• August 2, 2021

How to Play ‘Pontoon’ Blackjack

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Pontoon card game is a British version of the traditional blackjack that is also very popular at all online and land casinos.
The aim of any player at Pontoon blackjack is to beat the dealer with a hand that does not go over 21.
The game is played with 8 decks of 52 cards. The card values do not differ from traditional blackjack (2-10 are valued as numbered, Face Cards have the value of 10, an Ace has the value of 1 or 11).  Players make the bets and the dealer deals the cards.
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Each player is dealt two cards face up, while the dealer also gets two cards but they BOTH are face down. This is the main difference between Pontoon and traditional blackjack and according to this difference player makes a decision basing on his cards only.
The Rules
Pontoon uses four to eight Spanish decks, each deck consisting of 48 cards — the regular 52 cards, less the four tens. Any card counter can tell you that removing any 10-point card from the cards favors the dealer. To make up for this, Pontoon gives to the player a host of bonuses and favorable rules.

  • Fixed Rules
  • Dealer hits soft 17.
  • Double after split allowed.
  • Dealer does not take a hole card.
  • Player may double on 9 to 11 only. If player were to double on a soft hand, the ace would be forced to count as 1.
  • Player may take “late surrender.” If the dealer has a ten or ace up, a laminated marker saying “surrender” will be put on the player’s bet. In the event the dealer gets a blackjack, the player will lose the entire bet.
  • A player 21 or blackjack wins immediately.
  • Player may surrender after doubling, known as “double down rescue.” The player forfeits an amount equal to his original bet. The surrender is adjudicated immediately, so it is like early surrender.
  • A five-card 21 pays 3 to 2, a six-card 21 pays 2 to 1, a seven-or-more-card-21 pays 3 to 1. However, the bonuses are not paid if the player doubled.
  • A 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 of mixed suits pays 3 to 2, of the same suit pays 2 to 1, and of spades pays 3 to 1. These bonuses do not pay after doubling.
  • Suited 7-7-7, when the dealer has a seven face up, pays $1000 for bets of $5-$24 and $5000 for bets of $25 or over. In addition, all other players receive a $50 “envy bonus.” This bonus does not pay after doubling or splitting.

The European no-hole-card rule strongly favors the player in Pontoon. This is because a player 21 automatically wins, even if the dealer gets a blackjack. In American Spanish 21, the dealer blackjack beats anything except a player blackjack, depressing the player’s odds.
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Variable Rules

  • Four to eight Spanish decks.
  • Hole-card rule. There are various possibilities, which are explained below.
  • Number of splits allowed, either one or two.
  • Resplitting aces may or may not be allowed.
  • Doubling may be allowed with any number of cards, or only two.

Pontoon Terms
Regular player options in Pontoon have other names than in classic blackjack.
“Twist” — Hit (ask for another card).
In Pontoon you are to Twist if your hand is less than 15 (unless your hand is a 5 card one).
“Stick” — Stand (stop and ask for no more cards)
“Buy” — Double down, with a small difference, that favours the player:
Player can Buy on any hand which is of 2 to 4 cards;
Player can Twist after he Buys (not met in traditional blackjack).
A hand of an Ace and 10-value card is a Pontoon not a blackjack.
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Steve Carr

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