Pontoon is one of the most lucrative table games you can play

Playing Pontoon Card Game

Although Pontoon is not well known as its cousin blackjack, it is a pretty exciting game. Some people say Pontoon is blackjack. But, there are several differences between the two games, as you are about to discover somewhere below.

The Complete Guide to Pontoon Card Game

Although Pontoon is not well known as its cousin blackjack, it is a pretty exciting game. Some people say Pontoon is blackjack. But, there are several differences between the two games, as you are about to discover somewhere below.

Pontoon is widely popular in Britain, Australia, Asia, and America. In this guide, you will discover what Pontoon is, how unique it is from blackjack, how to play it, the rules and strategies of the game, its history, and every other detail.

What Is Pontoon Card Game?

A pontoon is a card game that uses a 52-card deck. It has some similarities to blackjack and several differences, making it one of the best lucrative table games you can play.

Pontoon is mainly played in Great Britain and Australia. But it is gaining popularity in Asia and America as well. Although it is often confused as a blackjack variant, it is more similar to Spanish 21. In fact, the game's rules are predominantly derived from Spanish 21 with several contrasts.

Two to eight players can play Pontoon in online casinos. But, it would require 5-8 players to play at a land-based casino. If more than eight players are playing the game, two 52-card decks will be used.

If you are playing the game at a land-based casino, one of the players becomes the banker. But, if playing online, the role of the banker remains with the dealer. Wherever you choose to play Pontoon, the goal is always to have a better hand than the dealer's or the banker's.

The History of the Game

Pontoon was formerly known as Vingt-Un. This is a British domestic version of Twenty-One from which Pontoon and blackjack were derived from. Thus, it is safe to say Pontoon is not a blackjack variant but a game with some similarities with blackjack.

The first places Vingt-Un played were in France, Prussia, and Britain in the 18th century. The game's first rules were published in 1800 in Britain, while a more elaborate structure of the game was established over the 19th century.

Pontoon first came into being in the First World War. Soldiers played it during their pastimes. At the time, the game was equated to American Blackjack or Twenty-One.

Still, the name "Vingt-Un" was used in place of Pontoon. By 1981, Vingt-Un was the third most popular game after Whist and Rummy in Britain.

As an informer family game, Pontoon has just a few rules. But, this has changed today as the game has several more instructions to adhere to.

Rules of Pontoon Card Game

The first rule of the game is to deal one card face down to each player and the dealer/banker. Then, all gamblers can make their first bets depending on the min/max stake level limit set at the table. The banker will then deal a second card, face down to all players and himself.

The other rule is that all players and the dealer have to check if they have a pontoon. If there is any player with this hand, he gets paid 2:1 payouts. If not, the game continues.

Another rule is for the banker/dealer to deal cards, starting with the player sitting on his left all around to deal himself for the first round. Then, dealing can go clockwise, with players having the following options:

  • Buy: this is doubling your bets and getting one more card. It is also referred to as double
  • Twist: this is where a player gets one more card without increasing the stake. It is also called a "hit."
  • Split: this is creating two different hands from one that has two cards of the same rank. The splitting rule may differ from one casino to another, whether you are playing online or offline.
  • Stick: this option allows you to do nothing with your cards and wait until other players are finished with creating their hands. Stick is referred to as "Stand" in blackjack.
  • Also, a player must ask for another card if they have a hand whose total value is less than 15. A player can choose to stand if they have a hand with a card value of 15 or above.

Other rules include:

  • A banker has to get a hand value of 17 to qualify.
  • Splitting is required when a player has two cards of the same rank.
  • A player can double their bet at any time during the game.

How to Play Pontoon Card Game

Once you understand the rules, it is time to learn how to play Pontoon. The game begins with the banker/dealer dealing one card from the player seated on his left. All the players around the table have to agree on the minimum, and maximum one can bet.

Players can make their first bet before the dealer deals with a second card. At this point, players and the banker can examine their cards. If the banker has Pontoon, he has to expose the cards and claim the double of what players bet.

