Pontoon is a variation of blackjack popular in the United Kingdom and in Australia, but the word has different meanings in each of those countries. This article concerns itself mostly with the UK version of pontoon, since that's the most commonly played free version of the game that's available online. When Australians talk about pontoon, they're referring to the game that most people in the world call Spanish 21.
If you want to play a free version of the pontoon card game right away, just click on the Bodog banner below. The offer a completely free version of the game.
Free pontoon games are available at most online casinos. The major software providers (Playtech, Realtime Gaming, Microgaming, and WagerLogic) all offer pontoon as one of their available games, and almost all casinos powered by that software offer free to play versions of their games. The rest of this articles discusses the differences between pontoon and regular blackjack. (If you want to play pontoon for free, we recommend clicking on the image of Bodog Casino above and giving their software a try. It's completely free and a lot of fun.)
One of the major differences between pontoon and blackjack is that the dealer cards are both face down, which has a significant effect on your playing strategy. Another difference is that instead of a "push" situation on a tie, in pontoon, the dealer wins all ties. Any five card hand that doesn't bust in pontoon pays off at 2 to 1, which is not a standard blackjack game practice either. (A five card hand that doesn't bust is called a "five card trick".)
Any ace and ten combination is called a "pontoon" instead of being called a "blackjack". The player can only stand on a total of 15 or better. A player can double only once per hand, but can double on any hand of 2 to 4 cards. Both of the player's cards are dealt face up, while the dealer's cards are always dealt face down. Pontoon is usually played with between 2 to 8 decks. At Bodog Casino, the game is only played with 2 decks, but at all of the other online casinos mentioned, the game is played with a full 8 decks.
The house edge on pontoon, if you're playing with perfect strategy, is only 0.39%. The 2 for 1 payoff on pontoons and five card tricks make up for the dealer winning ties and makes this game almost as good as most American blackjack games. Learning basic strategy for pontoon is easy too, since there are no dealer upcards to affect your strategy decisions. You can find a chart outlining the proper pontoon strategy at the Wizard of Odds website.
If you liked this article, you'll probably also be interested in our information about free Las Vegas style blackjack tourneys.