As you know the game of Pontoon is just another variant name for the game of Blackjack and is widely popular in casinos of Australia. But you need to understand that there are two different types of pontoon, one the original British version, and the newer variant played in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. While the two games bear little resemblance to one another, both offer a nice change of pace to standard blackjack and, in many cases, better value for money.
Here find the difference between British and Australian Pontoon and the best Australian casinos offering this game to enjoy.
The British pontoon
The British version of pontoon is an offshoot of the French game vingt-et-un means twenty-and-one, which was also is the ancestor of American blackjack. It has plenty of familiar features, but the distinct parlance and rule variations in pontoon set it apart from other modern-day 21 titles.
The aim of the game is the same as blackjack: to score higher than the dealer without exceeding 21 points. It uses between two and eight standard decks of 52 cards, with Aces counting as one or 11 points, picture cards counting as 10 points, and all others counting as face value like three of Clubs is equal to three points.
Each player receives two cards face-up, while the dealer takes two cards face-down. The dealer will look at their cards to check if they have pontoon that is a two-card 21, in which case the house wins instantly and collects all bets. If the dealer does not have pontoon, the action then moves to the players.
If a player has a natural 21, they win a 2 to 1 payout. Otherwise, they may choose to stick or stand, twist or hit, buy or double down, or split a pair. Traditional pontoon games allow players to stick or twist after they double their bet, but some modern variants tend to treat the rule as identical to doubling down in blackjack.
If a player’s total exceeds 22 points, the hand busts and all bets are lost. If they draw to five cards without exceeding 21, the hand wins at 2 to 1 odds regardless of the exact total. If they stick with four cards or less, their hand will then be compared against the house.
The common rules for playing online real money pontoon
- Dealer wins all ties
- Dealer peeks for pontoon
- Dealer hits soft 17
- Dealer draws up to five cards only
- Player may split up to three hands
- Resplitting Aces allowed
- Buying after splitting allowed
- Ace + 10 after splitting counts as pontoon
- Player may only stick on 15 or higher
- Pontoon pays 2 to 1
- Five-card trick pays 2 to 1
- All other wins pay 1 to 1
The Australian pontoon rules
The pontoon variants played in Australia and Asia are actually subtle variations of Spanish 21 – an American title which was first introduced to Las Vegas casinos in the mid 1990s. The defining feature of these games is the 48-card deck, in which all the face-value 10s have been removed. This makes it harder to draw blackjack, but there are plenty of player-friendly rules to compensate.
Most Australian pontoon games use the following rules like
- Four to eight Spanish decks
- No peek for dealer blackjack
- Dealer hits soft 17
- Player 21 always wins
- Double down on nine, 10, or 11
- Double down on any number of cards
- Aces count as one after doubling on soft hands
- Split up to three hands
- Double after splitting
- No drawing to split Aces
- Late surrender against 10 or Ace
- Double down rescue (surrender after doubling)
- Pontoon pays 3 to 2
Like Spanish 21, Aussie pontoon comes with an extensive table of bonus payouts:
|3 to 2
|3 to 2
|3 to 2
|2 to 1
|2 to 1
|2 to 1
|3 to 1
|Six-Seven-Eight in Spades
|3 to 1
|Seven-Seven-Seven in Spades
|3 to 1
There is an additional Super Bonus payout for drawing three suited Sevens that is for first three cards only when the dealer’s up-card is also a Seven. This pays $1000 for bets between $2 and $24, and $5000 for bets of $25 or more.
House edge and basic strategy
When total-dependent basic strategy is used, both forms of pontoon favour the casino by about 0.4 per cent on average. That figure stands up well against land-based Australian blackjack games, the bulk of which hold a house edge of well over 0.5 per cent.
As both pontoon styles come with certain conditions which aren’t often found in other forms of 21, the optimal strategy for each is very different those which apply to European blackjack or regular Vegas-style games. So while you can follow more or less the same procedure for most 21 games, you need to learn a whole new set of moves in order to keep the pontoon house edge as low as possible.
British pontoon strategy
As there is a 2 to 1 bonus on a five-card trick, and because the dealer takes no up-card, the British pontoon strategy is highly dependent on the number of cards in the player’s hand. Here is a brief summary of the optimal strategy for games which use the common rule-set outlined earlier.
When you have two cards you need to stick on hard 15 or higher, stick on soft 19 or higher, buy on hard 10 or 11 (twist if buying isn’t allowed)and twist on everything else
When you have three cards you need stick on hard 15 or higher you need to buy on hard nine, 10, or 11 (twist if buying isn’t allowed), buy on soft 19 or 20 (twist if buying isn’t allowed), buy on soft 21 (stick if buying isn’t allowed) and twist on everything else.
When you have four cards you need to stick on hard 18 or higher, twist on hard 17 and buy on everything else (twist if buying isn’t allowed)
Online Pontoon games that you can play
Microgaming Spanish Blackjack Gold Series – If you like Australian pontoon, this is the closest thing on the market. The rules are almost identical, with big bonus payouts and a house edge of only 0.38 per cent. Spanish Blackjack Gold is available at all secure Microgaming casinos
Net Entertainment Pontoon Professional Series – This is a conventional English-style pontoon game, available in three selectable betting ranges: low stakes ($0.10 to $10), regular stakes ($1 to $100) and high stakes ($10 to $1000). You can play it at trusted NetEnt casinos
BetSoft Pontoon: It looks simple but plays more or less exactly like NetEnt Pontoon Pro, except with a fixed $1/$100 table limit and an optional Sweet 16 side bet.
You can play each of the above types of online Pontoon at the following real money AUD casino
Land casinos in Australia where you can play Pontoon
Crown Melbourne; Crown Perth; Canberra Casino; Sky City Adelaide; Treasury Casino (Brisbane); Jupiters Casino (Gold Coast); The Reef Hotel Casino (Cairns); Wrest Point Hotel Casino (Hobart); Launceston Country Club Casino and The Star (Sydney).
Pontoon goes by different names from venue to venue. At the Crown complexes in Melbourne and Perth, it is called Crown Pontoon; at Wrest Point and Launceston in Tasmania, it is known as Federal Pontoon; and it goes by Treasury 21 in Brisbane, Jupiters 21 on the Gold Coast, and Paradise Pontoon in Cairns.
Thus you see that optimal play for Australian pontoon games is very similar to Spanish 21 strategy. However, because the dealer does not take a hole card, there are several variables which depend on what happens when the house draws a natural 21. Few game strategy that you should always keep in mind when playing Australian Pontoon is that never split 10s, Fives, or Fours, always split Aces and Eights, except against a dealer Ace subject to specific hole card rules, always stand on hard 17 or higher and hit on hard eight or lower, on hard 12, and on soft 12 through 17and also double down on hard 11, except when you have four or more cards subject again to specific hole card rule. Now enjoy the game at the casinos of your choice and find yourself the best strategy that can help you win the game.