Online Pontoon Card Game Rules and Strategy

Did you ever want to try out a new and exciting twist to an old classic? Adored by numerous players worldwide because of its mix of luck, strategy and odds, Blackjack or ‘21’ is one of the most popular casino games around the world.

One tremendously popular variant of Blackjack is the Pontoon card game. The name ‘Pontoon’ covers both the British and the Australian version of the game.

Read on to learn more about Pontoon, and choose a recommended Pontoon casino to play at!

How To Play Pontoon Card Game Online

pontoon card game online

A Pontoon hand raking in the winnings.

Fortunately, if you like this variation of Blackjack you’ll be able to find numerous Pontoon games available at the online casinos listed at the top of the page.

You can usually find them by searching for 'Pontoon 21' or 'Pontoon game' after signing up.

Despite the fact that you’re normally able to play Pontoon against as many players as you like, when you play Pontoon card game online you only play against the banker.

Pontoon Rules

Pontoon uses a regular deck of 52 cards which includes all suited ‘10’ cards.

Ultimately, the online Pontoon card game rules are synonymous to those you would play by when partaking in a Pontoon card game at any brick and mortar casino. This is to achieve the strongest ranking hand possible in order to give yourself the best chance of beating the house.

1 Upon commencing an online Pontoon card game, select your bet and place it on the table. The minimum and maximum amount you can bet is set by the online casino you play Pontoon at.
2 After this is done you should click on the ‘deal’ button in order for the cards to be dealt to you.
3 Typical Pontoon card game rules make no provision for insurance or surrender. Pontoon rules dictate that players must twist up to 14, and a dealer must twist on soft 17 or less.
4 You’re also able to split your hand if you have two cards of the same value. Furthermore, you can chose to 'buy' more cards on a hand of 2-4 cards and twist after you buy.

Pontoon, 21, Blackjack - what's the difference?

Although the rules when you online Blackjack are very similar to the Pontoon rules, there are a few major differences you’ll notice, and each online casino will have their own variations on top of that. Here are some of the most important ones:


According to Pontoon card game rules, you can double your bet by 'buying' new cards, as many times as you like, until you either bust or choose to stand. In regular Blackjack, although you’re can double (AKA double-down) your bet, you can only do so once before being forced to stand.

Five Card Trick

Another rule exclusive to the Pontoon card game, dictates that the second best hand is one which is one which consists of five cards, as long as the player has not bust (i.e. the card total is equal to 21 or less).

Beating 21

In standard Blackjack, only a 'Natural' Blackjack hand (i.e. an Ace and a 10, Jack, Queen or King) can beat a hand totalling 21. But when you play Pontoon, 21 can also be beaten by a Five Card Trick.

No Push

In Blackjack, when the player and the dealer have hands of matching values, a 'Push' occurs, and the player's bet is returned to them. When you play Pontoon rules though, the dealer would emerge victorious in this situation.

Pontoon Game strongest Hands

When you start learning how to play Pontoon card game (if this is you, you could try playing some free Blackjack games for fun), knowing the Pontoon rules is obviously important. But equally important is knowing which are the strongest hands in the Pontoon game.

Here is a quick breakdown of the top 3 strongest Pontoon card game hands, for your convenience; Pontoon, 21, and Five Card Trick.


pontoon hand

In this variation of Blackjack, the strongest hand is known as a ‘Pontoon’ rather than a ‘Blackjack’.

This name refers to a two card hand which tallies to a score of 21 AND is made up by an Ace along with a King, Queen, Jack or 10. A Pontoon pays out at 2 to 1.

Five Card Trick

pontoon game five card trick

The second best hand is known as the Five Card Trick. As the name implies, this type of hand consists of 5 cards that tally up to the score of 21 or under. According to Pontoon card game rules, the total score of the cards in your hand does not matter.

Hence, if you have a 5–card 18 and the dealer of the Pontoon game has a 2-card 20 you’ll still win as you have 5 cards.

However, if both you and the dealer have a Five Card Trick, the count value of the hand will not matter as all 5-card hands will be equal in value as a result. The only hand that can beat a Pontoon dealer's Five Card Trick is a Pontoon.

Provided that you’re able to beat the dealer at his own game you’ll be paid out at 2 to 1.


pontoon 21

Three or Four cards which total up to a score of 21 is considered as a strong hand. Nonetheless, you should know that this is significantly weaker than a Five Card Trick or a Pontoon.

Provided that the dealer doesn’t beat you with a Pontoon or a Five Card Trick, you will be able to win the hand. Payouts for this type of hand with a score that is better than that of the dealer is usually 1 to 1.

How to play Pontoon card game: Maximise your odds

Due to the fact that a player isn’t allowed to see the dealer’s cards in Pontoon, our basic strategy is totally based on the number of cards that the hand is composed of.

Don't forget that all 5 Card Trick hands are equal, according to Pontoon rules - in particular, remember that Pontoon, 21, and Five Card Trick are the top three hands in the Pontoon card game.

When you aren't lucky enough to get one of these, here is one simple rule that you can follow to increase your odds of winning:

In Pontoon, the only 4-card hands you should Stick with are hard totals of 18 or more. If you have a total of 17 or less in Pontoon it makes more sense to Twist.

