Pontoon is a popular variation of Spanish 21, which is played in casinos across Australian and New Zealand. The game’s rules vary in each location, but the general gist remains the same.
Pontoon features a very similar layout to Blackjack or Spanish 21. The object of the game is to have a hand with a greater value than the dealer’s without going over the number of 21. If the player’s hand has an Ace, it is worth a ‘pontoon’, and the player earns additional cash prizes.
Similar to Blackjack, there are some rules that the dealer must abide by, such as hitting or holding when their hand equals certain numbers. One of the biggest differences, however, is that the dealer must hit when he or she has a soft 17, a rule which greatly favours the player.
Another rule which benefits the player is the no hole card rule, which means that the dealer does not have a hole card. So, even if the dealer is dealt a pontoon, the player still wins the hand with a face-card and Ace hand.
Players also receive special payouts based on the number of cards in their hand. For example, a five-card 21 pays 3-to-2, a six-card 21 pays 2-to-1 and a seven-card 21 pays 3-to-1.
Similar to Blackjack, the strategy for Pontoon is based on knowing when to hold and when to hit. Depending on what your hand equals, you should know when to hit and when to stand in order to maximize your chances of winning.
Regardless of what the dealer’s face-up card is, you should always hit stand with 18 to 20 (hard hand) or A8 or A9 (soft hand). You should always his with a hand equaling anywhere from 5 to 12 (hard hands) and A2, A3, A4, A5 and A6 (soft hands). It is recommended that players double up on the hard hands of 10 and 11.
Because the rules of the game differ depending on where you play Pontoon, there are plenty of variations available. One of the most popular variations of the game is Federal Pontoon – the game is played with 8 decks of cards and players are allowed to re-split their hands. In Jupiter’s 21, four decks are used and players are not allowed to re-split. Finally, there’s Treasury 21, which is played with 6 decks and re-splits are not allowed.