Pontoon: Rules and Winning Strategy

Looking for a winning pontoon strategy? Then you’ve landed on the right page.

Every child of an English background would have played a few hands of pontoon with their grandma at some point during their childhood – I know we all did here at Gamblers Pro.

It is, in many ways, very similar to Blackjack and 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.

The Rules of Pontoon

As with most card games, rules vary depending on which (online or offline) casino you play in. For this article, we basing the rules of this classic game on the version offered at William Hill Casino which is powered by the Playtech. 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.
Hand ranks:

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

  • A five card trick; collecting 5 cards in your hand without exceeding a total of 21.
  • A hand of less than 21 with four of fewer cards. i.e. 7d, 8s, 3h equals 18.
  • A busted hand; 22 points or more.
  • 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 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

Hitting Pontoon pays 2:1 so a $10 wager brings in a $20 win (plus your wager back).
A five card trick pays 2:1 as well. But the dealer beats you if he also produces a 5 card trick.
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.

Basic Pontoon Strategy

Player’s Total Total Number of Cards
4 3 2
21 S S S
20 S S S
19 S S S
18 S S S
17 H S S
16 D S S
15 D S S
14 D H H
13 D H H
12 D H H
11 D D D
10 D D D
9 D D H
8 D H H
7   H H
6 H H
5   H
4 H

A – 10 D DS S
A – 9 D D S
A – 8 D D S
A – 7 D H H
A – 6 D H H
A – 5 D H H
A – 4 D H H
A – 3 D H H
A – 2   H H

A – A   PS
8 – 8   PH

S Stand
H Hit
D Double
DS Double if allowed, otherwise stand
PS Split if allowed, otherwise stand
PH Split if allowed, otherwise hit

House Edge

According to most sources, the house edge for this version of Pontoon is a very respectable 0.38%. That’s certainly better than most other casino table games played against the dealer.

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