Have You Ever Played Pontoon?

January 25, 2014

As we have explained to you many times within this space, one of the great things about going online for your casino gaming "fix" is the fact that the possibilities are virtually endless. That's because, well, in the "virtual" world, there is infinitely more room to include variations of games that might not be able to fit inside your typical land-based casino. Certainly there are variations on games like roulette or video poker, but one of the games that brings the most in the way of choice is blackjack, and one of the variations of blackjack that is most intriguing is that of pontoon. The name for this game is derived from the French version of the word "Twenty-One," and the basic objective on the part of the player is essentially the same as it is in blackjack, which is to get as close to a total of 21 in a hand as possible without exceeding it.

This game is played with anywhere from 6 to 8 decks of cards in the online version. Like the so-called conventional blackjack game, dealers hit on 16, but here they hit on soft 17, standing on only a hard total of 17 or higher. Whereas in the conventional game a two-card 21 is called "blackjack," in this game it is called a "pontoon," and it pays at odds of 2 to 1, rather than 3 to 2, as a blackjack pays. The player can "buy" on any hard hand, which would be the equivalent of doubling down in regular blackjack, but that is not allowed on soft hands. And a hit, otherwise known as a "twist," can be done by the player after this. An interesting distinction to be made between pontoon and blackjack is the fact that there is also a rule that governs when the player must take another card, and that is when he or she is holding a two card hand of 14 or less.

There are a couple of other things of which you must take note; there is no insurance rule in pontoon, so no one can "insure" their hand against a pontoon. There's a good reason for it, because the house deals itself both cards face down. So strategy becomes a little bit more of a guessing game in pontoon. The dealer will win all ties, which, considering a tie or "push" is going to happen about 8% of the time, takes something away from the player for certain. There is also something called a Five Card Trick, in which the player has a five-card hand that totals 21 or less. In cases like this, the player is paid off at 2 to 1 odds. There are some differences in the strategy one must employ to play pontoon, obviously, so it would take some getting used to if all you are accustomed to is playing a conventional form of blackjack. But perhaps it's worth a try for small stakes.

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