Pontoon BlackJack

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Pontoon

Pontoon Blackjack – Rules, Strategy and free game to play

Pontoon, ironically, is considered one of the games from which blackjack evolved. The version of Pontoon you get at online casinos today is offered by different major software providers, including, among others:

  • Microgaming
  • Playtech
  • BetSoft
  • Real Time Gaming
  • Cryptologic
  • Galewind Software

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Playable Pontoon Blackjack game:

The house edge in Pontoon

The modern version of Pontoon that you get at online casinos is a fun variant of regular blackjack and comes with a few changes, especially in some of the basic rules. We will discuss these differences in a later section, ‘How Pontoon is Different from Regular Blackjack’.

How to Play Pontoon Blackajck

A game of pontoon at an online casino uses anywhere between 2 and 8 card decks, depending on the casino and also the software provider. Pontoon is fun to play. The best hand in the game, unlike in blackjack, is called a ‘pontoon’.

The basic card values are the same as a regular game of blackjack.

  • Cards 2 to 9 are valued at face.
  • 10 to King are valued at 10 points each.
  • Ace is valued at 1 or 11, depending on the hand.

How pontoon is played at an online casino.

  • Place bets for the deal to begin.
  • The player is dealt two cards face-up.
  • The dealer’s cards are dealt face down.
  • The dealer peeks into his hand for ‘pontoon’. Dealer’s pontoon beats a player hand and the game ends.
  • Based on the hand the player has he can do one of the following:
    • Hit: Draw an additional card to strengthen the hand.
    • Stand: Stay put with the original hand.
    • Double down: Double the initial wager and draw another card; after that the player has to stand.
    • Split: Split a hand of 2 identical card values into individual hands. There is additional wagering on the hands and they are played separately.

Once the player has played his hand it is the dealer’s turn. He reveals his hand and draws cards till he has a hand of at least 17. Once the dealer’s hand is completed the one with the highest hand wins the game. Players are paid out based on their hand if they win.

How Pontoon is Different from Regular Blackjack

There are a few basic differences between Pontoon and a regular game of blackjack.

  • Higher number of decks results in a decrease in the house edge.
  • Both the dealer’s cards are dealt face-down.
  • The dealer peeks for pontoon once his cards are dealt.
  • Dealer’s move is made only after the player has completed his hand; this has a huge impact in terms of strategy. The player may have doubled down or split, only to be beaten by a higher hand or Pontoon by on the dealer’s hand.
  • Player loses on a tied hand.
  • When after splitting Aces the player gets a 2-card hand valued at 21, it is also declared a ‘pontoon’. In some games, this hand has a value of 21 but not considered a pontoon.

Hand Rankings in Pontoon

There are different hand rankings in Pontoon. The following are the major hand rankings.

  • The highest hand is the pontoon – a 2-card hand with an Ace and a 10-value card.
  • The next high hand is a 5-card trick. This is any 5-card hand that has not overshot 21 and busted. 5-card trick hands all have equal value; the individual hand value does not count.
  • A hand of 21 with a maximum of 4 cards. In this hand the individual hand values do matter; ranking is based on the individual values of the different 4-card hands.
  • A busted hand with a minimum value of 22.

Pontoon Rules

Pontoon differs from blackjack not just in terms of the basic deal but also some of the rules.

  • Players can stand only if they have one of the following:
    • A hand value higher than 15
    • A 5-card hand
  • Players can hit for any hand value as long as it does not result in a bust.
  • Hitting is allowed even after doubling down.
  • Doubling is allowed on 2 to 4 cards; however, doubling is allowed only once in a hand.
  • Doubling down is allowed even after splitting; the player can double down once for a split hand.
  • Splitting is allowed only on 2 cards of the same value.
  • Once a player splits Aces he can do one of the following:
  • Draw; this rule varies in the Microgaming variant of Pontoon: a player can draw only card per hand after splitting Aces.
  • Double down
  • Re-splitting is allowed in Pontoon.
  • A player can re-split once for 3 hands in all in a game.
  • Re-splitting of Aces is allowed.
  • The dealer hits until his hand value is a minimum of 17.
  • The dealer hits on a soft 17. This rule varies in Microgaming’s Pontoon offering, where the dealer stands on a soft 17.
  • The dealer stands on a 5-card trick hand.

The rules also vary slightly when it comes to payouts in Pontoon.

  • A pontoon hand pays out at 2:1.
  • A 5-card hand pays out at 2:1.
  • All other hands pay out even money, i.e. 1:1.

The above rules may vary, as mentioned, depending on the software provider behind the game. The variations also have an impact on the house edge.

