Pontoon is a casino game that is very similar to blackjack but comes with some crucial differences. In fact, Pontoon can mean different things to different players since two or more popular variants share the name. As a result, the country in which you are playing pontoon can have a major role. In Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia, the card game of pontoon is very similar to Spanish 21, another famous version of blackjack.
However, in the U.K. the common pontoon versions are more similar to the traditional game of blackjack but can be distinguished with ease through the terminology. Here, Twist is used instead of Hit and Stick for Stand.
There are also other differences that you should learn before you switch from blackjack to Pontoon. Our detailed guide will prove to be very useful in this regard. For starters, you should know that pontoon is available in most big casinos and is also a title often found on online gaming sites. The layout is very familiar since it uses the standard style for card games and players can be attracted to that.
The history of Pontoon goes back centuries as it is a British version of blackjack, which is the variant of twenty-one played in the United States of America. One important thing to note is that Pontoon doesn’t come with an official set of rules that is applied across the world. This leads to a lot of small variations from one casino to another.
Although it doesn’t have the same global popularity as blackjack, Pontoon is loved by many players. From Australia to the United Kingdom, casino tables are often full of fans and game enthusiasts. If you are thinking about giving it a try, some aspects can make it a good fit for you.
First on the list is if you are a fan of blackjack and want to try something slightly different. Pontoon has a lot of similarities with the modern game of 21, so it is the perfect fit if you want to mix things up and still stick to something you know and love. Some of the rules in Pontoon are more favourable so that they can provide extra winning opportunities. However, the overall house edge is roughly the same, so it isn’t better than single-deck blackjack for example.
The card game is also popular as an online casino option. Given the fact that most of these games have demo versions, playing on the internet is the best way to practice for free and learn all the small differences. It is even possible to play multi-hand pontoon to maximise the number of hands played per hour.
Since we mentioned quite often that Pontoon is a variation of blackjack, it shares the core set of rules. As a result, the game is played with multiple decks of cards. However, most variations don’t use the four ten cards. Cards from 2 to 9 are worth their respective value for the hand total. The higher cards for K, Q, and J are each equivalent to 10 points. An Ace in hand can be worth 11 points or just 1, depending on what value is better for the hand total.
To win in Pontoon, your total has to be higher than the dealers without going over 21. Regular hands have a payout of 1 to 1 while hands that are equal to 21 from the first two cards (a card that is worth 10 points plus an Ace) are known as Pontoon and pay 3:2.
A notable difference is with the dealer's cards. Generally speaking, the dealer only gets one card to start with, which is facing up. This means that the casino side cannot get 21 from the beginning and instead has to wait for the players to conclude their hands before one or more cards can be drawn. Also, the player always wins with 21, even if it is formed with three or more cards and the dealer gets it from two. Other versions of Pontoon give the dealer two cards, but none of them are showing, which provides the player with a more significant disadvantage.
Most casinos have features to compensate in the case that the dealer gets Pontoon and the player used the split feature. In this case, original bets are lost while the additional stakes placed for split hands are returned.
Other unique features to keep an eye out for include a payout for 5 Card Trick, also known as Charlie. It offers a prize of 2:1 for a hand made with five cards where the total is of 21 or less. The most common side bet found at the tables is for Pair. The betting box is just above the main one and players can place their wagers at the start of the round. If you get two cards of the same rank from the beginning, you win 11:1 on the side bet.
Now that you know how the game works, all you have to do is take a seat at a table and place your bets. Keep in mind that the stake must be between table limits, which are displayed clearly. After you place your bet, the cards are dealt. If you want another card added to the value, you can Twist, also known as Hit. You can do so multiple times in a row as long as the total does not exceed 21. Once you are happy with the hand, you can Stick, or Stand.
Pontoon also allows players to Buy and double the bet before getting another card. After doubling, you can request additional cards if needed.
Strategy plays a prominent role when it comes to Pontoon because you have some influence on the outcome of a hand. The decision to twist, stick, or buy should not be taken lightly. Optimal play is based on the odds of winning and will provide the best house edge in the long run. While variations can appear during smaller sessions, things tend to average out. The basic strategy for Pontoon refers to always making the right decision to maximise the chances of winning.
With this in mind, there are some things to consider before taking a seat at the table. There can be many differences between Pontoon versions. First, you should not play if Pontoon hands are paid less than 3:2 since this is the standard payout rate. Second, avoid side bets, including buying insurance. Although these options offer attractive rates that can go up to 11:1, they are not worth the investment. Third, don’t bet more than you can lose. This rule applies to all gambling games, and you should always play responsibly.
Now that we have the details out of the way, it is time to take a look at the actual Pontoon playing strategy that offers the lowest house edge. This applies to the variation where the dealer only has one card, and it is visible to the table. Also, 5 Card Trick does not apply, and doubling can only be done on hands of 10 or 11. The dealer has to hit on 16 or lower and stand on 17.
The detailed table presents the right decisions based on the current hand total and the card that the dealer is showing. If you start with 9 or anything lower, always twist (hit). If the game allows players to double their bet on 10 or on 11, make sure to use the buy (double) feature since it provides the best odds of winning more money. For 12 and 13, twist in every case, except if the dealer has a 6. On a hand of 14 points, you should twist unless the casino side has 4, 5, or 6, in which case it is better to stick (stand). On 15 or 16, stick if the dealer has 6 or a lower card and twist otherwise. For 17, 18, 19, 20, or 21, just stick.
The main drawback to playing Pontoon is that it lacks an official set of rules and so there are many different versions and variations. While these are similar, the small changes can influence the house edge and also the strategy. As a result, Pontoon can be quite challenging to master and play correctly. If you follow the tips and playing strategy provided in our guide, you should enjoy a high RTP of around 99.5%. Skilled players are rewarded, which is something that can't be said for every casino game available.
The special rules also make it a bit more entertaining as most experienced players claim to enjoy the gameplay a bit more than in classic blackjack. As a conclusion, Pontoon is a gaming option that you should try out. Make sure to learn the mechanics and check the rules before you make any real money bets!