If you’re looking for a new twist on blackjack, Pontoon might be for you. Pontoon blackjack is an American variant of the game known as Spanish 21. There are two offshoots of this variant, namely the UK and Australian versions.
The UK version is similar to American blackjack but is far less prevalent at international casinos. We will explain how the Australian version works because it is far more common. Below we look at all you need to know about this interesting blackjack variation.
Pontoon is played with between two and eight decks. Digital games tend to have two decks, while live dealers games and brick-and-mortar casinos prefer to use six to eight to stop card counting.
Here are the basic steps to playing this blackjack game:
Early Game Rules
Before the game starts, players must choose a minimum and maximum bet by consensus.
You’ll then receive one card face up, starting on the dealer’s left. The dealer also gets two cards placed face down.
You can place a single bet before getting your cards on the game, and any side bets (usually $5).
After that, you’ll get a second card face-up along with the Banker.
If the banker gets a Pontoon (21), they’ll reveal it, and the game ends.
The pot is doubled and given to the banker.
If the banker doesn’t get Pontoon, you have three options:
Declare “Pontoon” if you get an ace and a ten.
You can Stick (which is the same as standing).
Buy a card with another bet, known as a Twist.
Stick on a hand of 15.
Split your hand with another bet.
Pontoon Blackjack: Late Game Rules
When your hand is compromised of five cards, you have a Five Card Trick and can’t get any more.
In Pontoon blackjack, the banker gets to play and turn their cards up. They may add three more cards to their hand until they’re happy. At any point, they can stay.
Following the round, the possible outcomes are:
If you are dealt a hand over 21, the dealer goes bust. Each player in the round gets their bet back.
For under 21 on four cards, the dealer pays out to players with a hand higher than theirs (usually 19).
But if the dealer has a Five Card Trick, they have to pay Pontoons only.
If no one gets 21, the dealer returns the cards to the bottom of the deck and deals again without shuffling.
Should anyone but the banker gets 21 without a split, they become the new banker for the next round. If two players have 21, the one closest to the dealer on their left is the banker.
Rules of Pontoon Blackjack
As with most blackjack variants, there are minor rule differences in Pontoon you need to keep in mind when you play the game. The most important include:
First, the dealer must hit on a soft 17.
You can double after a split.
The dealer can’t take a hole card.
You can double only on nine to 11.
If you double on a soft hand, the ace counts as 1.
You can take a “late surrender.” If the dealer has a ten or ace up, it’s surrendered.
A player with 21 or blackjack wins immediately.
You may surrender after doubling, known as “double down rescue”. But you’ll forfeit an amount equal to the original bet.
Pontoon Rules for Australia and Malaysia
Here is a list of Pontoon rules in casinos across Australia and Malaysia:
Double Any Time
Payouts & House Edge
Payouts and house edge vary in the version of Pontoon you play according to the rules. Here are some standard payouts for unique hands.
Five-card 21 pays three to two.
Six-card 21 pays two to one.
Seven-or-more-card-21 pays three to one (no bonus).
6-7-8 or 7-7-7 of mixed suits pays three to two.
A 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 of the same suit pays two to one.
6-7-8 or 7-7-7 of spades pays three to one.
Suited 7-7-7, when the dealer has a seven face up, this pays $1000 for bets of $5-$24 and $5000 for bets of $25 or over.
Should You Play Pontoon Blackjack?
As far as blackjack games go, Pontoon is not a bad choice. It may seem complex with all the rule changes and several hands getting different payouts, but you will get used to it fairly quickly.
Also, concerning unique blackjack variations, it is one of the most widely available. Just look out for Spanish 21 or Pontoon because providers have different names for the game. Remember to study the game’s unique basic strategy before playing the game. It differs from that of traditional blackjack.