  • A two-deck Pontoon game increases the house edge by 0.35%.
  • When a dealer stands on a soft 17 the house edge goes down by 0.47%.
  • When there is no draw for split Aces the house edge goes up by 0.49%.
  • When a player gets a 2-card hand of an Ace and a 10-value card that is not considered a pontoon, the house edge goes up by 0.49%.

Pontoon Strategy

Like all in all games of blackjack and its variants, strategy plays a great role in determining how you fare.

  • A good option is to split a hand of two 8s.
  • Splitting Aces is also a good option in games where split Aces result in a 2-card hand valued 21 and considered a pontoon. In Microgaming games where this rule is not followed, splitting may not be advisable.

The following are strategy charts for different games of Pontoon.

Pontoon Strategy for Microgaming Pontoon

This is a chart for hard totals.

Number of Cards

Hand Totals 4 3 2
21 S S S
20 S S S
19 S S S
18 S S S
17 H S S
16 DH S S
15 DH S S
14 DH H H
13 DH H H
12 DH H H
11 DH DH DH
10 DH DH DH
9 DH DH H
8 DH H H
7 DH H H
6 DH H H
5 DH H H
4 DH H H

The following is a chart for soft totals.

Number of Cards per Hand

Player Totals 4 3 2
A, 10 DH DS S
A, 9 DH DH S
A, 8 DH DH S
A, 7 DH H H
A, 6 DH H H
A, 5 DH H H
A, 4 DH H H
A, 3 DH H H
A, 2 H H
A, A H
8, 8 PS

For the above charts, the terms represent the following:

  • H: Hit
  • S: Stand
  • DH: Double if permitted, else Hit
  • DS: Double if permitted, else Stand
  • PS: Split if permitted, else Stand

Strategy Charts for Pontoon from RTG, Cryptologic, Playtech, and Galewind Software

The following strategy chart is for hard totals.

Number of Cards

Player Totals 4 3 2
21 S S S
20 S S S
19 S S S
18 S S S
17 H S S
16 DH S S
15 DH S S
14 DH H H
13 DH H H
12 DH H H
11 DH DH DH
10 DH DH DH
9 DH DH H
8 DH H H
7 H H
6 H H
5 H
4 H

The following is a chart for soft totals.

Number of Cards per Hand

Player Totals 4 3 2
A, 10 DH DS S
A, 9 DH DH S
A, 8 DH DH S
A, 7 DH H H
A, 6 DH H H
A, 5 DH H H
A, 4 DH H H
A, 3 DH H H
A, 2 H H
A, A PH
8, 8 PS

For the above charts, the terms represent the following:

  • H: Hit
  • S: Stand
  • DH: Double if possible, else Hit
  • DS: Double if possible, else Stand
  • PH: Split if permitted, else Hit
  • PS: Split if permitted, else Stand

Pontoon

Pontoon is an Australian blackjack variant and an ideal game for gamblers looking for an alternative experience, with some favourable rule differences, and some of the lowest house edges on offer.

Pontoon actually comes in two different types, both of which originally derived from another American blackjack variant called Spanish 21. The first version of Pontoon is played in Britain and the UK, and is very similar to conventional American blackjack. The second version of Pontoon is played in Australian, Malaysian and Singaporean casinos and is significantly different. It is known by several different names across several different casinos: Treasury 21 in Brisbane’s Treasury Casino, Paradise Pontoon in Cairns’ Reef Casino, Jupiter 21 in Gold Coast’s Jupiter Casino and Federal Pontoon in Tasmania.

While both variants of Pontoon have similar rules to Spanish 21, the Australian version of Pontoon has proven to be far more popular than both its American inspiration and British counterpart. For clarity, this article will focus on the Australian variant.

Websites to play Pontoon

The Objective

The aim of Pontoon is to receive cards totalled at a greater value than the dealer, without exceeding 21 points; otherwise you bust and lose. If your hand contains an Ace and a 10-valued card, that is considered Pontoon, and in most games, pays either 3:2 or 2:1. In essence, Pontoon is still similar to blackjack, and is played on the same table as traditional blackjack and Spanish 21. However, it has a few notable rule and term differences which distinguish it from its origins:

Term Differences:

  • Hitting 21 is called Pontoon, rather than blackjack.
  • A hit is referred to as a twist.
  • A stand is called a stick.
  • A buy refers to doubling the bet, and you can still twist afterwards (not to be confused with doubling down).
  • Early surrender is available and known as double down rescue./li>

Fixed Rules Differences:

