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How to Play the Pontoon 21 – A Blackjack Variant

How to Play Pontoon 21: Understanding the Rules

Blackjack is a well-known casino card game many players have encountered and participated in at some point. “Pontoon 21” is the name of the famous blackjack variant game played in Britain. To know how to play pontoon 21 you should keep in mind that it is a five-card variation of blackjack with the same objective as the traditional game: to get a hand close to 21 without going over it as well, thereby smashing on the dealer’s hands. Anything higher than 21 is considered a “bust,” which results in a loss.

Pontoon 21 uses a standard 52-card deck and can include anywhere between five and eight players. It starts with a minimum of two players. Essentially, Pontoon 21 was created to be played in online casinos. Pontoon 21 is offered by many proprietary software vendors at online casinos, including Betsoft and Playtech. 

You can use various strategies when playing, but you first need to understand how to play pontoon 21, right?

This guide will cover the rules on how to play pontoon 21, the basic strategy for playing, and every other necessary piece of information.

Okay, then, let’s go on.

How to Play Pontoon 21: Understanding the Rules

  • Pontoon 21 can be played with any number of players, although it is recommended to have between 5 and 8 players.
  • A 52-card standard deck is used. However, two decks of cards can be merged with more than eight players.
  • The value of a card such as ten, a jack, a queen, a king, or an ace is ten. According to the player’s decision, aces might have a value of one or eleven. The face value is on every other card.
  • To beat the dealer’s hand, your hand must have a total value that is close to or equal to 21 without going beyond it.
  • The dealer is dealt two face-down cards, and each player receives two face-up cards. You can use the five-card trick to win a hand and receive a payout when you total 21 or fewer.
  • If your hand totals 21 or fewer, you can employ the five-card trick to win and get paid.

Any other hand, aside from a pontoon or five-card trick with three or four cards totaling precisely 21, wins.

  • If a player’s and the dealer’s two hands are tied, the dealer takes the pot.

Step by Step

Below are the steps on how to play pontoon 21:

  1. Make a wager

Each participant must select a denomination and place a wager before the pontoon game can begin. The minimum and maximum wagers would have been clearly displayed on the table.

  1. Deal

The next step is to press the ‘Deal’ button after you have placed your bets, and the game begins. You will be dealt two cards facing up after clicking on them, while the dealer is handed two cards face down. When learning how to play pontoon 21, you should be aware of these important differences.

The hand finishes instantly if you have a pontoon, which is a hand that includes an ace and a 10-card. If the dealer doesn’t have a pontoon, only the player wins; if the dealer does, the house wins. The dealer would proceed to confirm whether or not he also possesses a pontoon. The payout for a pontoon hand is 2:1.

Pontoon 21 is a table game that continues even if neither the player nor the dealer has a pontoon. The dealer does not check for pontoon until the hand is over. Therefore, all bets would be forfeited if the dealer later had a pontoon during the betting session.

  1. Make a move

To avoid forfeiting a game when learning how to play pontoon 21, you should understand the moves to make, as they are quite different from blackjack.

  • Twist: This action is taken when the total value of your cards is less than 21, and you need another card. You get a card facing up from the dealer and can still get a third or fourth card if the total remains less than 21.
  • Stick: This is the action you take when you don’t need any cards from the dealer or if the total value of your cards sums up to at least 15. You don’t receive any other cards; your wager is intact, and it’s the next player’s turn.
  • Buy: You cant avoid buying if you want to double down. You buy when the total value of your cards is under 21. To buy, you’ll need to place another bet equal to the initial bet.
  • Split: Splitting happens when you have a pair of cards. To split, you place the cards facing up on the table and place another bet equal to the initial bet. A card is dealt to either hand, and then you play the hands individually with different stakes.
  • Pontoon: If your initial cards are an ace and a ten-value card, you can declare a pontoon by facing the ace card up and the ten-value card down.
  • Five-Card Trick: This action allows you to use five cards to build a hand without exceeding 21 points.
  • 3 or 4 Card Trick: This action is taken when you have a hand of 3 or 4 cards which equals 21 or less.
  • Surrender: This is when you surrender half of your bet and your cards in the game. You get back half of your wager when you surrender.

Strategies in Pontoon 21

The strategy in pontoon can be a bit different because of one of the dealer’s cards facing up and the five-card trick.

You should know that no player can stand until their hand is at least 15. Take the following actions for whichever situation you find yourself in:

Hard Hands

A hard hand is one that either includes an ace that can let it bust or doesn’t.

  • 4 through 7: Always hit.
  • 9: Hit on two cards; double down on three or four.
  • 12 through 14: Hit on 2 or 3 cards; double down on 4.
  • 17: Stand on two or three cards; double down on card 4.
  • 8: Hit on 2 or 3 cards; double down on 4.
  • 10 and 11: Always double down.
  • 15 and 16: Stand on 2 or 3 cards; double down on 4.
  • 18 and higher: Always stand.

Soft Hands

A soft hand contains an ace and cannot burst.

  • Soft 13: Always hit.
  • Soft 14 through 18: Hit on 2 or 3 cards; double down on 4.
  • Soft 19 and 20: Stand on two cards; double down on three or four.


The only pairs you should consider splitting are eights and aces.


To play pontoon 21, or other table games using this guide, visit Slots Paradise Casino. While you are doing that, you can learn how to play jacks or better by checking out our jacks or better guide.

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FAQs: How To Play Pontoon 21

What is the best hand to make in pontoon 21?

The best possible hand you can make in Pontoon 21 is the pontoon hand since you reach a total of 21 with just two cards.

What is the best strategy to win in pontoon 21?

In our opinion, the best strategy to win big in pontoon 21 is to go for the five-card trick. The odds of getting an ace and a ten are very low, but the chances of combining five cards for a total of 21 are high.