A Pontoon Glossary
Everyone knows that American English is not the same as British English. An “apartment” in America is a “flat” in Britain. By the same token, the casino gambling game known as “blackjack” in the US is called “pontoon” in the UK. And, naturally, the terminology for a game of pontoon is different from the terminology for a game of blackjack.
- In pontoon, when you want another card, you don’t “hit,” you “twist.” And if you want to stay with the cards you have, you don’t “stand,” you “stick.”
- What a blackjack player calls “doubling down,” a pontoon player calls “buying.” When you buy, you double the amount of your bet, receive one more card, and stick.
- The best hand in pontoon is an ace and any 10-value card. Of course, this hand is not a “blackjack,” it’s a “pontoon.”
The Pontoon Rules
It’s not just the terminology that’s different in pontoon. There are many pontoon rules that are significantly different from the corresponding blackjack rules. The rules of pontoon are as follows:
- Pontoon is played with eight decks of cards.
- Both of the dealer’s cards are dealt face down.
- Pontoon pays 2 to 1, much better than the standard 3 to 2 (equivalent to 1½ to 1) payout for blackjack in most blackjack games.
- A “five-card trick” is any non-busted hand with five cards. A five-card trick, regardless of its numerical value, beats any hand except a pontoon and pays out 2 to 1.
- The player must twist on any hand up to 14. The player may also buy or split, but the point is that he cannot stick. On any hand of 15 or above, the player has free will to play his hand as he wishes.
- The player may buy on any hand of two, three, or four cards, once per hand. This is a big difference from the regular rules of blackjack, which permit the player to double down only on his first two cards.
- A hand of an ace and 10 after splitting is considered a pontoon. This is another difference from the blackjack rule that says an ace and 10 after splitting is considered a regular 21 and not a blackjack.
- The dealer must twist on any hand up to 16, and must stick on any hand of 17 or more, including soft 17.
- The dealer wins all ties in pontoon.
The Good and the Bad of Playing Pontoon
As you can see, the rules of pontoon are significantly different from the rules of blackjack. From the player’s point of view, there are both advantages and disadvantages to playing online pontoon as compared to playing online blackjack.
The main disadvantage in playing pontoon is the fact that both of the dealer’s cards are face down. It makes it harder to figure out your best move to beat the dealer when you have no idea what the dealer is holding. Another disadvantage is that the dealer wins all ties.
But counteracting these minuses are a whole lot of pluses. The 2-to-1 payout for a pontoon is a plus, as is the 2-to-1 payout for a 5-card trick. The pontoon rule that allows you to buy with three or four cards, and the rule that counts an ace and 10 after splitting as a pontoon, are also advantageous for you, the pontoon player.
All in all, it pretty much evens out. There are pontoon rules that will hurt you, and others that will help you. When you add them all together, one cannot say that online pontoon is a better game or a worse game than online blackjack. It’s just different. And which game is better for you ultimately comes down to a question of individual preference.
A regular blackjack basic strategy chart will not help you in pontoon. This is because the blackjack basic strategy chart is based on plotting your hand against the dealer’s up card, and in the game of pontoon there is no dealer’s up card.
Fortunately, there are pontoon basic strategy charts available on the Internet to help you win at pontoon. A pontoon basic strategy chart plots your total along the side, just like a blackjack basic strategy table, but along the top it has the number of cards in your hand.
Why is the number of cards important? Because the 2-to-1 payout for a 5-card trick is an incentive that affects your basic pontoon strategy. For example, if you have a total of 17 with two or three cards, the pontoon basic strategy table advises you to stick. But if you have a total of 17 with four cards, it advises you to twist. The possibility of getting a 5-card trick, and with it a 2-to-1 payout, makes the risk of busting a risk worth taking in this situation.
Try Playing Online Pontoon
You don’t have to be British, or even to visit Britain, to play online pontoon. Thanks to the marvels of the Internet, you can play pontoon in the online casino from anywhere in the world.
Online pontoon is similar to online blackjack, but it’s also quite different. For a regular online blackjack player, it takes some getting used to, but thousands of people who were skeptical when they started ended up loving online pontoon. Why not give it a try, and see what you think?