Pontoon is a variation of blackjack that’s popular in the UK and other commonwealth countries. It possesses enough differences to make an interesting alternative to traditional blackjack and its low house edge means it can be very rewarding, too.
If you’re new to Pontoon and you want to know more, our inside-out Pontoon review below is just the ticket. However, those of you that want to get in on the action without delay, we’ve lined-up the top Pontoon casinos for you to choose from.
Pontoon has been around for a very long time, yet it’s fair to say it hasn’t matched traditional blackjack in the popularity stakes (as yet). So, we thought we would like to raise its profile through this Pontoon review.
Those who are fans of blackjack, owe it to themselves to give this variant a whirl. Regardless of the name, it is a cousin of the legendary game. There are features, which in our opinion, make it stand out for the better. Of course, there are other aspects that give blackjack the edge. Let’s take a closer look, and you can judge for yourself the pros and cons of Britain’s own blackjack game.
What is Pontoon
Some games when they move across regions and countries pick up a new name as they go, and that appears to have happened here. When talking about what is Pontoon, the answer varies depending on where you are. In Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, Pontoon is very similar to Spanish 21 in that it’s played with 48-card decks. Swing across to the UK and several other commonwealth countries and it’s played using standard 52-card decks.
Whilst this isn’t a major difference if you’re just having a friendly game with your family, it does matter when your own real money is on the line. Our focus is on the UK variant as that is the one which online casinos tend to offer. You can have a look at our Spanish 21 review for further details about the sister version.
A couple of iGaming software developers have produced Pontoon games but by far the most-played version online is Playtech’s multi-hand offering. As such, we’ve used that as the guide for our breakdown of the Pontoon rules.
- Played using 8 standard decks
- Pontoon (ace + 10-valued card beats all other hands). Pays 2:1
- Five card trick (any five cards totaling 21 or less) beats all hands except Pontoon. Also pays 2:1
- Normal winning hand pays 1:1
- Dealer must hit on soft 17
- Dealer peeks for Pontoon
- Double any cards
- Player can split cards of equal rank
- Player can split three times (max. four hands)
- Player can hit multiple times after doubling
- Ace + 10-valued card in split hand counts as Pontoon
- Player cannot stand with a hand lower than 15
- Dealer wins all ties
It’s blackjack, but different. As you can see above, a number of rules separate Pontoon and Classic Blackjack. The first thing you will notice when you start playing is that the dealer’s two cards are both dealt face down. If you are used to playing blackjack, you will find yourself looking out of habit but there’s nothing to see. Although, he does peek for Pontoon, so that gives you a little clue knowing his hand is worth 20 or less. With no dealer up-card showing, it removes the insurance bet option, which isn’t a bad thing because it heavily favours the house anyway.
The positive rules are 2:1 payouts for both Pontoon and a five card trick, also doubling any cards and hitting multiple times after splitting are player-friendly. Those which help the dealer include hitting on soft 17 and of course winning all ties.
You can play Pontoon quite successfully using our Blackjack strategy charts, but if you want to take your game to the next level, you need to study the specific basic strategy for Pontoon. However, the fact that there is no dealer up card to guide your decisions makes learning the correct playing system relatively easy.
As mentioned, Playtech’s version is multi-hand, so you can play 5 hands per round. This makes the action fast and furious. We advise starting slow to begin with. You can even try out some practice games at our recommended casinos until you fully understand the rules.
The theoretical return to player (RTP) is a respectable 99.64%. This translates to a 0.34% advantage for the casino, so it’s definitely a good value game.
As with many blackjack-type games, bonuses are not bestowed upon us in abundance. It’s understandable to be truthful, given that the game has an RTP exceeding 99%. Still, players are always on the lookout for something in this area, so here are a few suggestions to consider.
The first is any deposit related bonuses, such as sign up offers and reload bonuses. These give you free cash and some operators allow Pontoon to contribute towards clearing the wagering requirements. This will only be a small percentage mind, but it offers a sporting chance of banking a little profit.
Casino rewards schemes can also serve as a way to get some extra money on the house. You will need to wager a fair amount via this method, but it is possible to build up a little Pontoon bonus free cash. Of course, it depends how much you wager each game and how often you play. Still, we suggest you check out the terms to see how you can benefit from your time playing.
Play Pontoon Online
Now that you know the basics to the UK’s equivalent of blackjack, you’re probably eager to give it a go for yourself. Feel free to peruse through the list of licenced casinos. Our team has checked to make sure each one offers this great game. You can play for free in demo mode if you want to test the water, or go straight for the thrill of playing for real money. The choice is yours.