There are two versions of Pontoon. One is the Australian variation, which is referred to as Spanish 21. The second one, the one we’re covering on this page, is the UK / British variation.
We cover the rules of this unique blackjack game below.
How to Play Pontoon (Blackjack)
The idea behind Pontoon is similar to nearly every other blackjack game. You want to beat the dealer’s hand without exceeding 21 points. Go over 21 points and you lose your bet to the dealer.
Pontoon Blackjack is (usually) played with 8 decks, however, this will vary from casino to casino. For example, only 2 decks are used at Bovada. The cards are shuffled and dealt the same way as traditional blackjack, too.
There are a couple of unique differences, though.
One unique difference is that the 10-point cards are removed. Only the face cards remain. The second is that the dealer’s cards are dealt faced down.
These differences (obviously) put the advantage in the dealer’s favor, and as you might imagine, there are rules to offset this edge so that the player’s aren’t totally screwed.
Lets look at those now.
- Players can stand on any 5-card hand, or hands valued at 15 points or more.
- Players can hit after doubling.
- Players can double once per hand.
- Players can double after splitting. That includes one double per split hand.
- Players can split like-valued hands. In other words, players can split KT, QJ, etc.
- Players can split up to two times, making 3 hands. That includes aces.
- Players can draw and double down after splitting aces.
- Two card 21s after splitting still count as Pontoons.
- Player ties lose.
- Dealer’s cards are dealt faced down.
- Dealer checks for blackjack (Pontoon).
- Dealer hits soft 17.
- Dealer stops drawing at 5-card hands.
Remember: Since the dealer’s cards are dealt faced down, players can easily lose money splitting and double downing, only to lose to a dealer’s Pontoon.
- Cards 2-9 are scored at face value.
- 10s are removed from the deck.
- Face cards are worth 10 points.
- Aces are worth 1 or 11 points.
The following are the payouts for the special hands in Pontoon. Note that these hands are listed in order from best to worst hand, and that a 5-card hand will always beat a 4-card hand, regardless of the value.
- Pontoon – Any hand with an ace and 10-point card, even after splitting. Pontoons pay 2:1
- Five-Card Trick – Any 5-card hand that has not busted. Winning hands pay 2:1.
- 4 (or less) cards – Any 4-card hand that has not busted. Pays even money.
- Busted (22+ point) hands.
Playing Pontoon Blackjack Online
There are rule variations that you might come across online. These include:
- Aces and 10-point hands after splitting aces is 21 points (not a Pontoon or blackjack. This increases the house edge by .49 percent.
- Dealer stands on soft 17, which lowers the house edge by .47 percent.
- Can’t draw on split aces. This increases the house edge by .49 percent.
- Two deck games (versus 8) increases the house edge by .35 percent.