Although Pontoon is not as well-known as its classic cousin, Blackjack, it’s one of the most played variants in both Britain and Australia. However, the two games do bear some differences you should be aware of. In our Pontoon card game Guide, we reveal what the differences are along with how to play it and the best online casinos to play at!
What is Pontoon?
As a card game, Pontoon is exciting and can be very lucrative if played correctly. The much-loved table game is a variant of Blackjack, which is mostly played in Australia and Great Britain, has slightly different rules to the original. In fact, we can say that the casino game’s rules are predominantly similar to Spanish 21 with some notable contrasts.
However, the overall aim of the game in the Pontoon card game is fundamentally the same as Blackjack – to obtain a ‘Pontoon’ or a hand that’s close to 21 without going bust. In order not to go bust, you must not exceed a total score of 21.
How are pontoon hands ranked?
A Pontoon (a two-card hand totalling 21, also known as a Natural or Blackjack in other Blackjack variants) is the strongest hand possible. But it’s still beaten by a dealer’s Pontoon.
The next strongest hand is a five-card trick, which is basically all five-card hands that haven’t been busted (gone over 21). If you get a five-card trick totalling 21 and the dealer has a five-card trick hand totalling, 20 the dealer still wins the hand as the dealer wins all ties and all five-card tricks are of the same value.
If your hand has three or four cards and totals 21, you still have a strong hand but it’s not as strong as a five-card trick or a Pontoon. The latter two pays 2-1 while a three or four-card 21 only pays 1-1.
How to play pontoon
A round of Pontoon starts with the dealer dealing one card face down to each player. All players can look at their card except the banker. Starting to dealer’s left players then make their initial bets. A second card is now dealt face down to each player and all players, including the dealer look at their cards.
If the banker has a Pontoon (an Ace plus a face card, worth 10 points) it’s immediately exposed and the banker takes double the bet from each of the players.
If the banker doesn’t have a pontoon then players can each try and improve their hand by drawing (‘twisting’ or buying) cards from the dealer.
If you have a pontoon, congratulations! You win your bet. But if your cards add up to less than 21, you have a few options.
- If the total value of your cards is 15 or over, you can say “stick.” Just like a stay in regular blackjack, you stop your turn, keep your bet as is and pass the turn on to the next player. If your hand is ultimately higher than the dealer’s (or he goes bust), you win.
- If the total value of your cards is less than 21 you can also say ‘twist.’ The dealer will then deal you another card face up. If you’re still under 21 you can twist one or two more cards. If you’re still under )or equal to) 21 after five cards, you have a five-card pontoon.
- If the total value of your cards is less than 21 you can also “buy” more cards. That means you add to your bet (either equal to or up to twice your original bet) and get another card dealt face down. If you’re still under 21 you can buy another card again and do the same with your bet – add any amount between your original bet and how much you bet the previous time. If your two cards are equal in rank, you may split them into two hands by putting them face up on the table and placing another bet equal to your initial bet. If you’re still under 21 you can buy a fifth card.
If you start by twisting you have to keep twisting – you can’t buy any cards later in the hand and increase your bets. But if you start by buying cards you can continue buying or you can switch to twisting at any point.
Just like in Blackjack if you get two of the same cards on the initial deal you can split them and play each hand separately. If you get another of the same value card, you can split it again. If you go over the value of 21 at any point in a hand you are bust and have to flip your hand over.
Pontoon Card Game Strategy
When playing any online casino game, it is important for you to have a strategy and to follow it to the letter. With a strategy, you are making sure that you will be lowering the house edge which is about 0.38% in online casinos. For you to accomplish this, you can one of the many strategy cards that are available online and in brick and mortar casinos.
When you visit some of the online casinos, you will realize that some of them will have pontoon strategy advise added to their table interface which will make things easy for you. These charts are easy to follow and if you stick to them, you will increase your chances of bagging a win. As you apply the pontoon strategy, you need to employ good bankroll management to make things easy for you.
As you go about this, you need to understand the variant of the game you’re playing since it means different things in different countries. Before you can start playing the game for real money, it will be important for you to practice the game online for free. This will make it easy for you to become familiar with the game and learn from the mistakes you make.