Pontoon is a game that resembles blackjack a lot and has many different names in various regions. Not that some may call it Spanish 21; although there are versions of blackjack called the same, these are two different games.
To some, Pontoon is known as the British version of 21 and it’s not a hard game to learn, especially if you have a decent idea of how regular blackjack is played. This is how you play Pontoon.
Master the Basics of the Game
Learn the fundamentals of this card game before you stake real money on it at an online casino. Pontoon can be played with one deck of 52 cards, but if there are more than 8 players involved there can be up to 8 decks in play. The aim of the game is to beat the banker’s hand with a hand that has a higher face value, but it must not exceed 21.
Individual cards are valued the same way as in blackjack: Ace is worth either 1 point or 11, K, Q and J are worth 10 points each, and the rest of the cards have their natural face values (10 is 10, 9 is 9 etc.).
Learn the Hand Rankings
In Pontoon, it is important to have the highest score without exceeding 21 with the least number of cards. The best hand is Pontoon, which equals 21 points with two cards only. You can get a Pontoon with an Ace and a picture card or a 10. The next best rank is Five Card Trick, a five-card hand that totals 21 or less.
The next highest hand is the one consisting of 3 or 4 cards which total 21. Hands that total 20 or fewer points and have fewer than five cards are ranked according to their point value. If the banker and a player have hands of equal value, then the banker wins and the player loses the stake.
How the Round Plays Out: Initial Deal
One of the participants is selected as the banker. The banker deals one card face-down to each player, starting with the player sitting to the dealer’s left, and ending with the dealer after going around the table. All the players may look at their card, except the banker.
Initial bets are placed. The banker is the only one who doesn’t bet. The dealer then deals the second card, also face-down, to each player. Now the banker checks if his hand is a Pontoon. If this is the case his hand is exposed and the banker gets paid double the amount staked from each of the players.
If the banker does not hold a Pontoon, the players get their chance to play an additional move looking to improve their hands. They have several possibilities at their disposal:
- Announce a Pontoon – When the player has an Ace and a card worth 10 points.
- Split – When the player receives two cards of the same value, he/she can split them into two different hands. This requires an extra wager, equal to the initial one. The hands are played one after the other, and if one busts, the other stays in play.
- Hit/Buy One – Ask for another card if the hand total is less than 21. Also requires an additional wager, at least the size as the original bet, but no larger than twice the initial stake.
- Twist – This means asking for another card, but without raising the stakes. The bet remains unaffected and the player can ask for a fourth card to be twisted and then a fifth, in the same way.
- Stick – This is the equivalent of Stand in blackjack. If your hand total is 15 or higher, the recommendation is usually to stick, keeping your cards and stake as they are.
The banker has another chance to play after all the players have had their turn. The hand for the banker is turned face-up and now the option of adding more cards to the hand becomes open. The banker stays when he determines no more cards are needed.
After this, the dealer’s hand can go bust. In this case, all players who haven’t busted are paid their stakes. The stakes are doubled for players who have a Pontoon or a Five Card Trick. The dealer can stay on 21 or less, with four or fewer cards.
When this happens, an amount equal to their stake is paid to any player who has a higher-value hand than the dealer and collects from those who have equal or less. If the dealer has a Five Card Trick, only the players who have Pontoons are paid.
In situations when nobody has a Pontoon, all the used cards are collected and added to the pack. A new deal is finalized without shuffling. If there was at least one Pontoon, the cards are shuffled and cut before a new deal.