Pontoon rules

Pontoon is a card game that is a variation of blackjack, popularized in England and, thanks to an extremely low house edge, well loved all over the world. There are a couple of main types of pontoon: the Malaysian/Australian version (similar to Spanish 21), which you may find in land-based casinos in Australia and parts of Asia; and the UK version, which is what you are most likely to find at most real money online casino sites. Here we are dealing with the latter, which has more in common with traditional blackjack, though several stark and important differences. It is also possible to play online Pontoon for real money, with many of the top gambling sites boasting this game.

Pontoon game play

Pontoon is played against the dealer by two or more players at a time, with a limit of eight at most real money tables.

A standard casino game is played with chips, with players able to buy directly from the cashier or the online virtual equivalent.

Much like in blackjack, Aces are worth either one or 11, while the picture cards and 10s are worth 10 and the rest of the cards their face value.

When you are playing in a land-based game a player is the banker. As in poker it’s still dealt by the casino but the button goes around, and everyone is aiming to beat the player who is in the hot seat. It’s an advantage being the dealer in pontoon because if there is a tie the banker takes the hand.

Online pontoon it is different and you are playing against the bank, either in a game powered by a random number generator or against a live dealer.

The aim: To get 21 or as close as possible without going over it. If you go over 21 the banker wins the hand.

The hands:

– Pontoon:
– Five-card trick:
– 21:
– 20 or less:
– Bust:

How to deal in pontoon:

To start, players place their bet (a minimum and maximum are usually enforced on each table). Stakes at land-based casinos can be into the millions in VIP rooms around the world, while online you will find tables allowing you to bet up to around 500 of each currency they accept. This can also vary depending on the strength of the currency.

The banker then deals around the circle starting at their left and gives every player two cards, including themselves.

The dealer then checks their two cards for a pontoon and if they have one the hand is immediately over; if not, the game continues around the circle.

Player’s turn:

Once it’s clear the banker does not have a pontoon, the players then have the following options, depending on what cards they have. (Pontoon has its own terminology that can take some getting used to).

In the game of pontoon, players have a few options on their turn. These options include:

  • Hit: Take another card from the deck.
  • Stand: Keep the cards they have and pass their turn to the next player.
  • Double Down: Double their bet and take one additional card.
  • Split: If a player is dealt two cards of the same value, they can choose to split them into two separate hands and play them separately.
  • Surrender: Give up their hand and forfeit half of their bet. This option is not available in all versions of the game.

The goal of the game is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over (also known as “busting”). The player with the best hand wins the round.

Banker’s turn:

In the game of pontoon, the “banker” refers to the person who is responsible for dealing the cards and managing the game. The banker has a few specific responsibilities, including shuffling the deck, dealing cards to the players, and managing the bets.

During the game, the banker does not have any specific options or plays to make. The banker’s primary role is to facilitate the game and ensure that it is played fairly. In some versions of pontoon, the role of the banker may rotate among the players to give everyone a chance to participate in this role.

After all players have finalized their turns it is time for the dealer to reveal what they have. Like the player they can receive up to five cards each hand without going over 21. Any of these situations could eventuate with the dealer’s hand:

  • Bust:
  • 21 or less:
  • Five-card trick:

Key differences between pontoon and blackjack

Keep in mind pontoon is a variation of blackjack so to the uninformed the two may seem largely the same, but there are subtle differences that dictate game strategy significantly.

  • Terminology: Hit, stand and double down (you only get one more card in BJ) are all terms you hear in blackjack. In pontoon the same actions are called twist, stick and buy (you can get more than one card).
  • When you can hit: In pontoon you must hit if you have 14 or less; in blackjack you can hit if you have two cards or more and haven’t busted.
  • Doubling down: In blackjack you can only double down when you have received two cards, while in Pontoon you can buy when you have two, three or four cards. In both games you can only double down once. In pontoon you can hit after you have doubled down, the opposite of blackjack where the hand is over if you have doubled down.
  • Tied hands: In blackjack a tied hand is a push, while the dealer wins all ties in pontoon.
  • Pontoon & blackjack: Both are made up of an ace and a card worth – making 21. However, you always win when you get a blackjack, while if both you and the dealer get a pontoon the dealer wins (push).
  • Payouts: Blackjack pays 3-2, Pontoon pays 2-1.
  • 5-card trick: In pontoon if you manage to get five cards in a hand it is the best hand outside a pontoon and pays 2-1. This rule does not exist in blackjack.
  • Dealer’s cards: In pontoon both of the dealer’s cards are face down, while in blackjack it’s one facing up and one down.
  • Aces: You can split aces twice in pontoon, but only the one time in blackjack, meaning you could potentially have three separate hands on the go. If you get 21 after splitting aces in pontoon it is still a pontoon, but in the same situation in blackjack it just a 21.
  • More blackjack available online: Online blackjack is much more common than Pontoon at real money casinos.

In blackjack after splitting aces you will receive just the one more card on each hand, meaning you can’t hit or double down, but in pontoon it is possible to do both these things.

How To Play Pontoon online 2023

Real money online pontoon
Pontoon is readily available at online casinos.

Playing Pontoon online is very possible in 2023, with many of the top online casinos boasting this game. Online Pontoon is much like the land-based version of it and comes in two different formats — random number generated (RNG) and live dealer.

RNG Pontoon is powered by a computer and features a graphical interface. Generally RNG online Pontoon will have the most favourable house-edge possible and often will have cool side-bets that can gift you some massive wins.

Live dealer Pontoon follows essentially the same gameplay as RNG version of the game, however you will see a video feed on your screen of a dealer progressing the game. You will then make you choices throughout the gameplay on a computer-generated table.

Pontoon sites for real money will often have many different deposit options so suits players from all over the world, with these including things like Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and even bitcoin. The World Gambling List only advertises real money Pontoon games to those who can legally play at iGaming sites.