While many believe that Pontoon is an offshoot of standard blackjack, it is actually a variant on the original “Twenty-one”. The name came from British soldiers during the First World War, who somehow turned their mispronunciation of the French for Twenty-one, ‘Vingt-Un’ into Pontoon, at least that’s how the legend goes. Since then, Pontoon has been viewed as a traditionally British game, which could be played head to head with house rules or in a more traditional casino setup. As the game was popularized during the time of the British Empire, it managed to spread across the world where it would form its own variations, such as Malaysian Pontoon and Australian Pontoon. If this wasn’t confusing enough, the traditional Pontoon ruleset isn’t standardized either, meaning that it is very likely that different tables will have their own house rules.
If we follow the most traditional Pontoon blackjack game rules, then you will quickly see that it does indeed have a lot in common with more standard blackjack variants. The aim is still to score as close to 21 without going over and beating the dealer. One of the most noticeable differences, however, is the nomenclature used for different betting options. If you want to Hit, it’s called a Twist instead, whereas a Stand is instead called a Stick. If you want to Double Down, it’s called a Buy, but Splitting is called the same. Also, scoring a Blackjack is called a Pontoon instead. This might all sound needlessly confusing at first, but it doesn’t take long to get used to the lingo after a couple of rounds.
One last important additional term is the Five-Card Trick. This is achieved by having a hand size of five cards without exceeding a score of 21. Such a hand can beat anything except a Pontoon and it doesn’t matter what the final score of these cards is, as long as it is 21 or below. This gives players a different path to victory against the dealer, thereby opening up new strategies also.
Learning how to play Pontoon blackjack isn’t as straightforward due to all of the various rulesets for it. There are a lot of house rules, table-specific rules, and even changes based on region. This means that everything we cover below may be subject to change, depending on the specific table in question. For example, the British ruleset requires players to always twist on a hand that scores less than 15, while other rulesets have no special condition for this. Nonetheless, knowing the ruleset of one variant opens up to easy learning for the other variants.
Generally speaking, players always have the option to Twist, even after a Buy. A Buy is also available after Twist or a Split. Splitting Players can Split cards with a value of 10, but cannot Split for a second time with a hand. The dealer will generally be required to continue drawing cards until achieving a score of at least 16 and will also Twist on a soft 17. A hard 17 or ending up with five cards will however result in a Stand from the dealer.
The Pontoon blackjack rules on payouts are more favorable than other variants. Getting a Blackjack usually pays out at 3 to 2, but in Pontoon it pays out at 2 to 1 instead. Achieving a Five-Card Trick also pays out at 2 to 1, while all other wins payout even money at 1 to 1. Again, this may vary from table to table, but generally, the payouts will remain better than regular blackjack. Part of this is the fact that players have the option to win through getting a Five-Card Trick, which is not normally available in other variants. It is also important to note that the dealer wins on a Tie, meaning that you won’t get your stake back in these circumstances. This balances out the house edge, which we will cover in more detail below.
A lot of the same principles used in standard blackjack games can be applied to forming a Pontoon blackjack strategy. There are, however, extra facets to keep in mind when playing. Below are some general rules that form a good starting point, but you can also familiarize yourself with your own strategies using the demo mode that some games provide. Just keep in mind that even using the optimal strategies will not guarantee a win.
GoodLuckMate’s best tips for playing Pontoon Blackjack are:
- Make sure you have a budget in mind before playing and stick to it
- There are many different rulesets for Pontoon. Make sure you are aware of a table’s specific rules before wagering
- Become familiar with the different terms used in British Pontoon
- Be mindful of the possibility of getting a Five-Card Trick
- It is advised to avoid side bets, due to the higher house edge
- Always hit on a 5, 6 or 7
- Always stand on a 17, 18, 19 or 20
- Always split on double Aces
The Five-Card Trick, better payouts and dealers winning on a Tie all affect the house edge. This edge determines the average that a game is expected to pay out over an extended period of playtime. This is just an expectation based on averages and some people will win more, while others will unfortunately lose. Pontoon generally speaking has a house edge of 0.36%, which is still remarkably low even when compared to other blackjack variants. A 0.36% house edge means that a player is expected to win €99.64 for every €100 wagered. Compared to slots that have an average house edge of around 7%, you can see the difference at play. Other blackjack variants tend to have a house edge of between 0.35% and 0.40%, although this can vary by quite a bit, depending on the specific rules of the table.
Playing Pontoon blackjack online provides a lot of benefits that land-based casinos are simply unable to rival. Being able to play from the comfort of your own home or on the go with your mobile device provides unparalleled freedom to enjoy your favorite games without being subject to physical constraints. The amount of game choices that an online casino can provide is something that their land-based counterparts simply cannot compete with. All the while, there are no crowds, no queues and the fierce competition generally drives up the promotional value that is offered to players.
Finding the right Pontoon blackjack casino for you could actually be rather tricky with all of the choices available. Luckily the casino reviews we provide here at GoodLuckMate ensure that you have a clear overview of any given site, allowing you to judge its legitimacy and value, before needing to commit any of your personal information or payment details.
Whether you prefer live dealer or RNG games, you can be sure that there are plenty of choices for free Pontoon blackjack online. Virtual table games allow you to have the table all for yourself, while you play against the computer who acts as the dealer. These games employ third-party verified random number generator (RNG) algorithms to create truly random outcomes in every round. These games tend to offer a demo mode, allowing players to gamble using virtual funds, as well as supporting multi-hand play if you wish to play with more than one hand per round.
Live dealer games opt to provide a truly immersive casino experience using streaming technology to provide players with a live feed of the table and the dealer. Live chat functionality allows players to interact with the dealer and amongst themselves, while a sleek user interface provides betting options and other useful pieces of information throughout each round. Whatever is your preference, always be sure to double-check the rules of the table, as they can vary in numerous different ways. While this guide has provided you with the core essentials, it is important to remain grounded and attentive to get the most out of your gameplay experience.