The game of Pontoon is a popular blackjack variant that can be found at the gambling tables in the UK. If you are planning a British adventure or are interested in playing Pontoon on the Web then the following rules apply.
Pontoon begins the same way that other blackjack games begin-players place their bets and then the dealer deals out two cards to each player and two cards to himself. The dealer, however, places both of his cards face down. Each player must decide to hit, stand, double down, split or surrender based only on their own hand, without seeing that of the dealer. The dealer then shows his own hand and hits if the rules require-the dealer hits on "soft 17". When the dealer has finalized his hand the players that beat him are paid and those that do not beat him lose their bets.
There are several ways that a player can win at Pontoon. These ways are as follows:
- The player has "Pontoon", which is the same as the traditional Blackjack hand-an Ace and any 10-point hand. A Pontoon also counts after a player has split a pair. Payout for winning with Pontoon is 2:1.
- The player has a "5-card Trick"-a hand that has not busted and contains 5 cards. Payout is 2:1.
- The player has a hand that beats that of the dealer's hand without busting. Payout is even money (1:1).
Once you understand these basic Pontoon rules it's time to learn about the more specific rules of the game. These rules are as follows:
- Players automatically lose when the dealer has Pontoon. The dealer checks his own hand for Pontoon as soon as he has dealt the cards. If he has Pontoon than he turns it over and collects all bets and the hand ends.
- Players may stand on any total worth 15 or more, or on any hand made up of 5 cards.
- Players may hit at any point in the game, including after doubling down.
- Players may double down on a 2-card, 3-card or 4-card hand, but may only double down once per hand.
- Players may split any cards of equal rank and may re-split once, for a total of 3 hands. This includes Aces.
- Players may draw or double down on split Aces.
- Pontoon counts after cards have been split.
- Busting is an immediate loss, as in blackjack.
- Pushes and ties go to the dealer.
Note that the Australian game of Pontoon is played by different rules entirely. In Australia, Pontoon is played with Spanish 48-card decks and a variety of specific rules that differ from that of the game of Pontoon played in the UK. For instance, hands consisting of 6-7-8 and 7-7-7 pay out bonuses. Therefore, it is important to make sure you are familiarizing yourself with the correct Pontoon rules.
Pontoon strategy is very different from basic blackjack strategy because the players cannot see any of the dealer's cards. Therefore, the player must strategize based on the value of his own hand as well as the number of cards used to make the hand. The chart below illustrates basic strategy for the game of Pontoon.
Key to Table:
- H - Hit
- S - Stand
- D - Double if allowed, otherwise hit
- Ds - Double if allowed, otherwise stand
- Ph - Split if allowed, otherwise hit
- Ps - Split if allowed, otherwise stand