The Pontoon house advantage is very low if a player plays the game according to optimal Pontoon strategy. Pontoon is one of the most attractive blackjack variants available, and is very exciting to play.
Although much of Pontoon terminology is similar to regular blackjack, there are a few basic differences which are useful to know.
- Buy = Double Down
- Pontoon = Blackjack
- Stick = Stand
- Twist = Hit
Rules of Pontoon
Although there are some variations to the game, Pontoon is quite similar to regular blackjack with a few changes to the rules.
As with many other versions of blackjack, Pontoon is played with eight standard decks of cards. The card values in Pontoon are the same as in regular blackjack.
The dealer wins any hand that is a tie, or a push, no matter what the hand is.
Players place their bets, and then receive two cards that are both face up. The dealer will take his or her two cards face down. The dealer keeps the cards turned face down, but does check to see if the hand is a Pontoon hand. If the dealer hand is a Pontoon hand, then the dealer hand will be shown, and all players will lose their bets.
The rules of Pontoon govern when a player has to twist (or hit). Players have to twist until they have five cards, as long as the point value of the hand totals less than fifteen.
Players may twist at any point, including after they have used the buy (double down) option.
Players may buy on any hand that is made up of two, three, or four cards. However, they can only buy once per hand. Players may double on split hands.
Players may split hands twice, which would give a maximum number of three Pontoon hands. When splitting, as in other forms of blackjack, only cards that are of equal number rank can be split. In Pontoon, picture cards and tens can be split apart because these cards have the same number rank in the game. When Aces are split, unlike in other variants of blackjack, players may still double and split the hand further. If Aces are split, and a player gets a Pontoon, it is paid out the same as a regular Pontoon at 2 to 1.
Dealer rules are as follows: Once all the players have completed playing out their hands, the dealer hand is then turned over, and played out. The dealer must continue to twist, and draw cards, until the dealer hand reaches a value of 17 or higher. When the dealer hand has a soft 17, the dealer needs to twist. If the dealer has a five card hand, it is equal in value to the players’ five card hands, unless it has gone bust, in which case, it has no value at all.
Winning Hand Order in Pontoon
The highest hand in this version of blackjack is Pontoon, just as it is in other forms of blackjack.
A five card hand, as long as it has not gone bust, comes next. Five card hands are all equal to the same value, no matter what cards it is comprised of. As with other draws, a dealer will beat this hand with either a Pontoon, or with a similar five card hand.
After the Pontoon and the five card hand, the next winner is a hand that totals 21, but is not a Pontoon, and is made up of less than five cards. After that, the hand values are ranked in the same way as regular blackjack, with the hands that have a value closer to 21 being winners.
All five card hands that have not gone bust, which means they have a value of 21 or under, are paid out at 2 to 1 on the original bet placed. It does not matter whether the dealer hand has a value that is closer to 21. This payout is also given to hands that have been split.
Pontoons, or blackjacks as they are called in other versions of the game, pay out 2 to 1 on the original bet placed.
All other wins by players, apart from the five card or pontoon, only pay even money.