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A Guide to Playing Pontoon

Pontoon is a blackjack variant that is only available at online casinos. It is distributed by RealTime Gaming. This online casino group accepts US players. Playtech and Betsoft also spread the game.

Microgaming has Pontoon, too. However, split aces only receive one card. To offset this, the dealer stands on soft 17. This version is less favorable to players, so we suggest playing at one of the other sites for this reason.

Pontoon uses a standard 52-card deck. Players are forced to hit any hand 14 and under. There is a separate value hand just below a blackjack which is called “pontoon” in this game. It is a five-card trick.

There are many strategy changes due to the unusual rules. Make sure to learn the basic strategy for Pontoon before playing. We go over it and the differences in Pontoon below.

Differences Between Pontoon and Traditional Blackjack

There are several differences between Pontoon and traditional blackjack.

A blackjack hand, called pontoon, pays 2-1. A two-card 21 after a split counts as a pontoon. A five-card hand that does not bust and wins has the same payout. The dealer can tie on these. The house wins all ties.

The dealer does not take a hole card until all players act. This is the European way of dealing blackjack.

Both dealer hole cards are face down. This makes the strategy easy to learn, as you don’t have to take a dealer’s exposed card into account.

Players may double down at any time. However, an ace always counts as one when doubling. Players can hit after a double down and must if the hand is not 15 or higher. Split aces may be hit, doubled, and re-split.

How to Play Pontoon

The first step in playing Pontoon is choosing the denomination of chips that you would like to use. The next step is to click the betting circle until the wager equals what you want it to be.

After that, click deal, and you will receive two cards. You may bet up to three hands at the same time.

If the player has a pontoon, which is the same as a blackjack in a normal game, the hand ends. The dealer will then check to see if it also has it. If the player has it alone, the hand pays 2-1. If the dealer also has it, the house wins.

If the player or dealer do not have pontoon, the hand continues as normal. The dealer does not check for pontoon until the end of the hand.All bets made through the duration of the hand will lose if the dealer has pontoon.

If nobody has pontoon, players are given the following options.

  • Hit
  • Stand
  • Double down
  • Surrender
  • Split (if dealt a pair)

As Pontoon is only spread at online casinos, each action the player has available has a button on the screen. Touch it or click it with your mouse to hit, stand, double down, and split.

Hit is when a player would like to draw a card. You may hit until you bust or make a five-card hand.

Stand means the player does not want any more cards. This is not available until the player has 15, or has five cards.

Double down involves the player doubling the original bet and receiving one more card. A player with a pair has the option to split.

A player that makes a five-card hand without busting stands. The only way this hand loses is if the dealer also makes a five-card hand.

The dealer draws to hands up to 16 and soft 17. If the dealer has a hard 17 or any hand of 18 and higher, it stands. It also stops drawing if it makes five cards without busting. The house automatically wins here.

Once the player and dealer have completed the hand, they are compared to each other.

If the dealer has the same point total or higher than the player, the house wins all bets.

If the player makes a five-card hand and the dealer does not, or if the player’s hand is higher than the dealer’s hand, it wins.

A winning five-card hand pays 2-1. All other hands win even money.

After the hand, click the deal button for a new one. To leave, click the menu button on the table.

Pontoon Strategy

The strategy for Pontoon is substantially different from a traditional game of blackjack. One reason is that the dealer’s cards are placed face down. Another is the five-card trick paying 2-1. Players may not stand until the hand is at least 15.

Hard Hands

A hard hand does not include an ace, or it has one and can bust.

  • 4 through 7: Always hit
  • 8: Hit on 2 or 3 cards; double down on 4
  • 9: Hit on 2 cards; double down on 3 or 4
  • 10 and 11: Always double down
  • 12 through 14: Hit on 2 or 3 cards; double down on 4
  • 15 and 16: Stand on 2 or 3 cards; double down on 4
  • 17: Stand on 2 or 3 cards; double down on 4
  • 18 and higher: Always stand

Soft Hands

A soft hand includes an ace and cannot bust.

  • Soft 13: Always hit
  • Soft 14 through 18: Hit on 2 or 3 cards; double down on 4
  • Soft 19 and 20: Stand on 2 cards; double down on 3 or 4

Splits

The only pairs that should be split are eights and aces.

Please refer to the chart below for a visual summary of Pontoon strategy.

Pontoon Strategy Chart

Where to Play Pontoon

Pontoon is spread at most online casinos. RealTime Gaming, Playtech, Betsoft, and Microgaming all spread it.

This blackjack variant is not available at live casinos. The game by the same name in Australia is more like Spanish 21 and does not resemble this Pontoon at all.

Our Pick

For US players, we recommend RealTime Gaming casinos over Betsoft. It is a personal preference of software.

Players outside the US should head to Playtech casinos. The rules are more player-friendly than the ones at Microgaming.

Summary

Pontoon has a house edge of 0.38% at sites with the most generous rules. This makes it one of the better blackjack games at online casinos. It is often better than traditional games.

The strategy for Pontoon is easy to learn as there is no thought about the dealer’s door card as there is not one. We recommend playing it, especially if you need a change from traditional blackjack.