The game of Pontoon is a variant of Blackjack– both are derived from the French game of Vingt-et-une or ‘21’. Pontoon rules and Pontoon strategy are very similar to those of Blackjack and the objective of the game is almost identical – to get a hand with the value of 21, or as close to that as possible, without going over 21 (bust).
The cards in Pontoon are also valued in the same way as in Blackjack – numbered cards assume their numerical value, picture cards are worth 10, and aces are worth either 1 or 11.
The best hand – a ‘Pontoon’ – is a hand with a total card value of 21 made up only from an ace and a picture card or ten. The next best hand is called a ‘five card trick’. This is any selection of 5 cards that amount to 21 or less. The third best type of hand is three or four cards worth 21. After that, hands as close as possible (without exceeding) 21 are best – the closer to 21 the better. Any hands that exceed 21 points are bust, and therefore worthless.
These differing rules affect the Pontoon strategy slightly from that of Blackjack.
To play pontoon, players are each dealt 2 cards. After viewing their cards they have several options. Many of these options are the same as in Blackjack, but the terminology is slightly different. If the player wants to receive another card, they call ‘twist’ rather than ‘hit’. If they don’t want any more cards they call ‘stick’ instead of ‘stand’.
One of the more interesting differences when you play Pontoon is the option to increase your bet with each new card you are dealt. Instead of calling ‘twist’, Pontoon rules allow you to say ‘buy one’ and before receiving your additional card, you can increase your original stake by an amount of at least your original bet and not more than double that amount. This means that if you are feeling confident with your hand, you have the chance to raise the stakes and your possible winnings.