Pontoon is an Australian blackjack variant and an ideal game for gamblers looking for an alternative experience, with some favourable rule differences, and some of the lowest house edges on offer.
Pontoon actually comes in two different types, both of which originally derived from another American blackjack variant called Spanish 21. The first version of Pontoon is played in Britain and the UK, and is very similar to conventional American blackjack. The second version of Pontoon is played in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore. Both the variants of Pontoon have similar rules to Spanish 21.
Let us know few basic rules
- The game is played with eight 52-card decks.
- All cards have the same value as in blackjack.
- The ranking value of hands in pontoon is defined as an ace and any 10-point card, including after splitting
- A five-card trick, is defined as any 5-card hand that has not busted. All five-card tricks are of the same value, the point total does not matter.
- A non-busted hand of 21 points of less with 4 or less cards; Hands will be ranked within this group according to the total number of points.
- A busted hand is of 22 points or more.
- The dealer will deal each player two cards face up and two cards face down to the dealer.
- The dealer will peek at his cards for a pontoon. If the dealer has a pontoon he will immediately turn it over and collect all wagers and cards.
- The player may stand on any total greater or equal to 15, or on any 5-card hand.
- The player may hit at any point, including after doubling.
- The player may double on 2 to 4 cards, but only once per hand. The option includes after splitting, and once for each split hand.
- The player may split two cards of equal rank. The player may re-split once, up to a total of three hands, including aces. When the player splits the first card dealt to each hand shall be automatic.
- Player may draw and double after splitting aces.
- The 2-card 21 after splitting aces counts as a pontoon.
- If the player busts he immediately loses and forfeits his cards and total wager.
- After all players have played out their hands the dealer shall expose his two cards. Then the dealer shall continue to draw cards until he has a total of 17 points or more, except the dealer shall hit a soft 17. The dealer will also stop with any five-card hand.
- The dealer shall compare his hand to each player hand. A winning player pontoon or five-card hand shall pay 2 to 1. All other player wins shall pay 1 to 1 (even money).
Differences in Fixed Rules
- The dealer has no hole card (NHC), which is akin to many of the blackjack games in Australia and Europe. This means players cannot determine whether the dealer will draw a natural Pontoon until all players have acted and the dealer draws a second card.
- Pontoon hands thus will win immediately always beating the dealer’s Pontoon.
- The game is played with either four decks from a continuous shuffling machine, or six to eight decks from a shoe. All Tens (Ten of Hearts, Diamonds, Spades & Clubs) are removed from the decks.
- You can split up to a maximum of two times, depending on the casino.
- You can only double down on a hand which is totalling nine, 10 or 11.
- The Ace in any hand which has not been doubled must always count as one, rather than one or 11. Thus, if doubling on a soft-18 say an Ace and a Seven, you are actually doubling on eight, which is highly inadvisable.
- Double down rescue that is early surrender is available only after a player has doubled down; you must forfeit an amount equal to your original bet.
- Late surrender is offered when the dealer’s up-card is a Ten or an Ace; but if the dealer hits blackjack, you still lose your entire bet. Also, you miss the chance to draw to 21 and win immediately. Late surrender is thus not such a valuable option.
- The dealer must always hit on a soft-17, a rule which favours the house.
No Hole Card Rules
- As the dealer does not have a hole card, it is possible for players to split/double and if the dealer draws Pontoon, lose multiple bets. Most games will offer compensation in the form of the following rules. Because the following rules are unique to Australian versions of Pontoon, make sure to familiarise yourself with them as they are not present in conventional blackjack.
- Original and Busted Bets Only: If the dealer draws Pontoon, you lose any hands you have busted, plus one bet from each split hand remaining. If you have not split, you lose just the one bet. No penalty is taken from any double downs.
- Busted Bets Plus One: If the dealer draws to Pontoon, you lose any hands you have busted in addition to an amount equal to your initial wager, even if you have multiple split hands in one box.
- The European No Hole Card: If the dealer draws Pontoon, the player loses every wager on the table. This is the worst rule as it offers no compensation on a dealer natural.
Compared with Spanish 21, which allows splitting to four hands, there are limitations on how many hands players are allowed to split to. Casinos in Queensland and New South Wales do not permit re-splitting. In most venues, players cannot re-split Aces , apart from Burswood Casino, Perth, and Casino de Genting, Malaysia, where it is allowed to re-split once.
Players can only surrender against a dealer Ace or face (Picture card If the dealer ends up with a natural, the player will still lose the entire bet; moreover, he/she missed out on the opportunity to draw to “21” and win unconditionally. This is why surrendering is a less valuable play in Pontoon than in Spanish 21.
In Adelaide Casino Australia, and Casino de Genting, Malaysia, it is allowed to double only on two-card hands. Elsewhere, players can double on any number of cards, which is called “not last chance” doubling.
Pontoon has the same super bonus payouts are Spanish 21, with the exception of Casino de Genting, Malaysia, which has a super bonus payout of RM1,000 on bets of RM10 to RM99, and RM5,000 on bets of RM100 or above.