Of late I have mentioned Pontoon a fair bit. But I have realized that I have never really explained Pontoon.
Pontoon is a blackjack version that is said to hail from England, although it seems to crop up most from Australia. But then Australia was essentially founded by England so there you go.
Pontoon is played with four to eight decks, with the 10s removed from each deck. So the only cards worth 10 in game are the face cards. This has the same effect as removing cards from deck in regular blackjack—it favors the house of course. And while, yes, the dealer can hit a soft 17, there are other rules that give odds back to the player.
For starters, a player natural blackjack or 21 wins automatically. One of my favorite rules.
As for the rest of those rules, players are allowed to double after splitting a pair, but players can only double on 9s, 10s and 11s; doubling down on a soft hand forces the Ace to be counted as 1 regardless of what the double down card is.
You could say that both types of surrender—early and late—are found in Pontoon. Players can make a late surrender if the dealer is showing a face card or an Ace. If the player wishes to surrender, the dealer will place a ‘surrender’ disc on top of that player’s chips; just like in a late surrender in a regular game of blackjack, the player will lose their wager if the dealer winds up with a blackjack.
The effective early surrender in also known as a double down rescue because the player can only make an early surrender after they have doubled down. If the player chooses to do this he gives up gives up an amount equal to his original wager. In other words, half of the wager is still lost, but it is half of the doubled wager.
There are also some special little payouts or bonuses on certain hands:
Five card 21 = 3-2 payout
Six card 21 = 2-1 payout
Seven or more card 21 = 3-1 payout
6-7-8 or 7-7-7 mixed suit = 3-2 payout
6-7-8 or 7-7-7 same suit = 2-1 payout
6-7-8 or 7-7-7 spades = 3-1 payout
Those bonuses are only paid as long as the dealer has not doubled down. If the dealer has doubled he receives the regular payout.
A suited 7-7-7 when the dealer has a 7 up has a different bonus payout based on the amount of the player’s wager:
$5-$24 wager = $1,000
$15 or more wager = $5,000
Do those payouts have you already green with envy? That is just fine because the other players at the table receive a $50 Envy Bonus when a player receives a suited 7-7-7, dealer 7 up bonus payout.
While Pontoon is not my favorite form of blackjack, it is by far one of the best variations out there—surpasses Perfect Pairs and those in the side bet camp at any rate. I will always say to stick with good old standard blackjack—why mess with a good thing after all?