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Playing Pontoon Blackjack

Pontoon is a vastly popular blackjack game that is played mostly in the United Kingdom. There is a Pontoon blackjack game played in Australia, but it actually has the features of Spanish21. Pontoon blackjack preserves all basic blackjack features with slight differences in rules.

Differences between Pontoon and regular Blackjack

  1. Pontoon blackjack is played with eight decks of 52 cards each. It allows using card counting strategy, but makes it in fact almost useless as there are too many possibilities for different card combinations.
  2. Another difference is that both cards of the dealer are dealt out face-down. This significantly affects the basic strategy for Pontoon.
  3. Pontoon blackjack uses different names for the basic player's options while playing blackjack compared to those in common blackjack:
    • Twist for Hit,
    • Stick for Stand,
    • Buy for Double,
    • "Pontoon" for "Blackjack"
  4. The payout for "Pontoon" in this game variation makes 2 to 1, compared to the 3 to 2 payout in regular blackjack. Any hand of 5 cards that doesn't go bust (a "5-card trick") also pays 2 to 1.
  5. In case the dealer and the player get a tie (for example, both got a 20), there will be no push; instead the dealer wins.
  6. Only one card is allowed to each hand after splitting the Aces.
  7. The player can only buy once in a hand. After the buy 2 to 4 cards can be dealt out. It is also possible to twist after the double.

Specific Pontoon rules and game strategy

Applying appropriate strategy for Pontoon blackjack, just as in regular blackjack, may cause in significant reduction of house advantage over the player and in the increase of the players' profit. Here is the list of basic recommendations for an efficient Pontoon blackjack strategy:

  • It is recommended to always split Aces and 8s, just like in usual blackjack. The player should not split the rest of the pairs.
  • The player is supposed to always stick on Hard 18 and higher and twist on Hard 7 and lower. Other player decisions for Hard hands depend on the number of cards in the player's hand - either 2, 3 or 4. With four cards, the player should stick on Hard 18 to 21, buy on Hard 8 to 16 and twist on Hard 17. With three cards, it is recommended to stick on Hard 15 to 21, twist on Hard 12 to 14 and Hard 8 or lower and buy on Hard 9 to 11 (with two cards the player must twist on Hard 9 instead of buying).
  • Strategy for a Soft hand including an Ace counted 11 also depends on the number of cards in a hand. With four cards the player usually buys, whatever the total value. With three cards, it is best to buy on Soft 19 and higher and twist on Soft 18 and lower. The player with two cards sticks on Soft 19 and higher and twists on Soft 18 and lower.

Just like in regular blackjack, the dealer plays his or her hand only after the other players have made their decisions, checking his or her hand for a "Pontoon" beforehand.

If the player applies an effective strategy in Pontoon blackjack, the house edge in a game may make less than 1% (ideally about 0.4%) especially as Pontoon rules offer 2 to 1 payout for "Pontoon" and "5-card trick".