If the banker does not have a pontoon, the game will continue with players getting another card to improve their hands. All the while, two things can happen, including:

  • Declare a pontoon: if a player has a ten-point card and an ace, they can declare they have Pontoon. This is done by placing the ten-point card face down, and the ace card faces up on top of the ten-point card.
  • Split your cards: if you get two cards of the same rank, you have to split them. For example, if you have two 3s or two Js, you must split them into two separate hands. You also have to place an equal bet to the starting bet for the second hand.

The banker/dealer will deal one card for each of the two newly created hands. If the new card matches one already in the first two hands, you need to split the hands further to make a third hand.

You don't have to split your hand when you have two 10-point cards that are not the same. For example, if you have a Q and K, you do not have to separate the two cards.

When none of the above two things happens, the game will continue as follows. If your hand has cards whose total score is less than 21, you can buy another card. In a live casino, you can use the words "I will buy one." If you are playing online, you just need to click buy.

At this point, you must increase your stake similar to the first bet or double the first bet. So, if you placed $100 for your first bet, your second stake should be between $100 and $200.

The dealer will deal another face-down card. If the total value of cards is still under 21, you can twist. The "Twist" is a command allowing the dealer to give you a card face up without the need to add another wager.

Once you twist, you cannot go back to buying a new card. You can continue to twist until you reach the fifth card or get a bust hand. You can also choose to buy your cards until you get five or bust a hand.

Note: the amount you are buying the fourth card should be equal to the initial bet but greater than the amount you purchased the third card for. For example, you make the initial bet of $100 and buy the third card at $175.

Then, you should buy the fourth card for any amount between $100 and $175. The same rule applies if you need to buy a fifth card.

If you have a hand whose total score is at least 15, you can stick with your hand. When you choose to stick, it means you do not need any more cards. Your bet will remain unaffected, and the dealer will move to the next hand.

A player can bust their hand by buying cards or twisting cards. When this happens, the player should turn their cards face up. The banker will collect all the player's stakes and return the player's cards at the bottom of the deck.

In case you had to split your hand, you have to play one until the end before playing the other hand. In case you bust, you can pick the other hand and continue playing.

Banker's Turn

The above process describes what each player has to go through in the pontoon game. Now, we look at what the banker has to do.

Once the banker is finished dealing cards to all players at the table satisfactorily, he can reveal his cards to players. The players' cards will remain face down unless they slip their hand, had Pontoon, or gone bust. After looking at the first two cards, the banker can decide to deal more face-up cards to their starting two cards.

Once the banker is comfortable with their hand, they can continue playing. While at it, three things can happen.

  • Bust their hand: if a banker has a hand whose score is over 21, they have to pay their stake to all players and double the amount.
  • The banker has a hand whose score is 21 or less with four cards or less: if this happens, the banker will collect stakes from all players whose hand value is lower than his. The banker will also pay those players whose hand value is higher than his.
  • Players with a pontoon or 5-card trick get paid double their stake. If a banker has a hand worth 17, he will say he is paying 18. So, players with hands whose value is above 18 to 21 are paid.
  • If the banker has a hand of 21, he will only pay a player who has a pontoon or 5-card trick.
  • Banker gets 5-card trick: when a banker has this hand, they pay double to players with a pontoon or a 5-card trick. Also, all other players, including the one with a 5-card trick, will pay out double their stakes to the dealer.

New Deal

Once the first round of the game is over, a second deal will happen. If a player or banker got a pontoon during the first round of the game, the cards need to be reshuffled before returning to the deck. If not, there is no need to shuffle the cards.

The role of the banker will move to another player, especially the one who had the best hand. Thus, a player who had Pontoon or did not split their hand becomes the next banker. If two players meet the criteria of becoming the next banker, the one seated to the left of the initial banker will take the role.

Note: if you are playing online, you do not have to play with other players unless it is a live game. But, whenever you are playing against a computer program, you will perform all the roles, including dealing cards.

If you get Pontoon, you will automatically win. If not, you need to decide whether to continue playing by clicking Twist, Buy, or Stick.

