Pontoon Blackjack – Guide, Tips and Tricks

Pontoon is a British card game, which is one of the many blackjack variations available on the internet today.

The Pontoon card game is different to the classic version of blackjack, but fundamentally, the goal and method to win are the same. As in both these games you have to make a hand higher than the dealer’s hand or closest to 21, without exceeding the sum.

Essentially, if you can play Blackjack, then you are sure to be able to play Pontoon. Although technically, it is considered a game in its own right, for the purposes of simplicity, you can consider it as another variation of Blackjack.

Depending on where you are from will determine how the game unfolds, as the rules of Australian Pontoon, which is predominantly played in Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore, are quite different to those in the UK.  With the latter being much closer to Blackjack, and the prior, resembling the gameplay of Spanish 21.

However, fundamentally, the gameplay works the same in both, with the same goal, just there are extra elements to consider if you play the Australian version.

The Pontoon game can be played with just two players, but works best with between 6-8 players involved, one of which works as the dealer, referred to as the Banker. Although, if you are playing pontoon games online, you will likely be playing against a computerised dealer.

Generally, the game is played with a singular 52 Decks, with sometimes a second deck being introduced for larger games of 8 or more participants. This is much less than the majority of Blackjack games, where there is usually 6-8 decks in play, regardless of players involved.Pontoon

Pontoon gamplay is very similar to the classic game of blackjack, where each player gets two cards that have to be bet on. If the sum of the two cards comes up to 21, which can be with an ace and a 10 value card (ten, king, queen or jack), it is called Pontoon, like blackjack, and is the highest hand.

The game begins the same way as Blackjack, with each player being dealt a card face down. The player then places a wager on the basis of this card potential to win, before the player is dealt a second card.

As mentioned, there are two main types of the Pontoon card game, Australian and British, but we will get on to the differences shortly.

How to Win at Pontoon:

  • The best hand in the game is Pontoon, which like Blackjack, is an accumulative value of 21. It is only considered Pontoon if it is an Ace and a Picture Card or 10. As such, 21 from any other combination of cards, doesn’t guarantee a win.
  • 5 Card Trick is the second best hand. It is a hand made up of 5 Cards which totals 21 or less.
  • A hand of three cards or four cards that equals 21 is the third best hand and beats all other players unless they have Pontoon, a 5 Card Trick, or the same value.
  • If no one has the above hands, then the closest to 21 is the victor.
  • Anything above 21 is a bust and is worthless.

Pontoon Card Game Moves

Pontoon offers slightly more options as standard when compared to Blackjack, with less need for you to play variations to increase the moves available. Upon your initial hand, these are the options you can take:

  • Split your cards – As in the blackjack, you can split your cards, but only if they are equal in rank. At this point, you will place them face up on the table and place a second bet, as you are now playing with a second hand.  You are then dealt one more card for each hand, if either (or both) is the same you can then split again. This means you can play with up to four hands. Bear in mind that if you have a picture card, you can only split if it is the same picture. So, you can only split if you have two Jacks, two Queens or two Kings.
  • Buy a Card: This is one of the biggest difference to Blackjack. If you have a hand that equals less than 21, you can buy another card at the price of at least equal, but less than double, your initial stake. The card is than dealt to you with the option buy a fourth if your hand still doesn’t reach 21 at the cost of your initial bet, as well as the amount you wagered for your third. You can do the same again for a fifth if it still doesn’t reach 21 again at the same cost.
  • Twist:  This allows you to take another card without affecting your stake (the same as a hit in Blackjack).
  • Stick: The same as a “Stand” in Blackjack, with the exception that you need to have at least 15 to do so, but obviously, less than 21. Your turn is then skipped for the next person.
  • Declare a Pontoon: This means you have an ace and ten point card and would like to announce it, in this scenario you will win the round, along with anyone else with Pontoon.

The Dealer

The dealer is much more restricted in their moves than the players are. They have three options:

  • Go Bust: Get over 21 and have to pay out an equal amount to the stake wagered by all players that are not bust, as well as double to any player with Pontoon or Five Card Trick.
  • Gets 21 or less with less than five cards:  If any player/s has less than the dealer, then he takes the wager from the player/s, as well as those who have gone bust. If any player/s has Pontoon or Five Card trick, then again, he pays out double to them.
  • Gets five card trick: In this case, the dealer only pays out for a Pontoon. Any other hand, including those with five card trick, lose double their stake to the dealer.
  • Draws: If the dealer and any player draw then the dealer wins automatically.


