Pontoon card game

Pontoon is a card game that is similar to Blackjack. It is also known as the British version of the famous International 21 and the American card game Blackjack. The objective of the game is to get a cumulative card score of 21 or the highest total without going bust and beating the dealer. It is played with a deck of 52 cards, and it is a five-card version of Blackjack. If you love gambling and you’re a card person, Pontoon should be your go-to choice.


Before we play, there are some essential terms to understand:

Terminology Meaning
Declare a Pontoon If a player has an ace and a ten in their hand, they can declare a Pontoon by placing the ten face down on the table and the ace face up on top of it.
Stick When you stick in Pontoon, it means that you are satisfied with your current card total and do not want any more cards. However, you need a card total of 16 or more to hold.
Twist A player can ask the banker to turn over the next card face-up up to three times or until they go bust.
Split If a player’s two cards are of equal rank, they can split them face up on the table by placing another bet that is similar to the initial bet. The banker will then deal two cards face down to each hand. If there is a further match, a player may split again, and the hand goes as specified above.
Buy If a player’s current hand is less than 21, they can buy a card by increasing their current bet but not more than twice the original bet. The banker will then deal another face-down card to the player. A player can place this bet up to three times. It’s important to note that a player can twist after buying a card but not vice versa.
Bust In Pontoon, a bust occurs when a player’s hand exceeds 21 and loses.

Pontoon card game gameplay

Game Rules

Pontoon is a relatively simple card game. You need 5-8 players for an ideal scenario, but you can play with as low as two players. Initially, you need a banker by drawing the highest card. The dealer will deal one card face down to each of the players starting with the extreme left of the dealer.

Player’s Turn

Players can look at their cards and place their bets except for the banker. At the same time, another card is held face-down around the table. Before the game begins, players and the dealer need to mutually agree upon minimum and maximum bets. As your objective is to get the highest total less than or equal to 21. It has a similar scoring system to Blackjack.

Face cards: Scored at face value.

10’s or better: Worth 10 points

Ace: 1 or 11 points.

To win the game, you need to have a cumulative total of twenty-one or fewer but higher than all the other players, including the dealer. If the dealer has an ace, it can be challenging to beat them.

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Banker’s Turn

If the banker stays under 21 with four or fewer cards, they will collect stakes from players with lower hands and payout (an equal amount of their stake) to players with higher hands. A player who declares a Pontoon or has a five-card trick is paid out double by the banker.

Betting Options

Unlike Blackjack and Baccarat, Pontoon enables a variety of betting options for a player. With Pontoon, you have two possible betting scenarios. Either you can split aces or stick to at least a total of 16 to be in the game.


If you want to learn and master a card game 21, Pontoon is a good choice because it has simpler strategies than Blackjack or Poker. Here are the common strategies that are used in the game:

Hard Hands

When you have a hard hand with three or four cards, you can:

  • Stand with a total of 15 or higher.
  • Double your hand with a 10 or 11.
  • Double your hand with nine only if you have three cards.
  • Hit all the other hand totals of 14 and lower.

Soft Hands

When you have a soft hand with three or four cards, you can:

  • Hit on 18 or lower and stand on 19 or higher only if three cards.
  • Hit on 18 or lower and double on 19 or higher if four cards.

The standard advice is to double when you have a three-card soft 21. However, if you have already raised your bet, you should stand.

Playing With Four Cards

Playing with four cards is different from playing with the option of two, three, or four at the same time. You can:

  • Double your soft total because you cannot lose by going bust so that you can make a five-card hand.
  • Double with 16 or less, hit with 17, and stand with a total of 18 or higher with a hard hand.

Paired Hands

You can play paired hands like standard game card 21 with two hands except for aces and eights because you need to split ace if you can. Similarly, with eights, you can always break if you have the option or stand if you don’t.


The payouts depend on your hands. For example, you get a 2 to 1 payout if you have a Pontoon, which is an ace and a ten. This is the best hand in the game unless the dealer also has a Pontoon.

You also get a 2 to 1 payout if you have a five-card trick, which means you have five cards without going over 21. This payout applies even if you have split your cards before. Other winning hands pay even money, just like in Blackjack and other online poker games.


Winning tips can be quickly drawn from its rules. For instance, the banker wins in equal hands despite going bust. The banker can further guess a player’s second card after a twist or a hit. So the essential tip to win big at Pontoon is to get the bank first.

Other tips vary from circumstance. For instance:

  • But if your first and second card totals 11 or less, you have to twist if another one equals 12 or more.
  • Stick to a total of 16 if possible. But if you’re holding three or more cards, you can take a chance with a fourth or another card if likely.
  • You have to focus on the pack and try guessing cards face down because the dealer only shuffles the pack after a Pontoon or change of bank. Keep your eyes on the dealer, even if you’re able to guess one card of another player, you’re good to go.


What’s The Best Hand In Pontoon?

Hand Values And Pays

Having a 21-game card is the highest hand in the game. You can get it with an ace and a face card or a 10. The second highest hand in the game is a five-card trick, which is any five cards that add up to 21 or less.

Why Is The Card Game Called Pontoon?

The name and the game of Pontoon are derived from the French Vingt-et-un (21).

Is Blackjack The Same As Pontoon?

Blackjack is not the same as Pontoon. One difference between Pontoon and Blackjack is that players can ‘double down’ or ‘buy’ before they ‘twist’ in Pontoon. Also, in Pontoon, players can ‘double down’ with any number of cards, but in Blackjack, they can only do it with their first two cards.


A good way to win a lot in Pontoon is to aim for five cards. It is not very likely to get an ace and a ten, but you can still try to reach 21 with five cards. If you like this game, you might also want to learn how to play Baccarat.

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