Pontoon blackjack is an early version of blackjack that’s still played today in casinos. This game is played with five cards to make up your total of 21.
If you’d like to know more about the house edge, payouts, rules, and how to win pontoon, keep reading our guide. We’ve listed everything you need to know, plus premium online casinos that offer the blackjack game.
Essentially, pontoon is like traditional blackjack variations, but it has different terminology and no dealer up card. It’s mostly played in the United Kingdom and Australia, but you can find versions under Spanish 21 elsewhere.
In this variation, you receive five cards, and you need to beat the dealer without going over 21. This version is also usually played with eight decks of cards.
Essential Card Game Rules
Pontoon blackjack shares rules with classic blackjack, like assigning all face cards a value of ten. It’s also played with standard 52-card decks with an ace counting as one or 11.
When you play Spanish 21, you’ll need to learn some new terms for the standard moves:
Twist – means to hit (ask for another card), but you can only twist with a card total of 15 or less.
Stick – means to stand or take no other cards and “stick” with your current hand.
Buy – is the term for doubling down and increasing your original bet out of confidence.
Blackjack is not an ace and 10-value card in this variant because you have more than two cards. Some other specific rules for pontoon include:
You can split 10-value cards even if they’re face cards and a combination of ace and ten; it counts as pontoon to payout 2:1.
If there’s a tie (two hands of the same value), the dealer always wins.
Any five-card hand that doesn’t bust is called a “trick” and pays 2:1.
You can buy cards once per hand, and we don’t recommend doing it on hands where an ace counts as one.
The dealer hits on hard 17 (ace and six) but has no hole card, so you’re playing blind;
You can only surrender if the dealer has an ace or face card;
However, your hand isn’t valid until you reach a total of 15 or more, so you can’t stay on any lower hand total.
Players can double once per hand. For split hands, they can double once.
How to Play Pontoon Blackjack
When you’re learning to play, you’ll notice that you can play Australian pontoon or the British version of pontoon. While the games are similar, there are a few differences you need to be aware of.
In British versions, you can get a five-card trick and buy another card (double down). As for the Australian/Malaysian variant, the game is played with 48-card decks instead of 52. Regardless of the version you play, you can follow these steps:
A round starts with the dealer dealing one card face down to each player at the table.
Beginning on the dealer’s left, the players will then place their initial bets in the section in front of them.
Then, you’ll receive a second card, as will the dealer, and be allowed to view your original hand.
If the dealer has a pontoon hand (an ace with a 10-value card), they immediately reveal it, and the player loses their bet.
But if you get pontoon, you’ll win your bet back, and the round will end.
If no one gets pontoon, you can then twist, stick, or buy; but you can only keep twisting if you decide here.
Bets, Payouts & Odds
Reach 21 With
3 to 2
2 to 1
3 to 1
Six, Seven & Eight or Three Sevens (Mixed Suit)
3 to 2
Six, Seven & Eight or Three Sevens (Same Suit)
2 to 1
Six, Seven & Eight or Three Sevens (Spades)
3 to 1
Any Other Combination
1 to 1
Pontoon Blackjack Strategy
If you’re looking for a basic strategy to win real money on pontoon blackjack, you can use this chart:
Play Pontoon Blackjack Online
Overall, pontoon blackjack is a challenge to learn and play, which is why it’s so popular. However, the house edge varies greatly both online and at land-based casinos.
So, when you find a virtual game, we highly recommend looking at the house edge from the provider before playing. It might seem like a lot of work, but it’ll be worth it when you start winning.
With that said, we also advise new players to test their skills in free games or simulators. This makes learning better for your budget and time.