Pontoon is a version of the internationally popular card game Twenty-one, and best known in the form of the American version Blackjack. The game Pontoon and its name are derived from the French Vingt-et-un (21).
Players, Cards and Objective
Pontoon can be played by a variety of players from one upwards.
The cards have values: ace is worth 1 or 11 at the holder's choice, kings, queens, jacks and tens are worth ten, and the remaining cards are worth their pip value.
Each player's basic aim is to form a hand whose total value is as near as possible to 21, without going above 21.
- The best hand of all is a Pontoon, which is 21 points in two cards - this can only consist of ace plus a picture card or ten.
- Next best after a Pontoon is a Five Card Trick, which is a hand of five cards totaling 21 or less.
- Hands with more than 21 points are bust and are worthless.
If the dealer and a player have equal valued hands, then the dealer wins.
Example: A-J (Pontoon) beats 7-3-4-2-2 (Five Card Trick) which beats 9-8-4 (21) which beats 9-A (20) which beats 9-6-A (16)
The Deal and Initial Stakes
The dealer deals two (2) cards face up to each player with a an initial bet placed, starting with the player to dealer's left, going round the table and ending with the dealer. (One card all round followed by a second card all round again)
A minimum and maximum for initial bets must be agreed before the start of the game, and each player may bet any amount within these limits, and must be within the stipulated limits as would be displayed all time on the particular table.
The Players' Turns
Beginning with the player to dealer's left and continuing clockwise, the players each have a turn to try to improve their hand if they wish by acquiring extra cards. When it is your turn, your possibilities include;
If you don’t like the content of your initial two cards, you can forfeit half of your initial bet to opt out of the particular stake you are playing, christened ‘surrender’
Split your cards
If your two cards are equal in rank, you may split them into two or more hands, maximizing to make a total of 4 hands (You will be notified as you proceed with the splits) by placing another bet equal to your initial bet.
The dealer immediately deals another card face up or face down to each of your hands, and you then play the hands one at a time, as separate hands with separate stakes.
If either of the new cards dealt is equal to the first two you may choose to split again, creating three or even (theoretically) four separate hands, each with its own stake. (As was earlier above highlighted.)
Buy a card
If the total value of your cards is less than 21, you may say "I'll buy one". You must increase your stake by adding an amount at least equal to or less than your initial stake.
(So for example if you had bet 6 initially, you could add to it any amount below or up to 6 to make 12 in total).
The dealer then deals you another card face up. If your total is still less than 21 you may buy a fourth card staking as is in the above illustrated brackets, If your four cards still total less than 21 you may buy a fifth card in the same way.
You may choose to stop buying a card but continue calling for more as long as you are below the 21, but you have to buy from the third card without skipping to buy on the fourth.
On your fourth card if your total is less than twelve you cannot buy the fifth card (thus christened ‘free card’) as this will automatically earn you a 5 card trick that pays 6:4 as long as dealer does not get a better hand by drawing a higher 5 card trick or pontoon.
If the total value of your cards is satisfying by you, you can choose to "stick". You stay with the cards you have, your stake stays as it is and it is the next hand's turn to play.
If at any time buying or taking a card causes the total value of your hand to be more than 21 you are bust; your hand and stake are immediately taken by dealer.
When your hand reaches five cards without going over 21 you have a Five Card Trick, and thus are not allowed any more cards.
At any time when your total hand value is at least 15 and not more than 21 you can choose to stick, keeping your cards and stake as they are, and the turn passes to the next hand.
When you have split your hand, you play the two hands one after the other - once you have stuck or gone bust on the first hand you play the next hand.
The Dealers’ Turn
When all the players except the dealer have had their turns, the dealer draws cards to their initial one card dealing them face up one at a time, to stop at 17 and draw to 16 and the possible outcomes include;
The dealer goes bust
If a card is dealt that takes the dealer's hand over 21, the dealer loses and pays out an amount equal to their stake to all the players who have not gone bust, paying a double stake to any hand that was a Pontoon or Five Card Trick.
The dealer stays on
The dealer pays an amount equal to their stake to any player who has a higher value hand than the dealer, and collects from those who have equal or less. Pontoons and Five Card Tricks are paid 2:1 & 6:4 respectively.
777 on a guests hand is known as Royal Pontoon and beats all thus promptly paid 3:1. (On dealers hand stay 21)
The dealer makes a Five Card Trick
The dealer pays Pontoons only. Any player with a Pontoon receives double their stake from the dealer. Everyone else (including anyone who had a Five Card Trick) loses their stake to the dealer.