Crayfish, bearing dangerous weapons in the form of chelae, resolve intraspecific conflicts using stereotyped behaviors and structured, escalated encounters. According to predictions of game theory models, any decision to resort to unrestrained combat without prior careful behavioral assessment of the opponent’s fighting abilities carries great risks. The present study examines the significance of internal hunger states and the presence of chemical food cues in this decision process using a 2 × 2 factorial design. Hungry crayfish escalated more rapidly, and thus took greater risks, during agonistic encounters, while the presence of a food source reduced the rate at which fights increased in intensity. However, there were no significant differences in fighting behavior as a result of the interaction between these two variables. We then address the complex trade-offs that individuals face in fighting with respect to increased risks of injury, appetitive states, and opportunities for resource access.