Pontoon is considered an earlier version of blackjack but with several important differences in the rules. Although the basic strategy is the same the differences in the rules affect you strategy and are important to consider before playing the game.Pontoon is played with eight 52-card decks and the cards are valued the same as in blackjack with picture cards valued at ten and aces either one or eleven. The hand ranking is also similar to blackjack and is as follows: The highest hand is pontoon which is comprised of an ace and any 10-point card making the total 21. Next highest is a five-card trick.

This is a hand of five cards that has not busted, in other words that does not add up to more than 21. The total value of the cards does not matter as long as the hand has not busted. Finally any non-busted hand of 21 or less. Hands are ranked based on the total point value with the highest value winning. Each round starts with the dealer dealing each player two cards face up and two cards face down for the dealer. This is different to blackjack in which one of the dealer's cards is face up.

The dealer then checks his own cards for a pontoon without revealing them to the players. If the dealer has pontoon then he announces his winning hand to the other players and collects all wagers. This will also end the round and the next round starts.

If the dealer does not have pontoon then play proceeds with each player either 'hitting' to take more cards or 'standing'. A player may stand on any value greater than or equal to 15 or on a five-card hand. A player can double up on two to four cards but doubling is only allowed once per hand. This applies after splitting as well. Doubling is the practice of doubling a players wager and then receiving just one more card per hand. Splitting is permitted for cards of equal rank.

If a player scores 21 with a two-card combination after splitting aces it is counted as pontoon. In some casinos after splitting aces, an ace and a ten is considered 21 points but not pontoon. Also some games play a rule that split aces get only one card each Both these variations benefit the house.If the player busts by going over 21 then he loses his wager.

Once all players have finished playing their hands the dealer reveals his cards and can then draw cards to try and beat the other players. The dealer must continue drawing cards until he passes 17, gets a five-card hand, or has a soft 17 (17 made up of an ace with a six). Some casinos play a rule that the dealer must stand on a soft 17 which reduces the house edge.

Winning hands pay out 2 to 1 and the dealer wins any tied hands. In some casinos only two decks are used instead of eight. This favors the house because the more decks there are the more chances there are of making a five-card trick.

Will Win is a professional gambler, ex casino dealer and author. Play online casino games at the top online casino!


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