When To Twist, Buy Or Stick

Here we have three basic strategy tables for playing Pontoon. If you're looking for one that works with 'standard' Blackjack, head over to our dedicated Blackjack strategy page. Please note; these can only be used if you are playing a variation of the Pontoon card game in which you can see one of the dealer's cards.

T Twist (take another card, known as 'Hit' in Blackjack)
S Stick (keep the cards you have, known as 'Stand' in Blackjack)
B Buy (double your bet and take another card)
Sp Split (divide two cards of the same value into two hands)
P Player (you)

Hard Hands

A Hard Hand is the name for any hand which does not contain an Ace, so named because its value is inflexible. Twisting on a hard hand valued at 12 or more carries the risk of Busting your hand (where the hand total exceeds 21).

P 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
4-8 T T T T T T T T T T
9 T T T T B T T T T T
10 B B B B B B B T T T
11 B B B B B B B B B B
12 T T T T T T T T T T
13 T T T T S T T T T T
14 T T S S S T T T T T
15 S S S S S T T T T T
16 S S S S S T T T T T
17 S S S S S S S S S T
18-21 S S S S S S S S S S

Soft Hands

This is the name for a hand which contains an ace - so names because the Ace can be counted as either 1 or 11. Twisting on a soft hand carries no risk of busting, but that doesn't mean you need to do it every time.

P 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
12-17 T T T T T T T T T T
18 S S S S S S S T T T
19 S S S S S S S S S S


When you are dealt two cards of the same value, you are given the unique opportunity to Split them into two hands and play each separately. But that isn't always the smartest move, as you can see below.

P 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
2 Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp T T T
3 Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp T T T
4 T T T T T T T T T T
5 D D D D D D D T T T
6 T T Sp Sp Sp T T T T T
7 Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp T T T T
8 Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp T
9 S Sp Sp Sp Sp S Sp Sp S S
10 S S S S S S S S S S
A Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp Sp

Variations of Pontoon Card Game Rules

As with many casino games, there are different rules for Pontoon depending on where in the world you are from. The main differences between the two variants are the terms used in playing the game as well as the different set of rules. 

British Pontoon

The British Pontoon variant which is enjoyed in the U.K. and some commonwealth countries is played with a deck of 52 cards.

In addition to this, the British Pontoon game also incorporates a different assortment of rules as well as British terms such as ‘twist’ (hit), ‘stick’ (stand) and ‘buy’ (double the bet, which is not the same as doubling down).

In effect, the rules for buying in Pontoon include letting the player buy on any hand of 2 to 4 cards. Once this is done, the player is allowed to ‘twist’.

Australian Pontoon

In comparison, the Australian Version of Pontoon with its favourable rules has proven to be far more popular than its British and American ‘21’ cousins. Despite the fact that the game is still played on a regular Blackjack table with a deck of 52 cards, there are a number of differences in its rules.

The aim of the game in pontoon is to receive cards which tally up to the total of 21 points similarly to Blackjack. Hence, if you have two cards, one of which is an Ace the other a 10, you’ll be able to achieve what’s called a ‘Pontoon’ rather than a ‘Blackjack’. .

There are also notable differences in the terms used in Pontoon. These are terms such as ‘twist’ which mean hit, ‘stick’ which means stand, ‘buy’ which refers to doubling the bet and ‘double down rescue’ which is early surrender. In most Australian Pontoon games, the payout is 3:2 or 2:1.

The History of Pontoon

The origin of the Pontoon card game draws from the 16th or 17th century taking its roots from the Spanish variant of Blackjack called ‘21’ which is also commonly known as ‘Ventiuna’.

Pontoon in France

Eventually, the game made its way to France where it became known as ‘Vingt-et-Un’, the French term for 21. This was extremely popular in Louis XV’s court despite the fact that the game was not only restricted to the nobility of that era.

It was also highly favoured by one of France’s former Emperors, Napoleon Bonaparte and was one of the games he used to play during his exile in St. Helena which is an island in the South Atlantic Ocean that had been colonized by the British.

Ultimately, the game spread throughout the rest of Europe as well as other English speaking countries around the globe.

Pontoon in the Army

Over the years many historians and casino enthusiasts alike have speculated that pontoon took its name from a flotation device, often used as a flat boat by soldiers, called a pontoon which was used in the armed forces.

This is perhaps due to the fact that the game’s popularity peaked during the First World War as it started being played by soldiers all across the globe. Pontoon found its way to casinos in Australia as well as other commonwealth countries.

On the other hand, although Pontoon had become popular amongst soldiers across the globe, it was the game ‘21’ which emigrated to the U.S. and started being played in the likes of Las Vegas casinos and saloons in the 1930s.

Pontoon Today

Since the Pontoon card game has very casual roots, you’ll find that each casino often has its own distinct rules of the game; however there are various rules which the variants of the game have in common due to the fact that they draw from the game ‘21’.

Today you’ll find that its two most popular variants British Pontoon as well as Australian Pontoon are widely available in numerous online casinos.


Play Pontoon Today!

If you like Blackjack, you’ll probably fall in love with Pontoon card game once you get the hang of it. Try out one of the online casinos at the top of the page to find out if it’s for you.

Once you’ve learnt the rules of the game and learnt how to implement the strategy you should find a variant of Pontoon that you enjoy playing and give playing the game for real money a shot!

Recommended Pontoon Casinos

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