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Pontoon isn’t actually that different from Blackjack. Although far more popular in the United Kingdom than in other countries, the card game still has a fairly global following. One of the reasons why Pontoon may not be as popular as Blackjack, could be down to the fact that there are one or two rules which are slightly confusing. Each country tends to have its own version of Pontoon, and these variants can have slightly different rules to the ones you may be used to. But the game we are going to describe is what may be called standard Pontoon. It can be found in many land-based casinos, as well as online casino sites.
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To start off with, a player must place their bet in the betting circle. The bet must be at least equal to the table minimum. The way that a bet is placed in Pontoon, is really not any different than the way a bet is placed in Blackjack.
How to play Pontoon?
Between two and eight decks of cards are used in Pontoon. These decks consist of 52 cards each, with no wild cards or jokers included in the deck. The dealer will deal out the cards, with the dealer’s card face down, and your cards, face up. If you have a Pontoon (an Ace and a 10 card), then you will instantly win the game, unless the dealer also has Pontoon.
If you do not have Pontoon, then you have a decision to make. In Pontoon, all players must hit until they have at least 15 or higher. You can only stick (hold) when you have 15 or higher, or any five-card hand that does not exceed 21.
The objective is to beat the dealer’s hand, by adding the point’s value on the cards, to make up a total.Just like in blackjack, if you or the dealer have a hand which has a total of over 21, you or the dealer will be bust (out of the game).
Like in Blackjack, players can choose to split and any pair, to form up to three hands. Splitting also includes Aces. They may also draw and double down their cards after splitting Aces. Players are entitled to double any two, three or four cards, and they can double down after a split. The player is entitled to hit after a double down. Whilst these rules are common to Blackjack and are certainly present in land-based casino Pontoon, not all online casino Pontoon games allow these rules. Some Pontoon games will also allow the player to surrender and to take insurance.
The dealer must hit in Pontoon, until they have at least a hard 17. The dealer will always hit a soft 17, and if the dealer has five cards without going bust, they will be entitled to stick with them.
The player or the dealer with the highest points total in their hand (without going bust) is declared the winner. Should there be a tie, the player will always lose. All ties in Pontoon are victories for the dealer.
The value of the cards
The value of the cards in Pontoon is identical to that of Blackjack. For those of you who haven’t played Blackjack before, here is how it works.
All number cards count for points based on their numerical value. A Five of Hearts for instance, means 5 points, and a 7 of Clubs equals 7 points. The face cards (Jack, Queen, and King) all count as 10 points, whilst the Ace can be used as either a 1 point or 11 point card, depending on what you need to avoid going bust.
Each country’s own Pontoon game has different house edges. This is primarily because each country has their own little rule changes. Australian Pontoon for instance, has a house edge of 0.42%. Most other Pontoon games based on 8-deck gameplay, have house edges that range from 0.31% up to 0.62%, depending on the country and the rules of the game.
Pontoon players will pick up a pay-out of 1:1 (even money), when they successfully beat the dealer at game. Should they manage to beat the dealer with a winning five-card hand, it is possible for them to receive a pay-out of 2:1. They will also pick up a 2:1 pay-out if they manage to beat the dealer with Pontoon (21).
Other pay-outs are of course possible, depending on which Pontoon variant you are playing, and what the rules of the table are.