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The Complete Guide to Pontoon for New Players

By: Mark Freedman, Friday November 7th 2014
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If you're a blackjack fan, then you're probably interested in trying out pontoon because it's a related game that looks somewhat similar when it's played. However, there are some major differences in how its played. First, your dealer isn't going to be dealt any up cards, so you'll have to make all of your decisions based on the cards in your hand. Second, getting five cards gives you a hand that only loses to a pontoon, and all five-card hands are equal in this game. Finally, you can only stand if you have 15 or more (or if you have a five-card hand).

Strategy when it comes to pontoon is largely based around adjusting from standard blackjack strategic principles based on the changes to the rules that are listed above. For example, if you have four cards in your hand, then you're going to be extremely aggressive. With any soft hand that has four cards, you're going to have to double every single time, and this even goes for if you have a soft total of 21. Along similar lines, you'll double any hard hand of 16 and lower if you have four cards.

Hard hands with two or three cards will make up the majority of the hands you see. If you have a 10 or 11, you'll double with two or three cards. Additionally, you'll double a nine with three cards. Otherwise, you're going to hit with 14 or less and stand with 15 or higher with two or three cards. However, if you have four cards, things change up a bit. As mentioned above, you're going to double with 16 or less. However, you'll stand on a 17 and hit on an 18 or higher which is different than playing with fewer cards.

Soft hands are pretty simple to play with two or three cards. You'll always hit with a soft 18 or lower. With a soft 19/20/21, you'll stand with two cards and double with three. These strategies will have you playing almost perfectly in most scenarios, and they're not that hard to learn with a little study. Overall, pontoon is a great game to learn because it doesn't have strategies that are as deep and difficult to learn as most variations of blackjack. The lack of a dealer up card really simplifies this game and makes it more accessible to new players.

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