Pontoon is a popular card game played throughout the world in online and live casinos. There are a few different versions of Pontoon depending on the casino and it's important to know the difference between them as the casino game rules can differ.
If you visit an Australian or Singapore casino you will be playing a version of Pontoon that is based on the casino game Spanish 21. However, if you are from the United Kingdom, Pontoon will relate to a blackjack variation played with a regular deck of cards. If from UK you will most likely have played Pontoon before and be familiar with terms such as 'Stick' or 'Twist'. Pontoon is in-fact the British take on the mega popular casino game Blackjack but with slightly different casino game rules.
Pontoon has been played for a long time but the origins are not entirely clear. The general theory is that Pontoon originated from French casino game, 'Vingt et un' (French for 21). This casino game was well liked in the Louis XV era which was roughly 250 years ago. Also French military and political legend Napoleon was surprisingly a big fan of Pontoon although I wouldn't have fancied taking his money!
By the 20th century Pontoon had become the recognized favorite card game for the armed forces of English speaking countries perhaps due to relaxed un-complicated game rules that make Pontoon a fun gambling game for all to play.
Pontoon casino game rules
The game rules for Pontoon are fairly simple which makes it an attractive proposition when choosing what casino game to play. The aim of Pontoon is to achieve 21 points or as close to as possible. If playing Pontoon in a casino the goal is to get closer to 21 then the dealer. If you have a total higher then 21 you are bust and will lose your wager.
You start Pontoon by placing your bet. You will then receive two cards face up. The dealer then receives two cards face-down. In Pontoon the dealers cards are face down and hidden from view, this obviously makes it harder to decide when to stick or stand as you don't know which total you are trying to beat.
You now look at your two cards and decide if you want to 'Twist' or 'Stick'. Twisting (Hitting) means drawing another card to try and get closer to Pontoon (21). Sticking (standing) is when your happy with your score and like your chances of beating the dealers total. The Pontoon game rules dictate that if your total is less then 15 you have to draw at least one more card. If your score is above 15 you have to decide whether or not to stand. A total of 15 or 16 may not be enough but on the other hand if the dealers starting total is low it is better to force them to try and outdraw you, which will hopefully result with drawing one to many cards and going bust, shipping you the pot.
In Pontoon it is possible to split if dealt a pair (a pair being when both starting cards the same) This means splitting into two separate hands and placing another bet. I would be careful when splitting pairs as this obviously mean more money is at stake. I would advise to split only when holding a decent pair. You can also double down your wager at any point during a hand. Again I would urge caution and only double down in Pontoon when holding good cards.
The Pontoon 5 card trick is when you achieve any 5 card total without going bust. In Pontoon a 5 card trick will beat a dealers 21 so it is important to incorporate the 5 card trick into your Pontoon strategy. If you have 4 cards totalling 15 it can be worth drawing to the 5 card trick knowing it will beat all dealer hands.
Once all the players have finished it is now the dealers turn. It is now their turn to decide whether to stick or twist. If they hit 21 or are closer then the player they will win the pot. If they go bust the player shall win.
When playing Pontoon in a casino it is important to get your game strategy right. The better your strategy the lower the house edge will be. Experienced Pontoon players will know whether to stick or twist depending on what their total is and will have some basic rules to follow that will higher their chances of defeating the casino.
In Pontoon, unlike Blackjack you can not see the dealers hand. This will affect your Pontoon strategy a great deal as you are effectively shooting in the dark. I personally think this makes Pontoon more exciting as the dealers score is always a surprise.
A good Pontoon strategy is one that minimises the chances of going bust while also maximising the chances of beating the dealers score. You also want to split wisely and also play for the 5 card trick when appropriate as this defeats all dealer hands and also the payouts are bigger.
If you have a 2 or 3 card combined total of 15 or more I would advise calling it a day and sticking. Of course you could attempt to draw to that lovely 21 score but the odds are against you and the more likely scenario is that you will bust. I would also be very cautious when it comes to splitting pairs. It is actually mathematically correct to only split pairs of 8's. Some Pontoon experts also advise splitting Ace's but that is a topic of much debate and a controversial subject in the world of Pontoon.
Pontoon is a fun casino game with easy to learn game rules. Online pontoon is becoming increasingly popular and is in fact one of the most played blackjack related casino games. I would recommend trying Pontoon in an online casino before taking a trip to a live casino to make sure you are well brushed up on the rules and have a solid Pontoon strategy to lower the house edge.