  • The dealer has no hole card (NHC), which is akin to many of the blackjack games in Australia and Europe. This means players cannot determine whether the dealer will draw a natural Pontoon until all players have acted and the dealer draws a second card.
  • Pontoon (21) hands thus will win immediately (always beating the dealer’s Pontoon).
  • The game is played with either four decks from a continuous shuffling machine, or six to eight decks from a shoe. All Tens (Ten of Hearts, Diamonds, Spades & Clubs) are removed from the decks.
  • You can split up to a maximum of two times, depending on the casino.
  • You can only double down on a hand which is totalling nine, 10 or 11.
  • The Ace in any hand which has not been doubled must always count as one, rather than one or 11. Thus, if doubling on a soft-18 (say an Ace and a Seven), you are actually doubling on eight, which is highly inadvisable.
  • Double down rescue (early surrender) is available only after a player has doubled down; you must forfeit an amount equal to your original bet.
  • Late surrender is offered when the dealer’s up-card is a Ten or an Ace; but if the dealer hits blackjack, you still lose your entire bet. Also, you miss the chance to draw to 21 and win immediately. Late surrender is thus not such a valuable option.
  • The dealer must always hit on a soft-17, a rule which favours the house.

No Hole Card Rules

As the dealer does not have a hole card, it is possible for players to split/double and if the dealer draws Pontoon, lose multiple bets. Most games will offer compensation in the form of the following rules. Because the following rules are unique to Australian versions of Pontoon, make sure to familiarise yourself with them as they are not present in conventional blackjack.

Note: These rules are applied after the dealer has removed all busted bets, all winnings from hands totalling 21, and all forfeited hands.

  • OBBO (Original and Busted Bets Only): If the dealer draws Pontoon, you lose any hands you have busted, plus one bet from each split hand remaining. If you have not split, you lose just the one bet. No penalty is taken from any double downs.
  • BB+1 (Busted Bets Plus One): If the dealer draws to Pontoon, you lose any hands you have busted in addition to an amount equal to your initial wager, even if you have multiple split hands in one box.
  • ENHC (European No Hole Card): If the dealer draws Pontoon, the player loses every wager on the table. This is the worst rule as it offers no compensation on a dealer natural.

BB+1 is the more common of the three rules in Australian Pontoon.

State Variations of Pontoon

Pontoon has a large number of fixed rules and conventions, but its prominence all over Australia has lead to a certain level of minor differences introduced by each state’s casinos, as detailed below:

Federal Pontoon

Played in Tasmania in the Country Club Casino and Wrest Point Casino, the name is derived from the casino owners, the Federal Group. It is playable only in the public section of Wrest Point Casino, and not in the VIP area.

  • Eight decks, dealt from a shoe.
  • BB+1 (Busted Bet’s Plus One).
  • Splitting up to three times allowed, with the exception of Aces.

Jupiter’s 21

Played in Queensland at Jupiter’s Casino, which is why it is named Jupiter’s 21.

  • Four decks used, dealt by a continuous shuffling machine.
  • BB+1 (Busted Bet’s Plus One).
  • No re-splits permitted.

Treasury 21

Played in Queensland at the Treasury Casino.

  • Six decks, dealt by a shoe in VIP area, and a continuous shuffling machine in the public area.
  • BB+1 (Busted Bet’s Plus One).
  • No re-splits are permitted.

Payouts

Part of what makes Pontoon very appealing as its own unique game to the average gambler is its massive bonuses. The game often awards special payouts based on the number of cards in your hand, as well as certain special combinations.

  • If you reach 21 with a five-card hand, the payout is 3 to 2.
  • If you reach 21 with a six-card hand, the payout is 2 to 1.
  • If you reach 21 with a seven-card hand or more, the payout is 3 to 1.
  • If you reach 21 with a Six, Seven, Eight combination, or with three Sevens, the payout is 3 to 2 for mixed suits, 2 to 1 for same suit, and 3 to 1 for Spades.
  • If you reach 21 with three Sevens and the dealer’s up-card is also a Seven, the payout is $1000 for bets of $5 to $24, and $5000 for any bets made over $25, while all other players on the table receive an ‘envy bonus’ of $50.
  • If you win the game with any other hand combination, it is an even-money payout (1:1).

Note: These aforementioned bonuses do not pay after doubling down; if you manage to draw three Sevens with the dealer’s face up card of Seven, the bonus does not pay out for both doubling or splitting.

