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Pontoon Rules - How To Play The Pontoon Card Game

Pontoon is essentially a British version of the American Blackjack game of 21. 

This game is very similar to Blackjack but with slight variations. So, in this blog post, we will explore in detail what Pontoon is, how to play it, its rules, and highlight the similarities and differences between Pontoon and Blackjack.  

What Is a Pontoon?

Pontoon is one of the most popular card games played in the UK and all around the world. It is also known as Twenty-one (21), Spanish 21, and in some cases - albeit incorrectly - Blackjack. 

Though the game is technically different from regular Blackjack, they are similar. 

As such, this game can be considered a variation of Blackjack because, like Blackjack, Pontoon aims to achieve a hand as close to 21 as possible without exceeding it. 

Pontoon is also played with a standard 52-card deck, and it involves a dealer whom you must also aim to beat.

Pontoon can be found in many land-based casinos, as well as casino slots sites.

How To Play The Pontoon Card Game

Pontoon can be played by three or more people, typically 5 to 8 players. The aim is to get a hand that is as close to 21 as possible while beating the banker (dealer). You must also aim not to go over 21, as that would result in a loss, also known as a bust.

One player is going to be deemed the banker/dealer. At first, this can be done by drawing the highest card from the shuffled deck. To begin, the banker deals one card face down to each player. 

Players are allowed to have a peek at their cards and then place their bets. However, the banker is not allowed to look. 

After the bets, the second cards are dealt. The banker’s second card is dealt face-up. 

The player left of the banker begins their turn first, either taking cards from the rest of the deck to improve their hand if they need to or sticking with their cards if they are confident in them. Taking extra cards is called twisting and does not affect your initial stakes.

Going clockwise around the table, each player has their turn. The banker then reveals their face-down card and plays their hand against the remaining players that haven’t gone bust.

If the banker wins the round, they receive all wagers and remain the banker for the next round. If another player wins, they receive the winnings for their wager, and they become the banker for the next round.

Pontoon Rules

Pontoon may initially sound intimidating, but it is relatively simple once you get the hang of it. 

So, we’ve compiled a few of the fundamental rules to make your gameplay slightly simpler:

  1. Card values: Understanding the card values is essential to playing Pontoon. All face cards or court cards (Jack, Queen, King) are worth 10 points, and the Ace can either be worth 1 point or 11 points. All the other cards are worth their face value. So, for example, an 8 would be worth 8 points, regardless of the suit. 
  2. A hand of 2 cards that makes a 21 is called a Pontoon, and it is the best hand in the game, and it can only be made by an Ace and a 10-value card.
  3. Following a Pontoon is a 5-Card Trick. A 5-Card Trick is also a 21 made of any five cards. 
  4. A third ranking 21 is made of three or four cards that also equal a 21. It is beaten only by a Pontoon or a 5-Card Trick. 
  5. Hands that are over 21 are a bust.
  6. You can hit/twist (take extra cards) or stick (end your turn with your hand as it is) when playing.
  7. You can also double down, which means doubling your initial bet and then taking just one additional card.
  8. You may also split your cards if you have two cards of the same value. Splitting allows you to play each card as an individual hand, but this incurs an additional bet equal to your original bet size on the new hand.
  9. If you and the banker have the same value cards, the banker automatically wins.

Is Pontoon The Same As Blackjack?

While Pontoon and Blackjack may seem similar to an untrained eye, they are not the same. Both games have distinct differences but also share some similarities.

For example, both games aim to get a hand as close to 21 as possible, but in Blackjack, each player and the dealer begin with two cards, while in Pontoon, participants receive one card before placing bets.

Additionally, the banker can change each round depending on who wins in Pontoon. So, it’s not players against the house/dealer like it is in Blackjack. The players are actually playing against each other to become the banker.

Therefore, Pontoon may be similar to Blackjack, but it is different and brings its own kind of excitement and suspense. In addition, its distinct twists and set of rules make it stand out from Blackjack and provide a different gameplay. 

*All values (Bet Levels, Maximum Wins etc.) mentioned in relation to this game are subject to change at any time.