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Pontoon Blackjack Guide: Rules, Strategies & Expert Tips

Pontoon Blackjack

The game of Blackjack is thought to have been introduced in its current form in the early 1700s, it is widely considered that it was based on the game of Pontoon.

The 2 games are very similar in many ways with just a few small variations which are outlined below.

Some of the main ones are that both the Dealers cards are dealt face down, a 5 card hand – 5 cards where the value is 21 or less – is paid out at the same odds as Blackjack, and the Dealer wins if the scores are tied.

How to Play Pontoon Blackjack

How to Play Pontoon Blackjack• Pontoon normally uses 8 decks of cards, there are some variations however that use just 2

• All cards have the same value as in Blackjack – 10’s and picture cards are worth 10, Aces are 1 or 11 and all numbers are valued at their own amount

• The Dealer deals 2 cards face up to each Player and 2 face down to themselves. They always check to see if they have 21 – known as Pontoon – and if they do, the hand if over immediately and all bets lose – there is no Insurance or Push if a Player also has Pontoon

• The Player can stand on any value of 15 or greater, or a 5 card hand – anything below 15 and you need to ‘Hit’

• Players can ‘Hit’ at any point, including after ‘Doubling’. A Player with 2 to 4 cards can ‘Double’ at any time but just the once per hand, this is the same after ‘Splitting’.

• Any cards of the same value can be ‘Split’. A 10 and a King or Queen and Jack, for example, can be ‘Split’. Hands can be resplit once, including Aces. Players can still ‘Hit’ after ‘Splitting’ Aces – a 2 card hand worth 21 is still Pontoon even after ‘Splitting’

• The Dealer will ‘Stand’ on hard 17 (17 with no Ace) and above, they will ‘Hit’ on soft 17 (17 with an Ace) or below, they will also ‘Stand’ with a 5 card hand

• A winning hand of Pontoon or 5 card hand will pay 2 to 1, all other winning hands pay even money

• If the Player and Dealer are tied in terms of hand rank, the Dealer wins, there is no ‘Push’

Pontoon Blackjack

As you will see from the above screenshot, the layout for a game of Pontoon is very similar to Blackjack.

Pontoon Rules
RTP: 99.62%
Pontoon Pays: 2 to 1
Number of Decks: 8
Dealer Rule: Hit on soft 17
Dealer Peek: Yes
Insurance: No
Surrender: No
Split: Yes
Re-Split: Yes
Double: Yes
Double after Split: Yes
Hit Split Aces: Just Once
Side Game: No
Multiple Hands: Yes


Pontoon Blackjack Strategy

As you can’t see either of the Dealers cards, the strategy for Pontoon Blackjack is vastly different to most versions of Blackjack.

The table below shows what you should do in each situation, taking into account that a 5 card hand pays the same as Pontoon.

Hard Hands – No Ace

H = Hit D = Double S = Stand

Hard Hands – With no Ace

Total Cards
Player Total 4 3 2
21 S S S
20 S S S
19 S S S
18 S S S
17 H S S
16 H S S
15 H S S
14 H H H
13 D H H
12 D H H
11 D D D
10 D D D
9 D D H
8 D H H
7 H H
6 H H
5 H
4 H

H = Hit D = Double S = Stand

Soft Hands – with an Ace

Total Cards
Player Hand 4 3 2
A, 10 D D S
A, 9 D D S
A, 8 D D S
A, 7 D H H
A, 6 D H H
A, 5 D H H
A, 4 D H H
A, 3 D H H
A,2 H H

H = Hit D = Double S = Stand


As you don’t get to see what card the Dealer has in Pontoon, we would only suggest Splitting Aces and 8’s. For all other hands, see standard chart above for your best move.

Pontoon Blackjack Tips

Pontoon Blackjack TipsPontoon is similar in many ways to Blackjack, but in others, such as not being able to see either of the Dealers cards and losing the hands if you tie with the Dealer, it is very different. Therefore, make use of the free play option most sites have to get used to the differences before you play for real money.

As you don’t have an idea what the Dealer has before you choose your decisions, stick as much as possible to the chart provided above as to the best strategy. In Blackjack, using your gut instinct is OK in some situations, but with Pontoon it is easier to get into bad positions as you are guessing what the Dealer could have, therefore it is imperative to concentrate more on your own hand.

Ensure you can afford to bet with the money you use, otherwise, the enjoyment will go out of the game especially if you start to lose.
Blackjack References:

Blackjack Rules, Strategy & Tips
Basics of Card Counting
Play Blackjack for Real

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About the author

Richard Grant
Richard has from an early age been interested in casinos and the thrill of playing casino games. After finishing his degree in Law and business he started this platform in 2007 as a complete resource to online gaming with the primary objective of reducing the house edge for players. Specializing in game guides, reviews, and strategic insights, Richard is devoted to helping you hit the jackpot.



What is Pontoon?

Pontoon is a game of cards that belongs to the “banking” family of card games. The game was derived from an older, similar game of cards called Vingt-Un. The game enjoys huge popularity around the world. Not only is it played in quite a few casinos, both land-based and online, but it also is a popular family and army game.


How is Pontoon Related to Blackjack?

There are two schools of thought. One believes that Pontoon is an entirely separate game. However, considering the immense similarities between the two, it is a safe assumption to say that Pontoon is, indeed, just a variation on the tried and true game of blackjack. Though the Pontoon variant has certain differences, anyone with an understanding of blackjack will have no trouble grasping the pontoon variant.


What Makes Pontoon Blackjack Similar to Classic Blackjack?

Pontoon and blackjack share quite a few rules, which makes the two games very similar. Let’s look at a few examples. An example of this is, both games start out with two cards being dealt face down. So, in both games, the players make their bets before they know what the dealer has. However, this is just about where the similarities end.


What are the Differences Between Pontoon Blackjack and Classic Blackjack?

In blackjack, one of the dealer’s cards faces up, while the other faces down. In Pontoon, both cards are face down. This makes the game a bit more difficult, as the players have no way of assessing just how high the dealer’s cards are. It is this slight alternation in the rules that makes many believe that the two games are just variants on each other. However, this is not the case.


Can I Double Down in Pontoon Blackjack and in Blackjack?

Herein lies the main differences between the two. Pontoon allows for doubling down before you hit. A player can continue to ask for new cards, whereas in blackjack that is simply not the case.


Is Pontoon Easier than Blackjack?

It is difficult to say which game is easier and which one is harder, as they are both so similar. However, there are certain things that make Pontoon a bit harder. This includes the fact that both of the dealer’s cards are face down until betting is done. This makes it a lot tougher to gauge the dealer’s hand as oppose to your own. On the other hand, Pontoon does allow for doubling down before hitting, whereas that is not the case for blackjack.


Is Pontoon Better than Blackjack?

We can’t give definitive statements on quality. Both games have their benefits and both games have been enjoyed in casinos, online and land-based, for quite a long time. However, we will point out that Pontoon tends to have better odds, which is why a lot of people prefer it over blackjack, especially when it comes to online gambling websites.


What is the House Edge on Pontoon Blackjack?

When it comes to Pontoon, the house edge is usually around 0.84%. This is quite a bit lower than the average blackjack game.


What is the House Edge on Regular Blackjack?

When it comes to blackjack, it is a bit more difficult to gauge the house edge. This is due to the fact that blackjack tends to be played with a varying amount of decks. Usually, the house edge of blackjack tends to be around 2%, especially against inexperienced players. This makes it quite a bit harder to win a game of blackjack, than it does to win a game of pontoon.

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