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Pontoon is a game much like Blackjack, played with eight 52-card decks. The objective of the game is to get a hand that’s as close to 21 as possible, without going over.
You start with two cards, and so does the dealer. The dealer checks his cards for the winning Pontoon hand, but otherwise they remain face down. You have the choice of hitting, standing (only if your hand total is 15 or more), doubling or splitting (if your two cards match). Once you are happy with your hand, the dealer reveals his and hits or stands according to the house rules.
If there is a push, the dealer wins. The dealer must hit on a soft 17. Card values are just like Blackjack (Jacks, queens and kings are 10, ace is 1 or 11).
Pontoon rules are explained in more detail below:
The differences between Pontoon and Blackjack are:
- There are two hands that beat a regular 21: Pontoon (an ace and a ten or picture card) and Five Card Trick (when the player holds five cards without busting, no matter what the total value of the hand is). Both hands pay 2 to 1.
- Both the dealer’s cards are face down until the player stands or busts.
- There is no insurance option.
- In case of a tie, the dealer wins.
- At the beginning of a hand, the dealer will check his cards. If the dealer has a Pontoon, the dealer’s cards will be turned over right away and the player will lose his bet.
- The player cannot stand until they have a hand of at least 15.
- The player can draw as many cards as they like after they double.
- The player can only split cards with equal rank. For example you can split two eights or a queen and a king, both of which rank ten points.
- If you get an ace and a ten or a picture card in your split hand, it counts as 21, not Pontoon
Regular cards have rank value (2 is two points, 5 is five points, etc). Jack, queen and king are ten points. The ace is 1 point or 11 points.
Hand ranking and payout
In descending order:
- Pontoon (Ace + 10-point card). Beats every other hand. Pays 2 to 1.
- Five Card Trick (Any five cards, as long as the total is not over 21). Beats every hand except Pontoon. Pays 2 to 1.
- 21 (Three or four cards totalling 21). Beats every hand except Pontoon and Five Card Trick. Pays even money.
- High Total (Two, three or four cards, as long as the total is not over 21). Beats every hand with a lower total, except Five Card Trick. Pays even money.
- Bust (Three or more cards totalling more than 21). Player loses the bet.
- The dealer must hit on a soft 17 (two, three or four cards totalling 17, if one of them is an ace) or lower.
- The dealer must stand on a hard 17 (two, three or four cards totalling at least 17 if none of them is an ace) or higher.
- In case of a push, the dealer wins.