Pontoon (Twenty-One)

Pontoon also known as Twenty One is a fun variation of the popular casino game Blackjack. The game of pontoon and its name are derived from the French Vingt-et-un (Twenty-one). The object of the game is to get as close to 21 as you can without busting (going over 21).

Online pontoon is usually played with 6-8 decks of cards. The rules are generally similar to blackjack with the following exceptions:

  • Hands can be "soft" if an ace is being used as 11, or "hard" if not.
  • Dealer must twist (hit) on 16 and soft 17 and stick (stand) on hard 17 and over.
  • Pontoon (Ace and a picture card or a Ten) pays 2:1, as does a 5 Card Trick (5-cards totaling 21 or under).
  • Player must twist on 14 or less.
  • Player can buy (double) any time on hard hands, but not soft.
  • Player can twist after buying.
  • Player can split two times at most.
  • Dealer wins ties.
  • Insurance is not available.
  • Player must stick on soft 21.

When playing online pontoon, the player must place a wager. Once the wager is made, the player is dealt two cards face up. The dealer is also dealt two cards, however they are placed face down. All face cards are valued at ten and all other cards have their face value, except for Ace, which can be 1 or 11. If at the end of twisting and sticking, the player's hand is closer to 21 than the dealer's, the player's wager is paid out at 1:1. If the player goes over 21, the wager is lost. If the dealer goes over 21, the player's wager is paid out at 1:1.

Terms and Rules:

  • Twist – The player must twist if they have a total of 14 or less, otherwise they may stick if they wish to do so. They cannot twist if they have five-card 21 or under – the online casino software recognizes that the player has a Five Card Trick.
  • Stick – The player can stick if they have 15 or over, or if they have a Five Card Trick.
  • Buy – The player can buy any time but only once per hand. They can twist after buying until they stick or bust. If they split their hand, they can buy once for each hand, after which they can twist or stick.
  • Split – If the player has two cards of equal rank or value, they can split their cards to create two hands, which will be played separately. The player can split up to a maximum of two times. If they split Aces, they can twist and buy (unlike in regular blackjack).
  • Pontoon – Before any player action, the dealer will peek (check the dealer cards) for pontoon. If the dealer has been dealt pontoon, they will win all player wagers and the hand will be over.

Hands in pontoon are ranked in the following order:

  1. Pontoon (Ace and any 10-point card, including after splitting.)
  2. 5-Card Trick that has not busted.
  3. Non-busted hand with 4 cards or less – these hands are ranked according to closest to 21 without busting.

For example, a 5-Card Trick will beat a 4-Card 21, a 3-Card 19 will beat a 4-Card 17, and pontoon by dealer will beat any hand.

Winning hands are paid using the following odds:

  • Winning Hand – 1:1
  • Pontoon – 2:1
  • 5-Card Trick – 2:1
  • Tie (including on pontoons) – dealer wins player's wager.

Playing pontoon is great fun. It's a lot like blackjack, however there are some important differences, as you've seen above. Once you've learned the differences, you may even enjoy pontoon more than blackjack.

Pontoon Strategy

Although pontoon is very similar to blackjack, the pontoon strategy is considered to be far more difficult. As the game has a number of variations, the strategy depends on which variation is being played. However, there is a complete set of optimal plays known as the basic pontoon strategy. Like blackjack, pontoon also employs strategy cards which players may use during the game.