Pontoon is a blackjack variant that has no dealer hole card and the ability for players to double with any number of cards. It’s often seen as an early version of modern-day blackjack, and it’s available at a variety of online casinos.
One of the styles of blackjack that you’ll mostly find online is called Pontoon, and it can be found in Realtime Gaming-powered casinos among other places. If you’re the type of player who likes games that are really off of the beaten path, then this could end up being a title that you really enjoy. It has some rules that make it quite a bit different than standard blackjack variations, but the core feeling of the game remains. Aside from all of that, it’s also a game that strategic players can learn to play perfectly with a lot less practice than what is needed from most other variations of blackjack, and that gives it a certain appeal to those types of players.
Important Rules to Know
While a lot of the game is the same as more standard blackjack variations, there are a handful of rules that players should be aware of before they jump into a Pontoon game:
- All of the cards have the same value as regular styles of blackjack.
- The dealer does not show either of his cards prior to the player making decisions.
- A natural 21 in this game is called a Pontoon.
- Ties always lose for the player.
- A five-card hand that does not go over 21 beats all non-Pontoon hands. All five-card hands of this type are considered equal regardless of their point total. This means if the players and dealer both have a five-card hand without going over 21, then it’s always a tie, which means a loss for the player.
- Players can stand only when they have a total of 15 or higher or if they have a five-card hand.
- Players can double once per hand with any number of cards (2 to 4). However, players can also hit after doubling.
- You can split with any two cards of the same rank. Note that players can hit and double after splitting aces.
- Pontoons and five-card hands always win at 2:1.
As you can probably tell, combining these rules creates a much different style of play and strategy compared to most blackjack games out there. You have to make some very serious adjustments, especially due to the fact that there is no dealer card, and trying to just stick with generalized blackjack strategies won’t cut it.
In most styles of blackjack, the two primary things you consider are the point total of your hand and the card that the dealer is showing. That second piece of information is not a factor in Pontoon, but instead, it’s replaced with another piece of information that you have to really pay attention to: the number of cards in your hand. You’ll be playing hands a bit differently depending on how many cards you have since hitting and not going bust will give you a hand that almost always wins.
One thing that simplifies the strategic discussion for Pontoon is the fact that you can’t stand if you have a total of lower than 15. Because of this, a lot of your early hand play will revolve around whether or not you should double or hit as your only two options.
A final note before we get into how you should actually play: You should only split aces and eights in this game. All other hands should be played as normal hard hand totals.
Strategy for Soft Hands
Strategy for soft hands is really simple. If you have a soft total of 18 or lower, then you double with four cards and hit with two or three. With a soft total of 19 or higher, you stand with two cards and double with three or four. In the off chance that you end up with a soft total of 21 after hitting and have three cards, then you will simply stand instead of doubling. However, soft totals of 19 and 20 will be doubled with three cards always.
Strategy for Hard Hands
While the soft hand strategy in this game is simple and straightforward, it’s slightly more complicated for when you have hard hands, and this is just because there are more situations to consider and more opportunities to stand instead of just hitting or doubling.
For hard hands with two or three cards, you’re always going to stand if you have a total of 15 or higher. For totals of 14 and lower, you’ll always hit except for when you double with 10 or 11 with two cards or 9, 10 and 11 with three cards. This isn’t that difficult to remember since you’ll be doubling with two totals when you have two cards, and you’ll be doubling with three totals when you have three cards.
With four cards, hard hands aren’t actually all that hard to play either. Totals of 16 and less are always doubled, and totals of 17 always get a hit. If you have 18 or higher, then you stand with four cards.
Pontoon is not a difficult game to learn because the overall strategies are actually more simple and less complicated than what you find with most styles of blackjack. However, it’s still a really fun title to play because the payout rate is pretty reasonable for strong play and it still allows players to scratch that strategic itch. It also offers up something that’s very much “off the beaten path” when it comes to table games overall.Menu