Pontoon is a blackjack variant in which both the pocket cards of the dealer are dealt face down. This obviously puts the player in a position of tremendous disadvantage. In order to counter this disadvantage the player is given several benefits. Realtime Gaming (RTG) is one of the software providers that offer Pontoon at its online casinos. The rules of and tips for this blackjack game are described below.
The benefits that the player receives for playing without seeing any of the cards of the dealer are as follows:
- Pontoon (which is the equivalent of blackjack in this game) pays at 2 to 1.
- A five card hand that has not busted pays at 2 to 1 irrespective of the value. It is ranked higher than all hands, except a pontoon.
- The player can double at any time in the game, even after taking additional cards. Also the player can hit any number of times after a double.
Apparently these changed rules offer too much of an advantage to the player and therefore some rules have been introduced that take back some of this advantage. These rules are:
- Dealer wins ties.
- Dealer hits on a soft 17
- Player hits on a total of 14 or less
- Player can only split twice.
After making these adjustments the house edge of Pontoon is 0.38%, based on optimum play. This is on par with regular blackjack variants and therefore players should not hesitate in playing Pontoon if they know the correct strategy. Basic Pontoon strategy is described below.
As in the case of regular blackjack, Pontoon optimum strategy is determined through computer simulation. But there is one major difference. In regular blackjack the player’s hand value is indexed against the dealer’s face up card. This is not possible in Pontoon. Pontoon strategy indexes the player’s hand value against the number of cards dealt to him. This assumes importance because of the payout for a five card legitimate hand. Additional chances need to be taken on account of this. The relevant number of cards is 2, 3 or 4. A player cannot have less than two cards. A player cannot improve his hand ranking by any move if he has five cards. Hence in that case he has to stand.
The player stands on all hard totals of 18 or more, irrespective of the number of cards dealt. If the player has hard totals of 15, 16 or 17 with up to three cards dealt he should stand. A player should also stand if his first two cards are an ace with a card of value 8, 9 or 10. A player should double on the following totals with four cards dealt to him. These are all hard totals from 8 to 16 and all soft totals of 14 to 21. A player should double on the following totals with three cards dealt to him. These are all hard totals from 9 to 11 and all soft totals of 19 to 21. A player should also double on the following totals with two cards dealt to him. These are all hard totals of 10 and 11. A player should split on a pair of eights and aces only. In all other cases a player should hit.
Strategy cards are available for RTG Pontoon. New players are advised to keep this card before them while wagering online on Pontoon.