Pontoon Blackjack : Complete Guide | LeoVegas

Pontoon Blackjack: Complete Guide

Pontoon Blackjack is a variation of the popular table card game blackjack. It is played with similar rules to traditional blackjack, but a few key differences set Pontoon apart from the classic card game. Pontoon is particularly popular in the United Kingdom, but its popularity is growing in other parts of the world, as new players discover the blackjack game variation.

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Understanding Pontoon Blackjack

Pontoon can trace its history back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Although the original game was different, the card game known today as Pontoon spawned from games played hundreds of years ago.

Vingt-et-Un is one of the predecessors of Pontoon, and the game means "21" in French. Vingt-et-Un was played in French casinos and was like modern-day blackjack. It involved trying to reach a hand value of 21 without busting.

British travellers brought the game back to England. There, it developed its own rules and characteristics, and the name of the game was changed to Pontoon. The game changed over time, developing its own unique rules to set itself apart from vingt-et-un and other blackjack variations.

Although Pontoon and classic blackjack have several similarities, there are plenty of differences between the two card games. One of the key differences between the games is the Pontoon hand. The Pontoon hand consists of an ace and a ten point card which is the highest-value card in the game. A player receives a higher payout if they have a Pontoon.

Another key difference between Pontoon and traditional blackjack is the dealer’s cards. Both dealer’s cards are dealt face down. This adds an element of strategy to the game. In addition, players can double down on any two cards and can do so after a split. In Pontoon, if the player and dealer have the same hand value, the dealer wins.

A hand of five cards totalling 21 or less is called a "Five Card Trick" in Pontoon. It is one of the most powerful hands in the game and pays out at a higher rate than others. Because of the different hands in Pontoon, like the Five Card Trick, payout rates vary.

Rules of Pontoon Blackjack

The objective of Pontoon is similar to that of traditional blackjack. Players want to achieve a hand that totals as close to 21 as possible without going over. In addition, the hand must have a higher value than the dealer’s hand. Different terminology is used in Pontoon than in traditional blackjack, but the goal remains the same.

The best possible hand is a “Pontoon.” It consists of an ace and a 10-value card (10, Jack, Queen, or King). A Pontoon is an instant win, and it pays out at a higher rate than a regular win.

Card Values and Ranking

Card values and ranks are like those in traditional blackjack:

  • Number cards (2 through 10) are worth their face value.
  • Face cards (Jack, Queen, King) are worth 10 each.
  • Aces are worth either 1 or 11, depending on which value benefits the player more.
  • The card suits do not affect the game.

Dealing and Betting Process

Players place their bets on the table before the dealer deals the start of the round. Players must place their bet within the designated betting area on the table. After bets are placed, the dealer begins to deal the cards.

The dealer typically deals two face-down cards to each player and themselves. Player cards are dealt face-down, and both dealer's cards are dealt face-down. This is one of the differences between Pontoon and traditional blackjack.

Hitting and Sticking

Players use the terms “twist” and “stick” in Pontoon rather than “hit” and “stand,” like in traditional blackjack. “Twist” is used to request an additional card to improve the player’s hand. “Stick” means to stay or hold onto the player’s current hand.

The Five-Card Trick

Five-Card Trick is a special aspect of Pontoon Blackjack that doesn’t exist in traditional blackjack. The Five Card Trick is a hand featuring five cards with a total of 21 or less. It is considered very strong and pays out at a high rate.

If both the player and the dealer have hands under 21 points, the player with the Five-Card Trick wins. This is why the hand is so powerful. A win thanks to a Five-Card Trick is possible even if the value of the cards is relatively weak.

Splitting and Doubling Down

Players can double down on any two cards and can do so after a split. Splitting pairs, including aces, is allowed in Pontoon. But certain rules surrounding splitting differ from traditional blackjack. A player can only split two cards of the same value.

To split, players must place a bet equal to their original bet next to the new hand. This means producing two separate bets, one for each hand. Unlike traditional blackjack, players can split aces. After splitting aces, if a player receives a 10-value card, it is considered a regular 21 hand and not a Pontoon. Players can twist on split aces.

Players can double down after receiving their initial two cards. Players cannot double down on additional cards. Players must make a bet that is equal to their original bet next to the initial stake. This doubles the total wager for the hand. Once a player doubles down, they will receive a new card dealt face down.

Buying and Twisting

Buying allows players to double their original stake and receive an additional card to improve their hand. Players can only choose to buy after they have received their initial two cards. Buying must also occur before the player twists or doubles down. Players will receive one additional card, and their total wager for that hand will be twice the original bet.

Twisting is the same as hitting in traditional blackjack. Players twist to request an additional card to improve their hand. Players may twist after receiving their initial two cards. Players can twist if their hand is 21 or less. In Pontoon, players can twist multiple times during the same hand.

Variations of Pontoon Blackjack

Pontoon Blackjack has several variations. Each variation comes with its own set of rules. The rule differences are often based on regional preferences. Moreover, casinos may also add to the differences in the games, creating unique variations of Pontoon.

