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Blackjack might just be the most popular casino card game in the world, with players loving its mix of luck, strategy, and fair odds. But “vanilla” blackjack doesn’t appeal to everyone, and that has led to a host of variations on the game that are often offered right alongside the original version. These games usually feature a handful of modified rules designed to spice up the action, usually making things just a little wilder and providing players with more ways to win on each hand. Perfect pairs and blackjack switch are 2 of the most popular.

One other such game is Pontoon, a name that can actually refer to a couple different card games that are popular around the world. The version we’re talking about here, however, is one that can be found at many online casinos. If you’ve enjoyed blackjack in the past, but are looking to change things up a bit without abandoning the basic structure of the game, then this might be an option worth looking into.

How to Play

The game is played using anywhere from two to eight decks of cards. The basic card values are the same as in blackjack: aces are one or 11, face cards are ten, and all other cards are worth their printed value. The best possible hand is called a “pontoon,” and consists of an ace and any ten point card. This can be made even after splitting your hands, so it is possible to get more than one on a single hand.

The next best hand is a five-card trick, which is any five-card hand that hasn’t busted, regardless of value. After that, hands are ranked based on their point value: higher is better, as long as you stay with a score of 21 or less. Finally, all hands with 22 points or more are considered to have busted, and lose immediately for the player.

At the beginning of each hand, each player is given two cards face up, while the dealer gets his cards face down (the dealer will check for a pontoon; if he has one, the hand ends immediately, with all players losing). Players can always hit to receive more cards; however, they may only stand if they have at least 15 points, or if they have a five-card hand. Players can also choose to double down at any time (once per hand), and can choose to continue hitting after they double if they wish to do so.

Once all players have finished up their hands, the dealer will reveal their cards. The dealer will draw additional cards until they have a hand of 17 or more (also hitting on a “soft” 17), or until they make a five-card hand. Once the dealer’s hand is completed, all players who win will receive even money on their wagers, with the exception of players with pontoons and five-card hands, who will earn 2-1. However, all ties lose for players: they must beat the dealer in order to win the hand.


The key to success in this game, as in all blackjack variations, is knowing a basic strategy that covers all possible scenarios you might encounter during a game. This is somewhat simpler in this game, since you don’t have to worry about how the dealer’s cards impact your decision: you do not get to see that information, meaning your hand is all you need to consider when thinking about your strategy. Typically, the rank of your hand and the number of cards in your hand will be the determining factors in deciding how you should proceed.

Of course, there’s no need to figure out the perfect strategy for yourself, or to memorize it (unless you want to). The Internet is filled with charts that offer the proper strategy for games offered by various casino software companies, as the rules between these games can vary slightly. If you’re not sure of the best way to play, it is simple enough to keep one of these charts open while you are playing, then refer to it on each hand to make sure you are giving yourself the best odds possible.

Why Play This Game?

Pontoon is a very interesting variation on blackjack, and one that has a couple of features that might make it popular among those who find the original version of the game a bit daunting. As we’ve already mentioned, the strategies are a little simpler to follow, since you have fewer factors to consider on each hand. But despite the relative simplicity, the odds are just as good—and often even better—in this form of the game, with house edges of less than 0.5% frequently seen with optimal play. That’s a hard number to beat in an Internet casino, even in traditionally player-friendly games like video poker.

Play Online

If you feel ready to give this exciting game a try, there are plenty of websites where you can start playing today. We’ve put together a list of fair, reputable online casinos that offer this game and many others for players, usually in both free play and real money formats. Simply open up an account at any of our recommended sites, and you could be jumping into a game before you know it!

Our Favourite Casinos

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