Pontoon: A Different Online Blackjack Game

Pontoon is a blackjack variant offered by Canadian online casinos powered by Microgaming and Playtech. There may be minor differences in Pontoon offered by these two software providers, but the essence of the online blackjack variant is the same. Pontoon uses different terminology from the normal online blackjack variants. Blackjack is referred to as pontoon, doubling is called buying a card, hit is twist and stand is stick. However, in order not to confuse new players, this article uses the normal blackjack terms.

Pontoon differs from the regular online blackjack variants in a number of ways. First and foremost is that both the dealer’s initial cards are dealt face down. Hence you have to play your hand without seeing any of the dealer’s cards. In order to compensate for this disadvantage Pontoon pays 2 to 1 for blackjack, instead of the usual payout of 3 to 2. There are some other changes in the rules. A five card hand that is less than or equal to 21 also pays 2 to 1 against any dealer hand except a blackjack. You can double after any number of cards are dealt and can hit any number of times after doubling. The effect of these changes would bring the average return to player over 100% and make Pontoon unviable for online casinos. So some rules have to be tweaked in favour of the dealer. The dealer wins all ties. The dealer hits on a soft 17. The player has to hit on a hand value of 14 or less. The net result is that Pontoon offers an average return of 99.6%, which is the same as that for the regular online blackjack variants.

As in any other online blackjack game, to achieve the maximum return you have to consistently play with optimum strategy. The strategy for a dealt hand is as follows. You stand with hard hand values of 15 and more and when you hold an ace along with an eight, nine or ten. You double on hard totals of 10 and 11. You split eights and aces and hit with all other hands. When you have three cards in your hand, you stand on hard totals of 15 and more. You double on hard totals of 9, 10 and 11 and on soft totals of 19 and 20 and hit in all other situations. With four cards dealt, you should stand for hard totals of 18 and more. You hit for a hard total of 17 and double in all other situations. A five card hand wins so you always stand.

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