Pontoon Rules and Winning Strategy

Looking for a trustworthy resource explaining pontoon rules and a winning strategy? Then you’ve landed on the right page.

Pontoon is, in many ways, very similar to blackjack. In fact, it’s a relative of blackjack. Like blackjack; the fact that Pontoon is such an easy game to understand makes it very popular in both offline and online casinos the world over. Let’s look at the Pontoon rules first.

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Pontoon Rules – What You Need to Know

As with most card games, rules vary depending on which (online or offline) casino you play in. The simple objective is to hit 21 or get as close to that number as possible.

All cards are of the same value as in blackjack. Therefore an ‘ace’ can be 1 or 11. Tens, jacks, queens and kings are all valued at 10. Pontoon rules is one thing, but you also need to understand hand ranks.

Pontoon Hand Ranks:

Pontoon: Same as Blackjack is hitting 21 with 2 cards; an ace and any other card valued at 10.

Hand Rank Description
Pontoon An Ace and a 10-value card (10, Jack, Queen or King) in the initial two cards dealt.
Five Card Trick A hand of five cards totaling 21 or less.
21 or less A hand totaling 21 or less, but not a Five Card Trick.
Bust A hand totaling more than 21.
  • As with blackjack, both the player and the dealer start the game with 2 cards; however, both of the dealer’s cards are FACE DOWN.
  • The player has to hit (take another card) if his/her hand is valued at 14 or lower.
  • The dealer must hit soft 17 to qualify.
  • Splitting is allowed if the player is dealt with two cards which are the same (a pair). The player can only split twice meaning a maximum of three hands for a single player is possible during one game.
  • A player can double once (increase the size of their bet by that equal to the initial wager) at any time.
  • A player can hit after doubling if desired.

The Payout for Pontoon

  1. Hitting Pontoon pays 2:1 so a $10 wager brings in a $20 win (plus your wager back).
  2. A five-card trick pays 2:1 as well. But the dealer beats you if he also produces a 5 card trick.
  3. All other payouts are at even money but again, the dealer wins if the hand value is equal – bummer!

Pontoon Strategy

Below is a table for the basic Pontoon strategy to use when playing Pontoon at an online casino. The numbers on the left are the hand value and along the top how many cards the player is holding. You can also learn how to win at blackjack here.

Here are some common Pontoon strategies:

  1. Basic Strategy: This is a set of rules that suggest the best action to take based on the player’s hand and the dealer’s up card. It involves a combination of hitting (taking another card), standing (not taking any more cards), and doubling down (doubling the bet and taking one more card). Basic strategy can help players make optimal decisions and reduce the house edge.
  2. Card Counting: This strategy involves keeping track of the cards that have been dealt and adjusting the bet and playing strategy accordingly. The goal is to determine when the remaining deck is rich in high-value cards, which favor the player, and when it’s rich in low-value cards, which favor the dealer. Card counting is not illegal, but it is frowned upon by casinos, and players who are caught may be asked to leave.
  3. Shuffle Tracking: This strategy involves keeping track of clumps of cards that are shuffled together during the shuffle, and then tracking those clumps as they move through the deck. The goal is to identify when a clump of high-value cards is likely to come out, allowing the player to increase their bet and make strategic decisions accordingly. Shuffle tracking is also frowned upon by casinos and can be difficult to master.
  4. Hole-Carding: This strategy involves trying to catch a glimpse of the dealer’s hole card (the facedown card) and using that information to make strategic decisions. It’s difficult to do, but if successful, can give the player a significant advantage. However, hole-carding is illegal in many jurisdictions and can lead to arrest and prosecution.

Pontoon House Edge

According to most sources, the house edge for this version of Pontoon is a very respectable 0.38% when played with perfect strategy. That’s certainly better than most other casino table games played against the dealer. Honest online casinos will always have an incredibly low house edge on this game.

We Played 10 Hands of Pontoon – Here Are the Results

Bet Player Hand Dealer Hand Result
1 5+J 4+J Win
2 A+6+J 9+K Lose
3 2+9 Q+7 Lose
4 A+10 6+J+6 Win
5 4+4+4 9+K+3 Win
6 2+2+2+2 A+7+3 Win
7 Q+Q+Q 5+K+8 Win
8 K+5+5 A+3+2 Lose
9 10+8+7 9+6+J Win
10 Q+Q+Q 4+6+K Win


  • Total Bets: 10
  • Wins: 7
  • Losses: 3
  • Winning Percentage: 70%