Pontoon is an interesting eight-deck blackjack variation you’ll find to play online and land casinos of Australia. At some casinos over the internet, where traditional blackjack play does not count toward meeting your wagering requirement for a bonus, Pontoon may be allowed.
To play Pontoon you will find that the house edge on this game is very low when you employ correct basic strategy–in fact, lower than traditional eight-deck blackjack games, only 0.17% and the strategy to play Pontoon is easy to learn.
As you are aware the game is dealt from eight standard 52-card decks, and both the player and dealer get two cards—but the dealer has no up-card. Also, the dealer wins on ties. The cards are valued the same as in traditional blackjack, and the hands are totalled the same way.
Pontoon Pays 2:1
An Ace and any Ten-valued card are called a Pontoon, and automatically win, paid off at 2-to-1. This includes after splitting, except at a few RTG casinos available on the internet, so if you split a pair of Aces and catch a Ten on one or both hands, those hands also pay 2-to-1 and automatically win. A dealer Pontoon beats a player Pontoon, however, as the dealer wins all ties. If the dealer is dealt a Pontoon, he will immediately turn it up and collect your bet.
5-Card Charlie Pays 2:1
A 5-card Charlie is defined as any hand that contains 5 cards and has not busted. The hand total does not matter. A 5-card Charlie pays 2-to-1, whether or not the total beats the dealer’s hand. In other words, if you have a 5-card 18, and the dealer has a 2-card 20, you win, and you will be paid 2:1 on your bet.
A 5-card Charlie can only be beaten by an unbusted dealer hand that also contains 5 cards. If the dealer makes a 5-card hand, he will stop taking hits regardless of his hand total, and his 5-card Charlie will beat any player hand. That is, a dealer’s 5-card total of 16 would beat your 3-card 21.
The dealer, however, only wins even money on his 5-card Charlie. Once you (or the dealer) have a 5-card unbusted hand, the count value of the hand is irrelevant. All 5-card Charlies have equal value. So, a 5-card Charlie is not an automatic winner for a player, but when it wins, it pays the player 2-to-1.
Other Pontoon Winning Hands Pay Even Money
Other totals are valued just as in traditional blackjack, and if they beat the dealer hand, they are paid 1:1 on the bet. Again, the player loses all ties. Here are the Pontoon Hand Rules
Pontoon Hit/Stand Rules
The player must hit any hard or soft total of 14 or less. In other words, if your hand totals 14, you must act on it—either hit, double down, or split (if two 7s). With totals of 15 or more, you may hit or stand as you please. The dealer must stand on any total of hard 17 or soft 18 or more, and hits on hard 16 or soft 17 or less.
Pontoon Pair Split Rules
You may split any pair, and re-split once (to three hands total). After splitting a pair, you may not stand on any total under 15. Split hands are paid 2:1 on Pontoons (except at some RTG casinos) or 5-card Charlies just like other hands.
Pontoon Double Down Rules
You may double down once on any hand, with any number of cards, including after pair splits. So this means that if you double down on any 4-card hand, and you do not bust, your 5-card Charlie will pay 2:1 on your total bet. Like suppose you have a $10 bet with 4-card total of soft 19. Since you cannot bust a soft hand, you add $10 to double your bet to $20, and unless the dealer also makes a 5-card Charlie, you will win $40 on this hand that started out with a $10 bet.
You are also allowed to hit after doubling down. That is, if you double down on a soft 14 (A-3), and you catch a deuce for a total of soft 16, you may hit this hand, and hit again if you desire. In fact, because of the two rules that 1) players may not stand on any total under 15, and 2) players may only double down once per hand, hitting on doubled hands will be automatic if your hand total is under 15.
Suppose you double down on a total of 10 and catch a 4. The dealer will automatically hit this hand again, as you have no other play option available.
As Pontoon is a fast game and when playing online you will double down, then immediately see multiple hits, and your hand busts. If you look at the series of cards that came down, however, you’ll see that any hit cards that were dealt to your hand after the double down card were dealt because your hand total was under 15, and you had no option but to take a hit.
Since you see no dealer up card in Pontoon, Pontoon basic strategy is based entirely on the number of cards that make up your hand. With a 4-card hand you double down on all soft hands and any hard hand that does not total 17 or more.
Regarding the soft doubling with 4-card hands, since you cannot bust a soft hand, and you are assured of making a 5-card Charlie if you double down provided the dealer does not make a 5-card Charlie, that’s an automatic 4:1 payout on your original bet.
If you double down on a 3-card soft 19 in Pontoon, and you catch an Ace or a deuce to give yourself a 4-card soft 20 or 21, you should definitely hit this hand, as you still cannot bust and you will make a 5-card Charlie.
Only 4-card hands that you ever stand with in Pontoon are hard totals of 18 or more. You even hit a 4-card hard 17 in Pontoon, and you double down on a 4-card hard 16. So, if after doubling on any 3-card hand in Pontoon, your hand does not yet total hard 18 or more, hit that Pontoon hand again.