House Edge

Pontoon offers some of the best house edge for the player of any blackjack variant game. While the removal of the 10-valued cards out of the 52-card Spanish decks favours the house, the bonus payouts, flexibility in surrendering, and the fact a player’s hand of 21 (Pontoon, or any other hand totalling 21) is paid out immediately, regardless of what the dealer has, makes the game significantly advantageous to the player.

Why Play Pontoon over Standard Blackjack?

Pontoon is a thoroughly enjoyable variation of blackjack, and is great if you desire a slightly different experience. But there is more reason to choose Pontoon over blackjack than aesthetics and slight name changes: the fact the game is played with no hole cards, where the dealer draws his/her second card after the end of all player turns, means we can draw Pontoon and win automatically, without the fear of a push or a loss, like in certain other variations of blackjack.

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Pontoon Blackjack – Guide, Tips and Tricks

Pontoon is a British card game, which is one of the many blackjack variations available on the internet today.

The Pontoon card game is different to the classic version of blackjack, but fundamentally, the goal and method to win are the same. As in both these games you have to make a hand higher than the dealer’s hand or closest to 21, without exceeding the sum.

Essentially, if you can play Blackjack, then you are sure to be able to play Pontoon. Although technically, it is considered a game in its own right, for the purposes of simplicity, you can consider it as another variation of Blackjack.

Depending on where you are from will determine how the game unfolds, as the rules of Australian Pontoon, which is predominantly played in Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore, are quite different to those in the UK. With the latter being much closer to Blackjack, and the prior, resembling the gameplay of Spanish 21.

However, fundamentally, the gameplay works the same in both, with the same goal, just there are extra elements to consider if you play the Australian version.

How to play Pontoon Card Game

The Pontoon game can be played with just two players, but works best with between 6-8 players involved, one of which works as the dealer, referred to as the Banker. Although, if you are playing pontoon games online, you will likely be playing against a computerised dealer.

Generally, the game is played with a singular 52 Decks, with sometimes a second deck being introduced for larger games of 8 or more participants. This is much less than the majority of Blackjack games, where there is usually 6-8 decks in play, regardless of players involved.

Pontoon gamplay is very similar to the classic game of blackjack, where each player gets two cards that have to be bet on. If the sum of the two cards comes up to 21, which can be with an ace and a 10 value card (ten, king, queen or jack), it is called Pontoon, like blackjack, and is the highest hand.

The game begins the same way as Blackjack, with each player being dealt a card face down. The player then places a wager on the basis of this card potential to win, before the player is dealt a second card.

As mentioned, there are two main types of the Pontoon card game, Australian and British, but we will get on to the differences shortly.

How to Win at Pontoon:

  • The best hand in the game is Pontoon, which like Blackjack, is an accumulative value of 21. It is only considered Pontoon if it is an Ace and a Picture Card or 10. As such, 21 from any other combination of cards, doesn’t guarantee a win.
  • 5 Card Trick is the second best hand. It is a hand made up of 5 Cards which totals 21 or less.
  • A hand of three cards or four cards that equals 21 is the third best hand and beats all other players unless they have Pontoon, a 5 Card Trick, or the same value.
  • If no one has the above hands, then the closest to 21 is the victor.
  • Anything above 21 is a bust and is worthless.

Pontoon Card Game Moves

Pontoon offers slightly more options as standard when compared to Blackjack, with less need for you to play variations to increase the moves available. Upon your initial hand, these are the options you can take:

  • Split your cards – As in the blackjack, you can split your cards, but only if they are equal in rank. At this point, you will place them face up on the table and place a second bet, as you are now playing with a second hand. You are then dealt one more card for each hand, if either (or both) is the same you can then split again. This means you can play with up to four hands. Bear in mind that if you have a picture card, you can only split if it is the same picture. So, you can only split if you have two Jacks, two Queens or two Kings.
  • Buy a Card: This is one of the biggest difference to Blackjack. If you have a hand that equals less than 21, you can buy another card at the price of at least equal, but less than double, your initial stake. The card is than dealt to you with the option buy a fourth if your hand still doesn’t reach 21 at the cost of your initial bet, as well as the amount you wagered for your third. You can do the same again for a fifth if it still doesn’t reach 21 again at the same cost.
  • Twist : This allows you to take another card without affecting your stake (the same as a hit in Blackjack).
  • Stick : The same as a “Stand” in Blackjack, with the exception that you need to have at least 15 to do so, but obviously, less than 21. Your turn is then skipped for the next person.
  • Declare a Pontoon : This means you have an ace and ten point card and would like to announce it, in this scenario you will win the round, along with anyone else with Pontoon.

