Blackjack Games: Pontoon

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?

Most Important Card in Blackjack Strategy

We know what this card is. You see it all of the time when playing blackjack. But you might not think that this particular card packs the punch that it does in terms of blackjack strategy. Or maybe you do and you just do not realize it.

There is one card in all of blackjack, be it casino blackjack, online blackjack, Spanish 21, Pontoon, etc, that all blackjack strategy is based on. Players act upon this card and they may not even be fully conscious that they are doing so. To them they are just going with their strategy.

But strategy has to be based on something even blackjack strategy.

In the case of blackjack strategy the most important card, the card that all of your strategy is based on is the dealer’s up card.

Before you say anything stop and think about that idea for a moment. When you are looking over your basic strategy chart you have to see what play is recommended for your hand based on the dealer’s up card. The play is not always the same. The up card impacts everything.

If you are still skeptical pull out a basic strategy chart and look at one of the stiff hands. Let’s focus on Hard 12. You will notice that the play changes depending on what the dealer’s up card is. If the dealer is holding a 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10 or Ace you are told to hit; and if the dealer is showing a 4 through 6 you are told to stand.

The play changes even though your hand does not.

If the dealer’s up card were not all that important you would merely have a list of plays based on your hand, such as ‘If you have a hard 12 then hit,’ regardless of what the dealer’s up card is. But the truth is that we have a chart that tells us what play to make depending on what the dealer’s up card is.

Even if you were playing without basic strategy you would still be basing you play on the dealer’s up hand and how close he is to 21. The dealer’s up card is that influential in blackjack strategy.