Online Pontoon Games
Pontoon is a variant of the online casino game Blackjack with only a few minor rule changes. It can be found at online casinos that use the Real Time Gaming, Playtech, Cryptologic or Microgaming software, though there are slight differences between the rules on different casino programs.
Pontoon is great to play due to its 2 to 1 payout on getting a natural blackjack (called a pontoon in this variant) or a five-card-trick, and also the rather odd reduction of the house edge when more decks are in play. The double down rules are also quite liberal, which allows players to have the best shot at maximizing their winnings.
Online Pontoon is nothing at all like Australian Pontoon, which is an unlicensed variant of Spanish 21
How is Online Pontoon Played?
Playing online Pontoon is essentially like playing standard Blackjack, just with a few minor changes. For one, the second highest hand is a five-card-trick rather than a 21 on more than 2 cards. A five-card-trick is scored by drawing 5 cards without busting, and this beats any hand other than a natural pontoon. This is a common rule in many Blackjack variants, but it is vital to Pontoon.
The game starts with each player being dealt two cards face up, and the dealer being dealt two cards face down. If the dealer has a natural pontoon, then bets are simply collected from all of the players. Otherwise, each player takes a turn as in normal Blackjack.
Player’s Turn in Online Pontoon
What players may do on their turn is mostly the same as Blackjack, but there are a couple of differences. For one, players may double down on 2 to 4 cards, and even hit afterwards, but may only double once per hand. Players may also draw and double even on split Aces. If the player gets a pontoon hand on split Aces, most casinos will consider this an actual pontoon rather than just a 21-point hand.
Dealer’s Turn in Online Pontoon
Once each player has finished their turn, the dealer flips over his cards and draws until at least 17. If the dealer has a soft 17, most casinos will have him hit. Unlike in normal Blackjack, ties with the dealer lose, so any players who have not beaten the dealer will forfeit their bets. Those who beat the dealer with a 5-card-trick or a pontoon get paid 2 to 1 on their bets. Those who win with any other hand will usually get paid even money.
Online Pontoon Example Play
Let us assume that the player places a bet of $20 and has drawn a 6 and an Ace, for a soft 17. The dealer doesn’t have a pontoon, so play continues. The player decides to hit, as there is a great likelihood of improving this hand. The player draws a 2, for a score of 9/19, and decides to double down. The card drawn is a 5, for a 14, so the player hits again as the minimum of 15 has yet to be reached. One more card is drawn, a 4, and the player has scored a five-card-trick. The value of the cards does not matter, as the only dealer hands higher than a five-card-trick are another five-card-trick or a pontoon.
The dealer now flips over his cards to reveal two Aces for a score of 2/12. He has to hit, and draws a 5 for a 7/soft 17. This casino follows the standard rules, so he hits again, drawing an 8 for a total of 15. The dealer hits, drawing another 8, for 23 and a bust. The player wins 2 to 1 on his bets, because his hand was a five-card-trick, for a total of $80 as he had doubled down on his original bet of $20. If the dealer had instead drawn a 6 or lower, the player would have lost, as the dealer’s five-card-trick would have outranked the player’s five-card-trick.
Basic Online Pontoon Strategy
As with any variant of Blackjack, online Pontoon strategy first requires choosing the right casino. Playing by standard online Pontoon rules, the house should have an edge of about 0.38%. A variety of house rules can increase or decrease this edge, however. One notable difference of online Pontoon to other varieties of Blackjack is that the more decks the house uses, the more its edge is reduced. Normally, a greater number of decks increases the house edge in Blackjack, so players should be sure to find casinos that use a large number of decks.
Advanced Online Pontoon Strategy
Other than being picky about the casino you play at, the most basic strategy for playing online Pontoon is to stand on a hand of 15 or higher, but to double down if you have a 15 or 16 with four cards and to hit if you have a 17 with four cards, as your chances of getting a five-card-trick at these values are reasonably good. Doubling down on any hand that is valued at 10 or 11 is also advisable, as there are many possibilities for good hands from that number. For five-card-tricks, if the four cards are anything lower than 18 it is worthwhile at least hitting, if not doubling down, as trying to win with anything lower than 17 relies on a dealer bust. Remember, a winning five-card-trick pays 2 to 1, so it’s a worthwhile risk to take on most 4-card hands.