Casino Games

How to Play Pontoon with 7 Effective Ways

In this how to play pontoon guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of this classic card game, including its strategies and rules. It will help you get the most out of the game, importantly for a better profit. 

Whether you are playing with friends or for real money, you will find everything you need to get started on your playing journey. 

Pontoon Definition

Understanding What is Pontoon

Before we explain how to play pontoon, you should know it is a popular card game that is also known as Spanish 21 and Blackjack. It is commonly played with between 2 and 8 players. 

In pontoon, the goal is against the dealer by having a hand that is closer to 21 than the dealer’s without falling bust. Standard 52-card decks are used for play (digital cards when playing online). 

Moreover, the player can also win when the dealer goes bust or when their cards total is higher than the dealer’s hand. This game includes many other strategic elements like splitting and doubling down that give it an extra layer of complexity.

A Guide How to Play Pontoon

The pontoon is a card game that can be played with as few as two players. Even though just like its sister game, it is much more interesting when more than two players are sitting at the table. Here are some ways that you need to know how to play the pontoon game. 

1. Deck and Setting Up

The first thing you need to do on how to play pontoon is preparing the deck and setting up. This game can be played using the Anglo-American which is a standard 52 deck. The Joker variants will not be used, or at least the Jokers have to be removed before playing it if they occur. 

Pontoon may use multiple decks to account for multiple players if necessary. If multiple decks are combined into one, this is known as a shoe. Whether forming a shoe, or a simple one-deck stock of cards, the decks should be shuffled by the dealer, who is chosen randomly among the players.

2. Betting Min/Max

Before the deal starts on how to play pontoon, the player has to announce to other players the game’s minimum and maximum. As this is a gambling game, there is a requirement of betting as it is an important piece of the pontoon. 

Well, betting doesn’t necessarily have to be cash, any number of things can be gambled for, so long as it can be used in tokens or numerical value. There are two essential numbers that the dealer will announce: the “minimum” and “maximum”.

  • The minimum on how to play pontoon is the lowest amount of money that a player might bet, and they must bet this amount every game when they wish to remain at the table
  • The maximum bet is the upper limit placed by the player, who might not bet more than that number. 

Those min and max bets will allow for a longer and more steady game to be joined.

3. Dealing

On how to play pontoon, when the stock is fully shuffled properly, the dealer will start the process of dealing. Just like in blackjack, every player receives one face-down card, dealt to them one at a time by the dealer who will deal out their own face-down card last. 

That card should be secret from the tablet, however, the player who has the card might look at their card. Moreover, the only player that is not enabled to check their face-down is the dealer themselves. 

4. Betting

Once this face-down has been dealt out on how to play pontoon, players have to put in their bets. Regardless of whether a player isn’t satisfied with their face-down or not, they have to pay the minimum when they are sitting at the table. Every player has to, before each hand, pay at least the minimum bet. 

Moreover, the dealer doesn’t need to bet at all, as their betting positions are rather different. Depending on the outcome of the game and each player’s bet, the dealer must pay or be paid by each player instead of putting up a certain sum of money and getting paid based on that bet.

5. Gameplay

Once all bets are settled on how to play pontoon, every player will be dealt a “public card” or a face-up that the entire table will be able to see. In addition, the dealer must also deal themselves a public card. Once every player has two cards, then the dealer will look at their face-down card as well as their public card. 

Moreover, when the dealer gets a natural pontoon, this game’s version of 21, from their first deal, the dealer will immediately win and take the total pot for themselves. 

When the dealer doesn’t have a pontoon at the beginning of the game, then every player will receive the chance to “hit”, or draw more cards from the deck to increase their winning chances. 

6. The Card Values

How to play pontoon is different from blackjack, where there are special “melds” that can’t be found in regular blackjack. In the basic form, pontoon is blackjack, and the name refers to getting 21 points just like in blackjack. 

2 – 1Similar to
card number
  • All face cards are worth 10 points
  • Aces are worth 11 or 1, based on the player’s choice
  • The numbered cards have the similar number of points linked with their value
  • Pontoon doesn’t have a “blackjack“, or even a single card that will win the hand

At the end, the dealer has to pay those players who beat them, and be paid by the players that didn’t.

7. Ending a Hand

On how to play pontoon, once a hand ends and all bets have been paid out to their winners, the dealing position will move clockwise to the next player at the table, and a new game starts. 

Based on the number of players, the number of cards dealt in that game, the new dealer might either shuffle the shoe or stock, or continue playing with the similar deck and remove the previously played cards from play.

Tips and Strategy in Pontoon 

Understanding the right strategy on how to play pontoon can be the difference between winning and losing. Here are some tips that will help you win more often in pontoon. 

Know the Right Time to Hit or Stick

Pontoon is a game all about timing. Knowing when the right time to hit or stick/stand is key for your winning. When you hand totals between 15 and 18, it is best to stick. For hands totalling between 19 and 21, it is a good idea to hit.

Learn When to Double Down 

When your two-card hand totals 11 or less on how to play pontoon, it is good to double down. This happens as the dealer’s chances of busting are higher with such a low total. 

Understand the Art of Splitting

If you are dealt 2 cards of the similar value, you can split them, and play 2 separate hands. Well, splitting is a good way to boost your winning chances as it will allow you to double your bet and also increase the chance of getting a better hand.

Know the Best Time to Surrender

If you aren’t satisfied with your hand, you can decide to surrender and lose half of your first bet instead of playing on. You must surrender when your hand totals 15 and the dealer has a 9, 10, or Ace showing. It is also recommended to surrender when your hand is 16 and the dealer has an Ace or high card.

Final Words

Now, you already got the idea of how to play pontoon. Well, pontoon and blackjack are similar from a certain aspect, however, they are not exactly the same. You need to learn the basic rules and strategies above to help you increase the chance of winning. 

Most importantly, learning how to get rid of bad luck in gambling also helps you boost your confidence when sitting at the pontoon table. 


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