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Pontoon is an unusual blackjack game available at many online casinos, including Real Time Gaming, Microgaming and Playtech.  Pontoon spread at online casinos is different than the game that is available at live casinos in Australia and other South Pacific regions.  This article only covers the online version of Pontoon.

There are some similarities between Pontoon and standard blackjack games.  The dealer and the player are dealt two cards.  The goal is to get as close to 21 without going over.  All card values are the same in Pontoon as classic blackjack games.

Any amount over 21 is considered a bust.  If the player busts, he loses.  If the dealer busts, the player wins.  The player wins if his point total is higher than the dealer’s on four cards or less.  The house wins if the dealer’s cards equal more points than the player’s total.

Pontoon becomes much different than classic blackjack games after the above similarities.

The dealer wins all ties in Pontoon.  There are no pushes.  This includes natural blackjack, which is called a Pontoon in the game.  The player must always beat the dealer.

A player Pontoon pays 2-1 if it does not push the dealer.  A split hand is paid as a Pontoon if the first two cards include an ace and a ten-value card.

A five-card trick is the second best hand in Pontoon.  This consists of five cards that do not bust.  The point value is not relevant when five cards that equal 21 or less are in a hand of Pontoon.  They are all worth the same amount when compared to the house hand.

Think of a five-card trick as 21 and a half.  It beats a dealer 21 or anything else if it is less than five cards.  Like all other hands, the dealer will win if he also makes a five-card draw, regardless of its point value.

Both of the dealer’s cards are placed face down.  This means that the player will follow the same strategy on each hand since there are no clues about what the dealer may have.  The player must draw cards until he has a hard 15 or higher.

Pontoon Splits

Pontoon allows players to split up to three hands.  Only 8’s and aces should be split.  Players may hit and resplit aces.  The software will force the player to hit or double down after splitting if the point total is less than 15.  Double down after splitting is allowed, even on aces.  Pontoon still pays 2-1 when made after splitting. Five-card hand rules also apply to split hands.

Pontoon Double Downs

Pontoon allows players to double down on any number of cards.  Players may hit after making a double down bet.  Once a double down bet has been selected, the software will automatically deal additional cards until the point total is 15 or higher.

Strategy Difference Between Pontoon and Blackjack

There are many differences between basic strategy at Pontoon and blackjack.  This is due to not being able to see the dealer’s hole cards and getting a bonus on a five-card draw.

  • Double down on any four-card hand of 16 or lower
  • Hit a four-card 17
  • Always stand on a two or three-card 15 or 16
  • Always double down on 10 and 11
  • Double down on a three-card 9
  • Never double soft two-card hands
  • Double three-card soft 19 and 20
  • Always hit a two or three-card soft 18 or lower

The house edge for this game is .38%.

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