Provided that you are playing Pontoon online, you play against the house. Whenever the house has a better hand than yours, you forfeit your chips.

Best Hands in a Pontoon Card Game

The hand you create determines how much you win as long as it is better than the banker's hand. Here is a list of hands starting with the best:

A Pontoon

A pontoon hand is also called blackjack. This is because it is composed of either 10, King, Queen, or Jack and an Ace.

Getting a pontoon hand leads to an automatic win. But, if the dealer has this hand too (tie), he will win, and the player will not get paid.

Five Hand Trick

As the name implies, this is a hand made up of five cards. The total value of the five cards must be 21 or less for the hand to win.

A Hand of Three or Four Cards

A hand with three or four cards whose total value is 21 is better than all the other hands except Pontoon or a five-card trick.

Hands With a Score of 20 or Under

This is a hand consisting of less than five cards, but the total value of these cards is 20 or under. If the dealer and a player have this hand, the winner will be the card value closest to 21. For example:

  • If a hand has a total score of 19 and the other is 18, the first will win.
  • If a hand has a total score of 20, it beats the one with a score of 18.

What is A Bust Hand

This is the worst hand in the Pontoon card game. It consists of cards whose total score is over 21.

Pontoon Payouts

The hand you get determines how much you get paid. Below is a payout table reflecting how much you might win when you have specific hands:

hand payout
pontoon 2:1
5-card trick 2:1
Winning hand 1:1
tie The dealer wins

From the table, you can see a player who gets a pontoon wins 2:1. Thus, if you bet $10, you will win $20 and get your wager back, bringing the total winning to $30.

Shoot Pontoon

Shoot pontoon is a variation added to the pontoon game. This variation incorporates the betting procedure used in Shoot and the standard way of betting in Pontoon.

So, at the start of a game, the banker creates a kitty. This is a bet whose value is between the minimum and the maximum set amount. Then, a player can make a shoot bet separate from the initial bet made after the banker deals the first card.

The shoot bet is usually between the player and the kitty and not the banker. If this variation is incorporated in a pontoon game, players can make a shoot bet in their free will. But, the value of the shoot bet should not exceed the kitty.

So, if a banker creates a kitty of $100, all players have to bet within the kitty. If the first player makes a shoot bet of $100, no other player can bet because the kitty value is already achieved.

After players have placed their shoot bet, the banker will deal a second card to each player and themselves. If the banker gets a Pontoon, all players' shoot bets are added to the kitty. They also pay double their initial bet to the banker.

All the rules of Pontoon apply with the addition of several others. For example, you can make a second shoot bet when you choose to twist or buy the fourth card. But, you can only be allowed to make this bet if the total value of all shoot bets does not exceed the kitty.

If you have to split your hand, the first shoot bet is applicable for the first hand. You have to make a second shoot bet for the second hand. When a player's hand scores above 21, their shoot bet goes to the kitty, allowing other players to make more shoot bets.

Pontoon Strategy

Pontoon's strategy should help you decrease the house edge to below 0.35 percent. Once you lower the house edge, you can increase the chances of winning, including the kitty.

We will start by looking at the table below. The numbers on the left are the hand's value, while the ones on the top are the number of cards a player could be holding.

The table is pretty easy to understand. To clarify, we will give several examples.

Suppose you have four cards whose total value is 11? Considering the number is below 15, you need to ask for another card. It could be either through doubling or twisting.

Another example is, if your hand has two cards, including A and 10, choose Stand. You do not have to ask for a second card because you already have a pontoon.

But, if you have three cards and two of those cards are A and 10, you can double or hit. Remember, the Ace card can go with the value of 1 or 11. So, if you choose to buy and get the fourth card, the ace card's value will be considered one.

In the above table, Hit (H) stands Twist. The table also advises players to split or stand their hands if they have cards from the same rank. But, confirm with a casino's rules and adjust accordingly.

For example, if a casino requires you to split a hand with two aces, do so. If the casino allows you to split or stand, then do so.

