An Introduction to Pontoon
Pontoon is a version of the immensely popular game of 21, also called Blackjack in the casinos of America. The game of Pontoon is derived from the French game of Vingt-et-un, which translates literally to 21. Unlike blackjack, Pontoon is very popular in Britain and is easy and exciting to play, especially when you are playing for money. Pontoon is a blackjack game with a nasty twist, as both dealer card are dealt face down. The object of the game is the same as blackjack, but the Blackjack strategy is much different then in Pontoon.
The basic objective of playing Pontoon is to beat the hand of your opponent, the banker (we will learn more about the banker slightly later), and form a hand that has a value of close to 21, without crossing that value. You lose the hand if your score overshoots 21. You basically play against the banker, and not against other players. With this brief background about the game, let us move on to learn the rules of the game.
Hitting - You can hit up to five times.
Standing - You must have five cards or a total of 15 points to Stand.
Doubling - You may only double one time on the same hand.
Splitting - You can split any pair. When you split, you must place an additional wager on the new hand that is equal to your original wager..
A two-card hand totaling 21 after splitting aces is considered Pontoon.
Wagering In Pontoon
Place your wager on the table.
Cards are dealt.
Dealer will check for Pontoon
Hit,Stand, Double, or Split until you bust or are satisfied with your hand..
Dealer will then do the same until he must stay or he bust.
Card Point Values in Pontoon
Cards 2 through 10 = face value
Face Cards = 10 points
Aces = 1 point or 11 points
Basic Pontoon Rules
There are a large number of rules associated with Pontoon to make the game easier to understand and fun to play. To start with, you play the game with the standard pack containing 52-cards, and can use more than one pack if there are a large number of players, e.g. 10. The ideal number of players per game is a minimum of two and a maximum of eight.
The next thing to know is about the rules governing the values of the different cards in a pack. Unlike some of the other games, all the cards are not valued on face. The cards two through 10 have the values of the numbers they carry, so a three of clubs would have a value of 3. However, the face cards, i.e. Jacks, Queens, and Kings all have a value of 10. The ace can have a value of either 1 or the 11, depending on which number best suits the hand of the player.
In a traditional casino, of all the players involved in a game, one player is designated the banker. The first banker is nominated at random, because the banker holds a slight but at times critical edge over the other players. In the event of you and the banker having an identical hand, it is the banker that wins. After the first banker, the remaining are all selected, at professional casinos by drawing cards; you become the banker if the card you draw has the highest value.
In an online casino, the way the game is played is slightly different. Basically, you play directly against the banker. There is no scope for you to don the role of banker in online Pontoon.
Pontoon Rules – The Hands
There is a hierarchy as far as the different hands are concerned in Pontoon. Of all the hands you see in Pontoon, the best is the Pontoon, which has a value of 21 from just two cards. The only way this hand is a possibility for you to have is if you have an ace and a card valued at 10 points, i.e. 10, J, Q, or K.
The second best hand in Pontoon is the Five Card Trick. As the name suggests, this hand has a set of five cards, all of which add up to 21. The hand with the third highest value is one that has a total of three to four cards, all adding up to 21. The only hands that this one cannot beat are the Pontoon and the Five-Card Trick.
If you do not have a hand that adds up to 21, the next good hand is one that has less than or equal to 20 points and a maximum of just four cards, not five. There is a hierarchy between different cards in this hand as well – a hand that has a value of 20 has a higher value than one that is valued at 14. You might also have a hand that is valued higher than 21 points and this hand is of absolutely no use to you, as it causes you to lose, not win.
Pontoon Rules – Waiting for the Dealer to Deal
Once you sit down at a Pontoon table, the banker is ready to deal the cards. As a player, you get one card facing downwards. The deal starts from the left of the banker and ends with the banker. If you are the banker, you are not allowed to see your card; the other players are allowed to take a look at their hand and see what they have.
The next step after seeing your cards is to place your starting bets. Players need to fix on an upper and lower cap as far as bets are concerned. Like the deal, which is done clockwise, the bets are also placed clockwise. You need to place at least the minimum bet as a player.
Once the initial bets are laid out, the dealer deals the second card. Should the banker have a Pontoon he shows it as soon as the deal is over and gets two times the amount each player had wagered initially.
Pontoon Rules for the Player
If you are not a banker and just a player, you can look to pick up extra cards and have a better hand than your initial one. This applies only if the dealer does not have a Pontoon. As a player, a number of scenarios open up if the dealer misses a Pontoon.
The first scenario is that your first two cards turn out to be an ace and a 10-card (either a 10 or a face card). In that case you would declare a Pontoon. The procedure to do this is to have the 10-card laid face down at the bottom and the ace card above it with its face visible.
The next scenario is if you get two cards of the same value, say two 7s. In that case, you could go for what is called a split bet, i.e. you split the cards and have one bet on each card, with the bets being for the same amount. To proceed, you would need to lay down the cards face up. Once you have split the cards, the dealer deals you a single card for each branched hand now. You have the option of splitting again if you get another set of like-value cards.
You can split only those cards of equal value, say two 7s, as mentioned above. In the case of face cards it is not enough if the value is the same (the value is anyways the same); the cards have to be exactly the same, e.g. two Kings. Play is linear when you split your card, i.e., you play the first hand till it is over, and then play the next one.
The third scenario is if you have a hand where the two cards add up to less than 21. In that case you can buy another card by saying ‘I will buy a card.’ Buying a card involves money, of course; you would need to up your stake. The least amount you can add is the same value as the stake itself, and the most you can increase is two times the stake amount. You have the option of buying another card if your hand still is lower than 21. In that case, the lower limit is your first wager amount and the upper limit is the amount you raised it to when you bought the first card.
A fourth scenario is to ‘twist’ a card, by uttering the words ‘twist me one’. The advantage of twisting is that nothing happens to your stake, and you still get an extra card, dealt face up, from the dealer. You have the option of twisting till you have a total of five cards. If you do not have a 21 even with five cards, your hand is called the Five Card Trick. You cannot take any more cards.
Another scenario is where you ‘stick’ with what you have. This is a safe option to take if you have relatively high cards but not adding up to 21.
Finally, when your card value overshoots 21, you are ‘bust’, which means you cannot play further in that game and need to give up your hand, putting the cards face up on the table.
Pontoon Rules for the Banker
The Pontoon rules for the banker are more or less the same as for the players, except for a few instances. First of all, the banker’s cards remain face down till the other players have played their hand. Also, if you are the dealer and you have a hand that is lower than another player’s, you pay out the stake money to the player with the higher hand. However, if your hand is higher, then you collect money from all the players whose hand is either equal to yours or lower.
If the dealer has a Five Card Trick, he pays only those players who have a Pontoon. Such a player gets two times the amount he staked, while the rest lose two times the amount they staked. If the dealer goes bust, he pays out all the players who have not gone bust. He pays them the amount they had staked.
Again, in the event no one has a Pontoon, all the cards that were used in the hand go to the bottom of the deck and the dealer deals a new hand without shuffling the cards. If anyone had a Pontoon, the dealer shuffles and then gets the card deck cut for a fresh deal.
Once you have a good grasp on the flow and rules, I advise you to learn some basic Pontoon strategy.