Pontoon refers to two card games that are variations of the well-known casino game Blackjack. Both games revolve around the effort to have a card value sum equal to or close to 21, although not above 21, by strategically asking for more cards or settling with the cards the player has.
The two, distinct variations come from different parts of the world and are a testament to just how popular the game of Blackjack is globally. In this article, I will explain and offer insight into both the British version and the Malaysian version of Pontoon.
In Britain and the Commonwealth, Pontoon is played with a single deck of 52 cards. Players are pitted against the dealer, in this version of the game known as the Banker, in a game to ideally have cards totaling 21 in value.
A two card 21, made up of an Ace and another valued 10 card, is known as a Pontoon rather than Blackjack in this game. Following a Pontoon in value is called the Five Card Trick. This involves a hand of five cards totaling 21 or less.
The process of this game is quite similar to Blackjack with some minor changes in what certain actions are called. To start a round, the banker will deal each player, starting to their left, one faced down card. All players except the Banker are allowed to view their card. At this point, going counterclockwise from left of the dealer, the players will make their initial bets, which must be in accordance with minimum and maximum requirements where they apply. After this bet, the banker deals everyone a second faced downed card.
The round is now underway with all the bets accounted for. Should the banker have a Pontoon, the banker will immediately flip over his cards. This results in a loss for every other player at the table, and requires them to pay the banker twice what they originally bet.
The round then enters a phase in which each player, starting left of the dealer, makes decisions based on their hand. The player is able to “twist” a card, which is known to Blackjack players as a “hit”. The players may twist as many cards as they wish as long as they do not exceed 21. A player can also “stick”, or as Blackjack players know it, “stand”. Should the player wish to contend with the banker with what they have, they literally stick with what they have.
A facet unseen in Blackjack is known as buying a card. Players say “I’ll buy one” is the players are under 21 and want another card. However, when buying a card, the player must increase their stake by an amount at least equal to but not more than twice their original wager. This is not to be confused with doubling down. Players are also able to split equal cards, much like in Blackjack, multiple times if they wish to do so.
Once all the players have made their decisions, the banker flips his cards over and plays them as they see fit. If the banker goes bust, he is forced to pay out an equal amount to their wagers to all the players who have not gone bust. Players who had a Pontoon or a Five Card Trick are paid double their original wager. If the banker sticks on 21 or less without making a Five Card Trick, all players with a higher value than the banker will be paid while all with equal to or less value than the banker will pay equal to their wager. Any Pontoons or Five Card Tricks are paid double. If the banker makes a Five Card Special, the only way to win money is to have a Pontoon.
An initial difference from UK Pontoon is that this version is played with anywhere between 2 to 8 decks. Also, all bets are made prior to being dealt cards, yet another difference from UK Pontoon. After making bets, all players are dealt two cards faced up, except for the dealer, whose cards are faced down and not visible to players at this time.
Therefore, in this version of Pontoon players cannot rely on any information of the dealer’s hand. The players must rely on the information given to them through the other players’ upturned hands. Any players with a Pontoon, including the dealer, immediately win the hand. Much like in UK Pontoon, Pontoons are paid out 2 to 1.
The only way for a player with a Pontoon to lose is if the dealer also has a Pontoon. In this variation of Blackjack, ties do not result in pushes and thus favor the house. The final facet of Malaysian Pontoon that is unlike Blackjack is the Five Card Special. Similar to UK Pontoon, and five card combination totaling in 21 or less is a win with a 2 to 1 payout. The remaining characteristics of this game are much like the rules of standard Blackjack. Players are able to split equal cards and players are able to double down on cards, even after a split.
Blackjack is such an iconic and popular game that there are several variations of it. Pontoon, one such variation, even has variations of itself. Both of these games covered in this article offer tweaks to the timeless classic that keep the game exciting and fresh.
Due to Pontoon being a variation of Blackjack, there is a very low house edge at 0.38%. Confident, seasoned players should be able to do well in Pontoon if they apply strategies common in most Blackjack variations. However, new players should do reasonably well too, as long as they make logical decisions of when to hit or stand. A major reason that players may seek to try Pontoon is the 2 to 1 payout. Unlike the usual 3 to 2 payout seen in Blackjack, 2 to 1 offers bigger payouts, and thus more excitement.