Pontoon – The Game of 21


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Pontoon is a popular card game and is thought of as the British version of Blackjack and this should not be confused. Pontoon is a variant of the American game Spanish 21 that is played in Australian, Malaysian, British, and Singaporean casinos.  In Treasury Casino, Brisbane, it is known as Treasury 21. In Jupiter Casino, Gold Coast, it is known as Jupiter 21, in the Reef Casino, Cairns, it is known as Paradise Pontoon, and in Tasmania, it is known as Federal Pontoon.

Historical Facts

The British blackjack variant Pontoon, found in the UK and Commonwealth, and played with regular 52-card decks. British pontoon uses the terms “twist” (hit), “stick” (stand) and “buy” (double the bet, not to be confused with doubling down) and a different set of rules. The rules for buying in Pontoon include allowing the player to buy on any hand of 2 to 4 cards, allowing the player to twist after he buys. Pontoon has proven to be far more popular in Australia than Spanish 21 has been in the United States.
History dates back to the court of Louis XV where the American version of Pontoon or Vingt-et-un (French for Twenty-one), a gambling game became popular. Later it was favourite of Napoleon too. In the twentieth century it became the most popular game of the armed forces of English-speaking nations. Pontoon, unlike casino Blackjack, has no official rules and varies widely from school to school.

The Play of Pontoon

Pontoon is card game that needs a standard 52 card deck. Players are usually two to eight people. This game is highly similar to Blackjack. The values of the cards from 2 to 10 are their face value while an ace is either a 1 or an 11. Jacks, queens and kings are all valued at 10. Suits of the cards do not matter since it is only the number or the value that is important. The aim of the game is to reach 21 or below that and not going more than that.

The Play Rounds

All players and the banker are given two cards each per round. The dealer or banker distributes the cards one by one going in one direction, usually to the dealer’s left. As soon as everybody has their initial single card, they are supposed to either increase their bets or just check. When everybody has agreed on the raise or the check, the banker then distributes the last cards to make the players’ hand two cards. Players should then check their cards for their values. If the banker has a pontoon, he wins immediately without even the players declaring their cards value or even if one of them have a pontoon also.
Assuming that nobody got a pontoon and all the bets are in for this stage, the banker then starts to ask the player to his left what his position is. This is the time for players to declare their pontoon if they have one. More options are for the player to declare a split, buy an additional card, get a twist, or declare a stick.

Options in Pontoon

A split means the player has two identical cards which he means to play one by one. The banker gives corresponding cards to each hand which make the player’s cards four in all. The player has to add to his bet if he declares a split. In case that the cards are a jack and a king, these cannot be declared a split. The cards must be identical in rank for the jack, queen and king. Buying a card means the player will place an additional bet to get a card, and the dealer does not show anybody but the player his card. This is contrary to declaring a twist where the additional card is laid face up on the table for everybody to see. You do not need to add to your stake if you declare a twist.
Declaring a stick means you do not need any more cards to add to your hand. Players are not obliged to play hands that are more than 15, but if the total value of your cards is less than 15 then you are obligated to get more cards.

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