always able to double your bet (the problem coming in when you’ve lost 4–5 hands in a row suddenly you have to have a few hundred dollars to double it). I copied this same strategy to War, assuming my odds to be roughly 50% on any given hand.
Well I sat down with $50 in chips and started playing. In less than 10 minutes I was handing my g/f $25 chips off the table, so that I could “draw a line” and not lose my winnings. Quickly I had handed her the $50 I started with, and then kept adding more. At one point I was up to almost $500. What eventually got me was that once I had enough money to double my bets for 3 or so hands, I would up my minimum wager. So where I started at $10, I eventually moved up to $15 and so on until I reached $30 per hand. Eventually I lost enough hands in a row that I simply didn’t have the money to keep doubling, and I finally lost all of my money that was still on the table. When it was said and done I turned to my g/f who was now holding $300 in $25 chips. Which I cashed in for a $250 profit in about 40 minutes of play.
I would play 2 more times, making $30 once, and breaking even the other. Both times though I found myself at least $150 up at one point.
So my question is basically this… what on Earth are the Casino’s thinking? Now granted I didn’t see anyone else at the War tables playing with the doubling strategy I was using, but even so the odds are still 50/50 right? Why on Earth is a casino giving you a game with even odds? Are they banking that greatly on you just blowing the money elsewhere in the Casino? Am I missing something and its not actually 50/50?