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The Pontoon Blackjack Variation

Pontoon is considered to be an early British version of blackjack which is only now being accepted by the wide public fans of blackjack, especially over the Internet. Though some of the rules are similar to blackjack, a few twists in Pontoon makes it to a challenging and exciting game.

Pontoon can be played by two players at least and at top eight players. If eight players are playing at once then two card decks are used instead of just one. The cards values match the same as in the common blackjack version. An ace can be "1" or "11"; a Queen is 10 and so on. Just as the regular blackjack version that we all know. The game's objective is also the same and the goal is to reach a total of 21 and no more. The banker in this game has a built-in advantage – he wins ties. Also, a banker may sell his sit.

The value of hands from high to low:

  • Pontoon - which is a total of 21 with two cards, such as and Ace and a K\Q\J\10.
  • Five Card Trick – a 21 or less with five cards. Example: 5-2-3-4-7 or 8-3-4-2-1.
  • Three cards of 21 in total - beat everything else but the above mentioned hands.
  • Hands with less than 21 - which is consisted by less than five cards.
  • Bust - hands with more than a total of 21.

At first the banker deals the cards, faced down, a card to each player. The first to receive a card is the player who sits to the left of the banker. The banker deals in a clockwise order, all but the banker may view their first card. After each player receives a card the banker deals to himself as well. His card's facing down. The players bet and a second card is dealt to each player and to the banker as well. If the banker has a Pontoon he declares and the round is immediately over, and the banker collects double from the players' stakes, otherwise it is the players' turn again.

A player may split two similar cards (8-8 or 5-5), or he may buy cards, up to three cards, by saying "I will buy one" and raising the stakes by no more than the double of the initial bet in the first purchase. In the second purchase of a card (the fourth card) a player must raise by a sum no bigger than the last bet and no less than the initial bet. Same goes for the fifth card.

Example: If your first bet was $10 and the max of the table is $20 you may buy a third card with $10-$20. If you placed $17, you may buy the fourth and fifth cards for a sum of $10-$17. These cards are faced down. But, if you feel short in money you can get the third/fourth/fifth card for free which is called a "twist". These cards are dealt faced up by saying "twist me one". If your cards value is no less than 15 you may "stick" to your cards without buying any cards.

You may twist after buying cards, but you can not buy cards after a twist. You may stick at any time if your total is more than 15 and less than 21. In case of a twist, a bust, a split or a pontoon the players would reveal their cards.

Notice that if your total is more than 21 you must throw the cards and the banker will take your stakes. After all players make their moves the banker's cards are turned up, making them visible. The banker may take up to five cards, all faced up, until he is satisfied, then he can stay, or otherwise busted.

If the banker has a Five Card Trick he pays double only to player with Pontoons, everyone else lose. If he has less than a Five Card Trick with a total of 21 or less he pays equal to higher hands, such as 18 with four cards, and he doubles Pontoons and Five Card Tricks. If the banker is busted he pays to all players that haven't been busted.

After the round the cards are collected, shuffled and another round begins only if any one of the players or the banker had a Pontoon. If that is not the case, meaning none had a Pontoon, and the cards are collected and are dealt again WITHOUT being shuffled. If a player do has a Pontoon and the banker don't then he gets to be the new banker. If there's a tie between players with Pontoons then the player sitting nearest to the banker's left becomes the new banker.

If you would like to have a simplified version of the rules, go on to our pontoon rules section.

David Hunch, Editorial Staff