About Pontoon

Pontoon is a blackjack variation with special rules. It has a house edge similar to blackjack but with higher variance. Many people consider Pontoon more fun to play than blackjack. Pontoon is available with Microgaming, Playtech, Cryptologic and RTG softwares.

Pontoon Rules

The player has the same strategy choices as in blackjack but the choices have different names. Hit is called “twist”, stand is called “stick”, and double is called “buy”. Pontoon has the following rule differences from traditional blackjack:

  • Blackjack (ace + ten value card) is called “Pontoon” and it pays 2:1. This hand is ranked the highest.
  • Getting Pontoon after splitting aces (or tens) pays 2:1 as well.
  • A 5-card hand that has not busted (ie. the point value is 21 or less) is called “5-card-trick”. It pays 2:1 the total bet, and is the second highest hand.
  • Dealer’s cards are not shown to the player. After player has played his hand, the dealer will draw to 17 as in blackjack.
  • Ties between player and dealer are lost. For example if both player and dealer have Pontoon, the player loses the bet.
  • Player may hit more than one card after doubling and may double on more than two cards.
  • Player may hit and double on split aces like any other split hand.
  • Pontoon is played with 8 decks.

There is a rule difference between Microgaming Pontoon and other softwares. Microgaming Pontoon allows only one card to split aces, but the dealer stands on soft 17. Other softwares allow multiple cards and doubling to split aces but the dealer hits soft 17.

House Edge and Optimal Strategy

The house edge of Pontoon with optimal strategy under Microgaming rules (Stand soft 17, 1 card to split aces) is 0.39% and under other softwares (Hit soft 17) the house edge is 0.38%. The following table shows the optimal strategy in Pontoon. Dealer’s cards are hidden so the strategy choice depends only on the number of cards in player’s hand as well as the total point value of cards.

Your Hand Number of Cards
2 3 4
4-8 H H D
9 H D D
10 D D D
11 D D D
12 H H D
13 H H D
14 H H D
15 S S D
16 S S D
17 S S H
18+ S S S
A,2 H H D
A,3 H H D
A,4 H H D
A,5 H H D
A,6 H H D
A,7 H H D
A,8 S D D
A,9 S D D
A,10 S Ds D
8,8 P
A,A P*
H Hit (Twist)
S Stand (Stick)
D Double (Buy) if possible, otherwise hit
Ds Double (Buy) if possible, otherwise stand
P Split
P* Hit with Microgaming Pontoon, split with other softwares

Pontoon Introduction Video

Variance and Results Over Bonus Wagering Requirement

The standard deviation per unit wagered is a bit higher than in traditional blackjack because of more doubles and 2:1 payouts. So you might want to use a smaller bet size than in blackjack when completing a wagering requirement with pontoon. If there is a multi-hand Pontoon available, you could play more than one hand at a time with smaller stakes to reduce the variance.

The following tables show the chance of gain and the risk of busting for different bet sizes when wagering through a bonus on Pontoon. The bonus is assumed to be a typical 100% match, 100$ cashable bonus with 30 x Bonus wagering requirement.

Chance of Gain and Risk of busting

Expected value 88.60
Bet size = 1, WR 30 x B
Chance of Gain 88.30%
Risk of Bust 1.30%
Bet size = 2, WR 30 x B
Chance of Gain 79.20%
Risk of Bust 6.20%
Bet size = 5, WR 30 x B
Chance of Gain 67.10%
Risk of Bust 24.10%
Bet size = 20, WR 30 x B
Chance of Gain 42.70%
Risk of Bust 55.80%

Chance of Gain = Probability to end up with profit after completing the bonus wagering requirement
Risk of bust = Probability to lose the whole bankroll before completing the bonus wagering requirement