House Edge

The house may differ depending on the developer powering the pontoon game. For example, the house edge of Pontoon from Microgaming is 0.33 percent. Below is a glimpse of how the house edge looks like depending on the developer of the game:

  • Playtech – 0.32%
  • RealTime Gaming (8 decks) – 0.32%
  • OpenBet – 0.32%
  • GamesOS – 0.32%
  • Microgaming – 0.33%
  • Net Entertainment – 0.36%
  • RealTime Gaming (2 decks) – 0.65%

Major Differences Between Pontoon and Blackjack

There are several differences between Pontoon and blackjack. First, it is the terminologies used in each game. The meaning may be similar but the terms used are different.

For example, the word buy is used in Pontoon while double is used in blackjack. The two words ask the dealer to give a player another card for double the initial bet.

Twist is another word used in Pontoon, while Hit is used in blackjack. If you do not want another card, you tell the dealer "Stick" in Pontoon and "Stand" in blackjack.

Another difference is the rules. Most are similar but there is one significantly different rule. Ideally, the banker/dealer's cards remain face down in Pontoon while face-up in blackjack.

In his case, players cannot use dealer's cards to make the following decisions in Pontoon. In blackjack, they can make better decisions based on the face-up cards for the dealer.

Another difference is that a natural pontoon hand pays better than a natural blackjack hand. In Pontoon, a natural hand is paid at 2:1, while in blackjack, it is paid 3:2.


Following a good run, we have come to the end of the review. We need you to remember several things.

First, you have to get one card before making a bet. The other thing is, study the strategy table above. After a while, it will become a part of you, and you will not need to refer to it every time you play Pontoon.

If you have played blackjack before, playing Pontoon should feel like a walk in the park. If not, you are in a better position because you do not have to remember whether you are playing Pontoon or blackjack.

Start by playing a pure pontoon game before looking for a game with a variation such as Shoot Pontoon. Then, remember to follow the rules. Overall, we'd recommend you try the Pontoon card game at Vegas Aces.

Frequently Asked Questions

1What Is the Best Payout in the Game?
The highest payout possible is 3:1. But, you can also win bonus prizes depending on where you are playing.
2Can I Play Pontoon in Demo Mode?
You can play a free demo at online casinos. But, you cannot play for free in a land-based casino.
3How Can I Win Pontoon?
You can win Pontoon by getting a better hand combination than the dealer's. The best hand is called Pontoon, worth 21 points made up of an ace card and one 10-point card.
4Is Pontoon the Same As Blackjack?
The gameplay for Pontoon and blackjack was derived from one traditional game called Vingt-Un. But, there are several differences between the two games.
5Where Can I Play Pontoon Card Game?
You can play Pontoon at an online casino or a land-based casino.

Vegas Aces Online Pontoon Reviews

Online Pontoon Card Game Reviews
Average rating:  
 9 reviews
 by Nate
There is no way of predicting

It's a buzz. The game is simple but not monotonous. There is no way of predicting. You have to be alert and careful when analyzing the cards on the table before choosing to twist, split, stick, or buy. The game has an attractive minimum stake, friendly for new players not comfortable losing a huge amount of money.

 by Shamani
love love love it!

love love love it! I wish I came across this game earlier. The payouts are good, and the rules are easy to understand. Just follow the rules and the strategy religiously and see that bankroll grow. The graphics are nicely done. The sound is not annoying, but you can also put it on mute.

 by Lament
I will continue playing and see how things go

this is one of the most innovative games I have ever come across. The gameplay is memorable. I especially love the game's winning strategy, which was not hard to memorize. I think I have played Pontoon like seven times and won like four, which is pretty good. I will continue playing and see how things go.

 by Elite
Good game!

Good game! I have played several casino games before, so I'm not new to this. I'm also the kind of person who leaves a review for every game I play. So, here we go. I loved playing Pontoon at this casino. I started by playing in demo mode then played for real money.

 by Supremeblack
I think I will stick to this game for a while

I have played like seven different casino games since I started playing. I'm the kind of person who chooses one game and plays it for the rest of my life. For me to try a new game, it must be terrific. From the rules to applying the strategy, I think I will stick to this game for a while.

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