Pontoon Blackjack

Pontoon is another variation of blackjack. The overall objective of Pontoon is not all different from that of a standard blackjack game. There are two different versions of Pontoon. One version is commonly played in Australia, and is what most other countries refer to as Spanish 21. This is not to be confused with the UK version of Pontoon explained in more detail below. The UK version of Pontoon and the Australian version of Pontoon are two different games.

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How to Play Pontoon Rules (UK Version)

Players will want to get closer to '21' than the dealer does without busting. The dealers' hands can also bust (they must hit soft 17s), which players will win from, or players can get a "Pontoon" which is another way of saying a "blackjack" or "21."  But while the objective of Pontoon is the same as blackjack, some of the rules are not. 

For starters, one key difference is that when you 'push' with the dealer, you do not tie and get your wager back. In Pontoon, all pushes are losses for the player. Additionally, players cannot 'stand' whenever they'd like. All hands valued at 14 or less must be hit. Players can only stand on hands valued at 15 or higher.  

The biggest difference though has to be that the dealers hand is dealt completely faced down. This will obviously eliminate much of the strategy used in standard blackjack games. However, despite some of the setbacks that these rules create, there are a few more rules that will work to a player's advantage.

The dealers do not play their hands until the all of the action is completed from the players. In fact, they don't even check for natural 21s. This enables players to catch up and create a 21 from their hand which is ruled to beat the natural 21s that the dealers have.

Players can only double down once, but unlike blackjack, they can still hit their hand afterward. This is a huge advantage in itself since we've all been in the situation in blackjack where we try to double down on an 11 only to see our 3rd card be dealt a 3 and have to stand.

Hands can also be split up to two times. The exception to this would be when a player is dealt AA; they could only split their hands once and will only receive one card for each hand.

The last aspect of Pontoon that will give players a significant edge will be what's referred to as the "5-card trick." This pays out odds of 2:1 if players can hit their hand and receive up to 5 cards total without going over 21. The odds of this being possible will increase as the number of decks in play increase.

Playing Pontoon

Pontoon is definitely a worthwhile blackjack variation to play, despite many of the disadvantages that the differences in rules provide. Although players may not be able to see the dealer's cards or lose to the dealer when they tie, the ability to draw to a 21 and beat the dealer's natural 21 or the ability to draw 5 cards (and not bust) and win 2:1 on their original wager more than makes up for it. In fact, it's plenty made up for considering the house only has a .40% edge when a player is playing optimally.
Edges don't get much better than that in a casino. It's as simple as that.