Playing online Pontoon
Want to try something new this year, rather than going back to the same tried and tested game variations you’re used to? Then why not give Pontoon a go – a new way of playing Blackjack and a whole new way of winning!
Don’t worry – if you’re nervous about trying a different game, you needn’t be. That’s because Pontoon takes everything you love about the game of Blackjack and adds only a few new twists and turns to make it even more exciting. It still has a low house edge, it still requires thoughtful, strategic play – it just gives you a fresh take on a popular classic. What’s not to love?
The rules of Pontoon
First and foremost it might be helpful for you to know that there are in fact two versions of Pontoon – a UK one and an Australian one. The UK’s version of Pontoon most closely resembles traditional Blackjack, albeit with different terms such as ‘twist’ and ‘stick’, while the Australia version, also played in Malaysia and Singapore, is reminiscent of Spanish 21. No need to figure out which version you’d like to play though – when you’re playing Pontoon online, all you need to focus on is getting a card hand as close as possible to 21 without going over.
To start a game of Pontoon, simply click on your chosen chip value, and then hit the Deal button. You’ll immediately be dealt two cards face up, while the dealer will be dealt two cards face down – already a slight difference from regular Blackjack, where one of the dealer’s cards is dealt face up. What this means is that you’ll now need to make your game play decisions without having any idea of what the dealer is holding – and while the card values remain the same as they do in classic Blackjack, this small change can make a big difference to the outcome of the hand.
Before you make any strategic decisions, the dealer will first check whether or not they have Pontoon, also known as a Natural – an Ace and a 10-value card (the same as Blackjack). If they do, the game will end immediately, as a dealer’s Pontoon always wins. If they haven’t been dealt Pontoon, the game will continue, and you’ll need to bear certain rules in mind, in order to move the play forward:
You will always need to hit on 14 or less.
You will only be able to stand on hands of 15 or more, or if there are five cards in your hand.
Although Pontoon, or a Natural, is the best hand possible, the second-highest hand is one that consists of five cards valued at less than 21, which pays 2:1. Similarly, a hand of three or four cards is the third highest.
If your hand is worth less than 15, you may choose to increase your original bet by either 100% or 200% in order to purchase additional cards. This strategy is available up to a maximum of five times per hand, or until you go bust – whichever occurs first.
It’s worth noting though, that should you need just one additional card, you will not need to increase your bet in order to hit.
Should you wish to double down, you will be able to do so on hands containing two, three and four cards. Note that doubling down is only allowed once per game, and that hitting is allowed after doubling down.
Splitting is allowed up to a maximum of twice per game.
The dealer will always need to hit on 16 and soft 17, and will always stand on hard 17 or more.
Playing to win
Knowing how Pontoon pays out can help you make informed decisions during a game. Take a look to see which hand outcome gives you the best result:
If your hand is higher than the dealer’s, or the dealer goes bust, you’ll be paid even money.
If the dealer’s hand is higher than yours, you’ll forfeit your original bet.
If your hand and the dealer’s hands are tied, the dealer will win – unfortunately for players, no hands are pushed in Pontoon, meaning that the dealer always benefits from a tie.
A hand with Pontoon will always beat all other hands.
Hands with five cards will always beat all other hands of less than five cards (with the exception of hands that contain Pontoon).
It’s also worth noting that despite small variations between software providers, the house edge on Pontoon is almost always set at approximately 1%, giving players optimal winning potential once they’ve mastered the various rules.
Keep in mind however that some changes between casinos can affect the house edge, such as the number of decks used. While most online casinos make use of eight decks in a game of Pontoon, some use only two, and this will swing the house edge in favour of the casino. In addition, casinos that use Microgaming software for Pontoon will only allow you to draw one additional card after splitting Aces, which can increase the house edge slightly – although the Microgaming rule of making the dealer stand on both soft and hard 17 lowers the house edge slightly as well, resulting in an increased house edge of roughly 0.02%, which some players may regard as negligible.
These variances aside, the best way to accumulate the strongest hand in Pontoon is to look not just at the value of your hand, but the number of cards in your hand as well. Get five cards in your hand and you’ll be tough to beat, regardless of any other differences between Pontoon and classic Blackjack. And of course the more you play, the more comfortable you’ll become with the game, and the more you could find yourself on the receiving end of a pile of Pontoon chips! So make 2019 the year you resolve to do not just more playing, but more winning too. Take a leap, try something new, and watch as your real money account reaps the benefits!