How to play Pontoon – The Banking Card Game

How to play Pontoon - The Banking Card Game

If you are a fan of playing card games, you’ve come to the right place. Pontoon is one of the exciting variations of the classic blackjack and a British domestic version of “Twenty-one”.

And if you have an idea of how the American blackjack is played, you’re not going to have trouble learning this awesome game. Even if you don’t, this guide will explain the rules on how to play pontoon, as well as help you with some tricks to get the most out of the game.

So, let’s dive in and double down your winning chances!

What is the Pontoon Card Game?

Pontoon, formerly known as Vingt-et-un, is a popular and attractive game in the United Kingdom. It shares many similarities with the rules of some of the classic beginner’s casino games, but also has some significant differences.

Pontoon is a card game similar to 21 in that the goal is to get more than the dealer while not exceeding 21, i.e. without busting or having him bust while you don’t.

The game is also very popular in Australia, Asia, and many casinos in the United States. And, while stakes are required for pontoon, the game does not have to be played for money, it can simply be played for fun with your friends.

What do You Need to Play Pontoon?

The following are the prerequisites for playing the Pontoon card game:

  • A standard 52-card pack
  • 5-8 players
  • If 9+ players (add another deck)
  • Chips for betting

For the Pontoon card game, 5-8 players are an ideal scenario, but it can also be played with fewer or more players. So initially, you will need a banker, chosen by drawing the highest card of all, and will remain the banker until some of the other players receive a pontoon.

The minimum and maximum stakes are agreed upon before the game begins. 

Pontoon Rules

The banker deals one face-down card to each player, starting with the player to the left and working his/her way around the table. All players may examine their card, except for the banker. Then the players (banker excluded) place their initial bets. After this, a second card is being dealt, face down. If the banker has a Pontoon, he/she receives double the amount staked from each of the players. If not, the game continues.

Player’s turn: Depending on the cards of the players, they have four options: To declare a pontoon – an ace and a face card of 10 are required; to Split a card – when having two cards of the same value and the opportunity to place an additional bet besides the initial one; to Buy a card – when the sum of the dealt cards does not equal 21, by adding an amount equal to but not more than twice the initial stake; a Twist – the players may request another card and hit up to five times without affecting the stake; to Stick – the hand must be at least 15 and the player chooses not to make any changes.

Banker’s turn: After the players have finished with their turns, the dealer has to reveal their cards. A bust – when the dealer has more than 21 and has to pay out; 21 or less with four or fewer cards  – the dealer pays out the players that have better hands than the dealer and collectes from those that have less; A five-card trick – the dealer pay pontoons only. 

  • If no one has a pontoon, the dealer adds all the used cards to the bottom of the pack and deals a new hand without shuffling. 
  • If a player other than the banker achieves a pontoon without splitting their hand, and the banker did not, that player becomes the new banker from the next deal. 
  • The bank can also change hands if the existing banker wishes to sell the bank to another player at a mutually agreed-upon price.
  • If the banker and a player have a tie, the banker wins.

Individual cards are assigned the same scores as in blackjack. The ace is worth one or eleven points, the K, Q, and J are worth ten points each, and the rest have their face values. 

  • A total of 21 in two cards must be made up of an ace and a picture card, or 10 for a Pontoon.
  • The second-best win is a five-card trick, which consists of five cards totalling 21 or less.
  • Except for a Pontoon or Five Card Trick, a hand of three or four cards is worth 21 wins.
  • For 20 or fewer points, you must be as close to 21 as possible with fewer than five cards.
  • When you have more than 21, your hand is worthless and is referred to as a bust.

What is the difference between the Pontoon and Blackjack?

Although sometimes referred to as pontoon blackjack, the rules of Pontoon and Blackjack are similar, but there are some differences.

Terminology

The most obvious distinction is in the game’s terminology. In blackjack, for example, the player who deals the cards is referred to as the “Dealer,” whereas in Pontoon, the player is referred to as the “Banker.” Furthermore, in blackjack, a total of 21 (ace and a face card) is referred to as “blackjack,” whereas the same combination in pontoon is simply referred to as “pontoon”.

Dealing cards

In the game of pontoon, the banker deals two cards to themselves, face down, which complicates matters because none of the dealer’s cards are visible. In contrast, the dealer in blackjack deals one card face up and one card face down.

Hit vs Twist / Stand vs Stick

To “hit” is letting the dealer know you need another card in blackjack, and the same thing in pontoon is called “twist”. Also, if you want to keep your cards, you “stand” in blackjack, and in pontoon, you “stick”.

Doubling down

In pontoon, players can double down before hitting, allowing them to continue asking for new cards, whereas in blackjack, players can only double down after being dealt the two original cards.

Payouts

Splitting aces eliminates the possibility of a 3:2 payout in blackjack by preventing hands from achieving blackjack, whereas Pontoon players can still get a pontoon, putting them in a better position to cash in on the game’s 2:1 payouts.

Pontoon Tips and Strategies

Here are some tips and strategies for your Pontoon gaming experience, especially if you’re new to the game.

Tips

  • The most important piece of advice for winning big at Pontoon is to start with the bank.
  • If you have 18 or more, stick to those cards without risking going bust.
  • Split if you have two aces because of the possibility of getting a face card for at least one of them.
  • If the total of your first and second card is 11 or less, twist if another has 12 or more.
  • When having a four-card hand with less than 17, you can buy a card and get a Five Card Trick.

Strategies

  • When having a hard hand with three or four cards, you can stand with 15 or higher, double with 10 or 11, or double the hand with 9 (if you have three cards).
  • When having a soft hand with three cards, you can hit on 18 or lower or stand on 19 or higher. If you have four cards, you can hit on 18 or lower and double on 19 or higher.
  • When playing with four cards, you can double your soft total without going bust.

Conclusion

Overall, Pontoon, or pontoon blackjack is one of the most played card games in the UK, and the rules of Pontoon are not complicated to learn, especially if you know the basics of the blackjack since they have a lot of similarities.

We hope you find this guide on how to play Pontoon useful, so if you are a card games lover, do not hesitate to try it out and remember to always have fun!

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