Spanish 21

Spanish 21 is played with a Spanish deck of cards, which removes the 10s, resulting in a 48-card deck. The lack of 10s changes the odds and alters the playing strategy. It is important that players adjust their gameplay accordingly. There are typically special bonus payouts for specific combinations of cards, such as suited 7-7-7 or 6-7-8.

Australian Pontoon

Australian Pontoon follows many of the traditional Pontoon Blackjack rules. But one of the key differences is that the dealer's hole first card down is not dealt until all player decisions have been made. This can impact a player’s strategy. The rules for doubling down and splitting pairs can also differ from regular Pontoon.

Malaysian Pontoon

Popular in Malaysia and other parts of Asia, Malaysian Pontoon is usually played with eight decks of cards. Many of the rules of the Malaysian variant are like traditional Pontoon.

Shoot Pontoon

Shoot is predominantly played in Singapore and surrounding Asian countries. The game is played with eight decks of cards. The dealer’s cards are dealt face up, rather than face down like in traditional Pontoon. If the dealer and player have the same hand value, the game is a push.

Tips for Pontoon Blackjack Players

Like all casino games, players need to have good bankroll management to ensure they don’t lose too much money too quickly. Players have several ways that they can effectively manage their bankroll when playing Pontoon.

Make a budget

Players should determine how much money they can afford to wager on Pontoon. Players shouldn’t go over their budget or add to it while playing.

Divide the bankroll

Players should divide their bankroll into smaller betting units. One tip is to divide the bankroll into 50 to 100 units. This approach can help players manage losses and control bet stakes.

Decide on a stake

A small fraction of the bankroll should be bet on a single hand. Often, it is recommended to bet no more than 2% of the total bankroll on a single hand. For example, if your bankroll is $100, your bets should be no more than $2.

Create a win target and loss limit

Decide on a financial target for each playing session. After hitting the target, players should stop betting. Players should have a win target and a loss limit. If they hit either, they should stop playing and take a break.

Don’t chase lost money

Too many Pontoon players chase their losses by increasing the amount of their next bet. Increasing the stake to recover losses will only result in further losses.

Track wins and losses

By keeping a record of wins and losses, players can analyze their performances. This allows players to adjust over time and create new strategies.

Learn strategies

Too many Pontoon players think they can learn the game while playing it. This isn’t the case. Players should learn as much as possible about Pontoon before wagering their hard-earned cash on the game.

When selecting a Pontoon Blackjack table, there are some important aspects that can help players maximize their winning potential. Here are some of the top tips for maximizing winning potential when playing Pontoon:

  • Know the rules: Each land-based and online casino has different rules for Pontoon. Players must ensure they are aware of all the rules before playing.
  • House edge: Players should find a Pontoon table with the lowest house edge possible.
  • Tables: Players must ensure the table they select to play at has a betting limit that aligns with their bankroll strategy.
  • Skill level: Players with limited Pontoon playing experience should opt for tables with lower betting limits.
  • Reputation: Players should always play in a land-based or online casino with a strong reputation. The casinos should also be licensed and regulated to ensure fairness.

Pontoon FAQs

Is Pontoon Blackjack the same as regular blackjack?

No, Pontoon Blackjack and regular blackjack are two different games. Although the games share many similarities, there are some distinct differences between them. Along with terminology, the games are different due to the Five-Card Trick hand. In Pontoon, ties do not result in pushes, rather the dealer is declared the winner. Players can also split and double down in different ways playing Pontoon.

How can I improve my chances of winning at Pontoon Blackjack?

The two ways to improve your chances of winning are to fully understand the rules of Pontoon and to learn basic playing strategies. These two areas will help you improve your chances of winning.

Can I count cards in Pontoon Blackjack?

Players can count cards during Pontoon Blackjack. However, casinos frown upon players counting cards. It isn’t against the rules to count cards. If a casino catches a player counting cards, they may try different strategies to confuse the player or disrupt their count. Counting cards is a strategy for playing blackjack and its variations used by players all over the globe.

Are there any online casinos that offer Pontoon Blackjack?

Online casinos sometimes offer Pontoon Blackjack and its variants. Before signing up to a new online casino, players should explore the casino’s gaming options to see if Pontoon is available.

What are the key differences between Pontoon Blackjack variations?

The key differences between Pontoon Blackjack variations are the number of decks used and the dealing of the cards. There are other smaller differences based on the regions in which the games are played, however, the variations of Pontoon are similar to the original game.

How does the Five-Card Trick work?

The Five-Card Trick doesn’t exist in traditional blackjack. It is a hand featuring five cards with a total of 21 or less. It is considered very strong and pays out at a higher rate than other hands. If both the player and the dealer have hands under 21 points, the player with the Five-Card Trick wins. If both dealer AND the five card trick hands total 21, the five card trick wins too (rather than pushes)

Is there a specific strategy for Pontoon Blackjack tournaments?

The basic strategies for Pontoon Blackjack tournaments are: understand the format, manage the bankroll, manage the size of bets, pay close attention to the leaderboard, manage risk, use a basic strategy, and watch opponents to learn from their techniques.

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