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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Casinos offer kitchen table kid's game

25 March 2005

Dear Mark,
What do you know about a game called Battle Royale? Is it the same game and odds as the game of War that I’ve seen offered in the casino? Kevin T.

Yes, Kevin, Battle Royale is a variation of the same game that you played as a youngster at the kitchen table and analogous to the game of War offered in some casinos.

With War, you and the dealer receive one card each, and the high card wins. If there’s a tie, you MUST double your initial bet, and two more cards are dealt. Again the high card wins. However, if you win, you get only your original wager. This is how the casino pillages your wallet. The house advantage from this one rule change is upped to 7.14%. With Battle Royale, the rules offer the player a surrender option, making the casino advantage much lower than in the game of War.

Like casino War, Battle Royale is a contest between player and dealer, one card being dealt face up to the player, one card dealt face up to the dealer. Your object remains the same: draw a higher card than the dealer’s. Cards are ranked as in poker; twos are low and aces are high. Suits do not matter in Battle Royale. High card always wins until a tie occurs.

When a tie intrudes, the dealer will ask if the player would like to go to battle or surrender. If the player chooses to surrender, the dealer will take half of the player’s original wager and deal a new hand. If the player elects to go to battle, the player must raise his or her bet by an amount equal to the original wager (the dealer does the same, but only for show), then after the dealer burns three cards, an additional card is dealt to both player and dealer. If the dealer has high card, the player loses both bets. If the player wins, the win is only for even money on the battle bet, while the original wager remains a push. However, if a second tie occurs during the battle, the player is paid out at a rate of 3:1.

As for a playing strategy, Kevin, there isn’t much of one, except for the decision of either surrendering or battling when you and the dealer tie. I recommend that you always go to war with the dealer when you have a tie. At first glance, it might seem illogical to risk twice your bet in hopes of winning back only your original wager; but the house edge is 2.68% when you go to war versus 3.7% if you forfeit your original wager without a fight.

The player also has the option of placing a side bet on a Tie before the new hand is dealt. Though it pays a dazzling 10 to 1, it is a sucker bet that has an enormous house advantage of 18.65%. A crunching no-brainer, Kevin, so don’t play it.

The skinny, Kevin, is that although Battle Royale compromises my principle of only making wagers that have less than a 2% casino advantage, so long as you battle the dealer rather than surrender, the house edge of 2.68% won’t pickpocket your billfold all that much.

Gambling quote of the week: “One should always play fair when one has the winning cards.” Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.