The Dealer

The dealer is much more restricted in their moves than the players are. They have three options:

  • Go Bust : Get over 21 and have to pay out an equal amount to the stake wagered by all players that are not bust, as well as double to any player with Pontoon or Five Card Trick.
  • Gets 21 or less with less than five cards: If any player/s has less than the dealer, then he takes the wager from the player/s, as well as those who have gone bust. If any player/s has Pontoon or Five Card trick, then again, he pays out double to them.
  • Gets five card trick: In this case, the dealer only pays out for a Pontoon. Any other hand, including those with five card trick, lose double their stake to the dealer.
  • Draws : If the dealer and any player draw then the dealer wins automatically.

These are the fundamentals of the Pontoon card game, however, there are some variations that come into play in some venues:

  • ONLY Aces can be split
  • You need to have AT LEAST 16 to stick, opposed to 15.
  • After the initial deal, the dealer can look at his own first card and double his bet.
  • The payout for Pontoon can vary.
  • If you have 4 cards and your total is less than 11, and a five card trick is guaranteed then you CANNOT “buy a card” and can only twist.
  • Holding three seven is a Royal Pontoon, which BEATS EVERYTHING and payouts triple.
  • Getting an Ace and a picture card Pontoon BEATS an Ace with a 10 Pontoon.
  • ONLY an Ace with a picture card IS Pontoon.
  • Ace with a King or Queen BEATS Ace with a Jack or Ace with a 10
  • You can burn your hand if you have a hard 13 or 14 (Ace with 2 or 3). It is also possible to burn after burning and burn either hand after splitting.

As you can see, it is quite diverse, so make sure the rules are clear before you start playing Pontoon games at a place where you are unfamiliar with the protocol.

The differences with Australian, aka Malaysian or Singapore Pontoon Game

As well as these variations, if you find yourself at a table that is either within Australia, Malaysia or Singapore, OR, the table states that you are playing that style of the Pontoon game, then you need to be aware of these differences to avoid mistakes or bad etiquette:

  • They are played with four to eight Spanish decks, so there are no tens.
  • The dealer doesn’t peak for Pontoon like he does in the British version.
  • Player 21 ALWAYS wins
  • You CAN double down on 9, 10 or 11
  • You CAN double down on any number of cards
  • Aces count as 1 after doubling on soft hands
  • You CAN ONLY split up to 3 hands.
  • You CAN double after splitting
  • No drawing for SPLIT Aces.,
  • Late surrender ALLOWED against 10 or aces
  • Double down rescue available

As well as this, the payouts are different and much more diverse, compared to the British version. They are as follows:

  • Ponton pays 3 to 2, rather than 2-1
  • Five Card 21 pays 3-2, rather than 2 to 1
  • Unisuite six, seven & eight pays 3 to 2
  • Unsuited seven-seven-seven Pays 3 to 2
  • Six-card 21 pay 2-1
  • Suited six-seven-eight pays 2 to 1
  • Suited seven-seven-seven pays 2 to 1
  • Seven card 21 Pays 2 to 1
  • Six-seven-eight Spades pays 3 to 1
  • Seven-seven-seven Spades pays 3-1

So, as you can see, there is a lot more to consider payout wise compared to the British version, which payouts 1-1 for EVERYTHING other than Pontoon or Five Card Trick. It is fair to say that you may have a more exciting time playing the Australian version, even though it is a lot more to get your head around. So, this said, if you want simplicity, opt for British. Alternatively, you can always just learn on by playing the British Pontoon card game, than move things up a notch with the Australian version if you get bored.

Pontoon Card Game Strategies

To win the game of Pontoon online, you should learn not just the rules of the game but also its strategies. Here are a few Pontoon game strategies you can use for increasing your chances of winning.

  1. The first thing is to try not to get busted. For this, you should ‘Stick’ or ‘Stand’ when you have a card value of at least 15.
  2. Secondly, you should try to use the 5 card trick, in case you don’t get a Pontoon. This will increase your chance of winning when no other player or banker has a Pontoon.
  3. Try to maximise your winnings by ‘buying’ a card, rather than ‘twisting’ it, and double your wager amount.
  4. Split your cards only when you get a pair of 8s or aces for the best odds.

Pontoon is an appealing blackjack variant as it has one of the lowest house edges of 0.38%.

This is why you should look for online casinos that offer attractive bonuses for Pontoon blackjack and use the strategies of the game to clear them as soon as you can.

Where to Play Pontoon Card Game Online

Pontoon is widely available at many sites that cater for all players from across the globe. In fact, out of all the variations we mention on our site, it is probably the easiest for all players, including US player, find at an online casino. This means no matter where you are from, you can get playing today.

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