These are the fundamentals of the Pontoon card game, however, there are some variations that come into play in some venues:

  • ONLY Aces can be split
  • You need to have AT LEAST 16 to stick, opposed to 15.
  • After the initial deal, the dealer can look at his own first card and double his bet.
  • The payout for Pontoon can vary.
  • If you have 4 cards and your total is less than 11, and a five card trick is guaranteed then you CANNOT “buy a card” and can only twist.
  • Holding three seven is a Royal Pontoon, which BEATS EVERYTHING and payouts triple.
  • Getting an Ace and a picture card Pontoon BEATS an Ace with a 10 Pontoon.
  • ONLY an Ace with a picture card IS Pontoon.
  • Ace with a King or Queen BEATS Ace with a Jack or Ace with a 10
  • You can burn your hand if you have a hard 13 or 14 (Ace with 2 or 3). It is also possible to burn after burning and burn either hand after splitting.

As you can see, it is quite diverse, so make sure the rules are clear before you start playing Pontoon games at a place where you are unfamiliar with the protocol.

The differences with Australian, aka Malaysian or Singapore Pontoon Game

As well as these variations, if you find yourself at a table that is either within Australia, Malaysia or Singapore, OR, the table states that you are playing that style of the Pontoon game, then you need to be aware of these differences to avoid mistakes or bad etiquette:

  • They are played with four to eight Spanish decks, so there are no tens.    Australia Pontoon
  • The dealer doesn’t peak for Pontoon like he does in the British version.
  • Player 21 ALWAYS wins
  • You CAN double down on 9, 10 or 11
  • You CAN double down on any number of cards
  • Aces count as 1 after doubling on soft hands
  • You CAN ONLY split up to 3 hands.
  • You CAN double after splitting
  • No drawing for SPLIT Aces.,
  • Late surrender ALLOWED against 10 or aces
  • Double down rescue available

As well as this, the payouts are different and much more diverse, compared to the British version. They are as follows:

  • Ponton pays 3 to 2, rather than 2-1
  • Five Card 21 pays 3-2, rather than 2 to 1
  • Unisuite six, seven & eight pays 3 to 2
  • Unsuited seven-seven-seven Pays 3 to 2
  • Six-card 21 pay 2-1
  • Suited six-seven-eight pays 2 to 1
  • Suited seven-seven-seven pays 2 to 1
  • Seven card 21 Pays 2 to 1
  • Six-seven-eight Spades pays 3 to 1
  • Seven-seven-seven Spades pays 3-1

So, as you can see, there is a lot more to consider payout wise compared to the British version, which payouts 1-1 for EVERYTHING other than Pontoon or Five Card Trick. It is fair to say that you may have a more exciting time playing the Australian version, even though it is a lot more to get your head around. So, this said, if you want simplicity, opt for British. Alternatively, you can always just learn on by playing the British Pontoon card game, than move things up a notch with the Australian version if you get bored.

Pontoon Card Game Strategies

To win the game of Pontoon online, you should learn not just the rules of the game but also its strategies. Here are a few Pontoon game strategies you can use for increasing your chances of winning.

  1. The first thing is to try not to get busted. For this, you should ‘Stick’ or ‘Stand’ when you have a card value of at least 15.
  2. Secondly, you should try to use the 5 card trick, in case you don’t get a Pontoon. This will increase your chance of winning when no other player or banker has a Pontoon.
  3. Try to maximise your winnings by ‘buying’ a card, rather than ‘twisting’ it, and double your wager amount.
  4. Split your cards only when you get a pair of 8s or aces for the best odds.

Pontoon is an appealing blackjack variant as it has one of the lowest house edges of 0.38%.

This is why you should look for online casinos that offer attractive bonuses for Pontoon blackjack and use the strategies of the game to clear them as soon as you can.

Where to Play Pontoon Card Game Online

Pontoon is widely available at many sites that cater for all players from across the globe. In fact, out of all the variations we mention on our site, it is probably the easiest for all players, including US player, find at an online casino. This means no matter where you are from, you can get playing today.