Pontoon blackjack is a British variation of American blackjack that can be a fun alternative to going out to the casino. Pontoon is ideal for home games and combines the betting action of blackjack with a few added twists to form a strategic and challenging game. The origins of pontoon can be traced to the French card game Vingt-et-un. This is one of many blackjack variations.
The Basics Of Pontoon
Just like blackjack, the goal in pontoon is to make a hand which total as close to 21 as possible without going over. Pontoon is best when five to eight players participate in the game, but the game can be played by two, three, or four players. One or two standard decks of 52 playing cards are used in the game, and players use chips to place wagers on each hand.
In pontoon the cards are valued identically to blackjack. All numbered cards are given face value (5,6,7, etc.), all 10’s and face cards (J, Q, K) are valued at 10, and an ace can be counted as 1 or 11 at the discretion of the player.
How Pontoon Is Dealt
Before a hand of pontoon begins one player is chosen to represent the banker, just like in a home version of baccarat. In pontoon the banker holds a statistical advantage. Therefore, all players will take a turn at being the banker. The manner in which the first banker is determined usually involves all players cutting the deck for a card with the high card assuming the role of banker. After each hand the role of banker passes to the player on the left and continues around the table until all players have had a turn.
The banker begins the game by dealing one card, beginning with the player on his immediate left, face down to each player. The last card in this round of dealing goes to the banker (dealer). All players are permitted to look at their cards except for the banker.
At this point each player, beginning with the player on the banker’s immediate left, are given the opportunity to place an initial bet according to the table minimum. Once all players who wish to play the hand have been given an opportunity to place an original bet, the banker deals a second round of face down cards to each player. All players, including the banker, now have two face-down cards.
Player Actions In Pontoon
After all of the cards have been dealt, each player will be given the opportunity to act upon their hand. The exception to this is if the banker has what is known as a pontoon (see below). If the banker has a pontoon the hand is over and all players lose their bets/money.
The first player to act on their hand if the banker does not have a pontoon is the player on the banker’s immediate left. The player may then exercise any of the following options:
A player can buy an additional card to improve their total. To buy another card a player says, “I’ll buy one,” and places another bet of up to twice of their original wager. The banker will then give the player another card. A player may continue to buy cards in this manner until they have 5 cards which total less than 21 or until their hand goes over 21 in which case the entire bet is lost.
A player may also twist. To twist is the same as to buy a card without placing the additional bet. The player simply says, “Twist me one,” and the banker deals them an additional card. Again, the player may continue to twist until their hand exceeds 21 or consists of five cards.
A player can stick once the total of their cards is 15 or more. To exercise this option a player simply says, “I’ll stick.”
The final option available to a player in pontoon is to split. Any original hand which contains a pair may be split by the player. To split the player says, “I’ll split,” and turns over the original two cards they were dealt. An additional bet equal to the original wager must be placed on the table. The banker will then deal one face down card to each of the split cards, forming two separate hands. The player then acts according to the options listed above.
It should be noted that only identical 10-value cards may be split (J-J, Q-Q, etc.). A player may not split two different ten-value cards.
Banker Options In Pontoon
After all players have acted on their hands, the banker turns his own hand over for all of the players to see. At this point the cards of the players, unless they have split or declared a pontoon, remain hidden to the banker. The banker then has the opportunity to improve their total by adding cards to their hand. The banker may continue to add cards until they reach a total of 21, have five cards which total 21 or less, decide to stick, or go over 21.
At this point the banker’s hand is compared with each player’s hand to determine who has the closest total to 21 and wins the hand.
Special Hands In Pontoon
A pontoon is the same as an American blackjack. It consists of one ace and one ten-value card for an unbeatable total of 21. A pontoon receives a payoff of double the original wager.
The second-best hand in pontoon is called a Five-Card Trick. A Five-Card-Trick is five cards which equal 21 or less. This hand can only be beaten by a pontoon and is paid off at double the original wager.
It is also possible for the player to have a three or four card 21. This is considered to be the third-best hand in pontoon and is only beaten by a pontoon or a Five-Card-Trick. A three or four-card 21 is paid off at normal 1-1 odds. After the hands listed above, all pontoon hands are ranked according to their final total.
Pontoon At Online Casinos
Online you will find many casinos that offer the pontoon variant of blackjack. The ones I have listed on this site are trustworthy and you should have no problems playing pontoon for real money! Many also have began to offer casino games on the iphones, ipads & android phones and tablets.