Pontoon History, Objective and Rules

Brief history of pontoon
The casino card game pontoon is the UK version of blackjack, and blackjack in turn is the Americanised version of another popular French card game known as Vingt-et-un or 21. This game was highly popular in France and used to be played extensively in Louis XV’s times. It was also loved by Napoleon, and particularly played in St Helena. During the 20th century, pontoon became the most preferred game of the forces fighting for the English-speaking countries. Unlike as in case of casino blackjack, there are no hard and fast rules in pontoon, and its style of play varies from country to country and casino to casino.

The objective of the game
The layout of the pontoon table is the same as blackjack, and the main aim of the players is to outscore the total face value of the cards received by the banker, without exceeding 21. A player’s hand is considered bust if it goes over 21. A natural 21 or pontoon can be formed by an ace and another card worth 10 points (10, J, Q and K). Else, it can also be formed with more than two cards, up to a maximum of five.

Pontoon rules
The rules applicable to pontoon are the same that are followed in Spanish 21, with few notable exceptions as follows:
– Just as in case of European, Asian and Australian blackjack, the dealer gets a NHC (no hole card). It implies that the players don’t get to know if the dealer has a natural pontoon or blackjack (with 10 valued card and an ace) until the completion of the round, after the dealer has drawn his/her second card. Hence, it’s possible for a player to form a total of 21 and win against the natural pontoon/blackjack of a dealer. This is something that can’t be done in blackjack or Spanish 21.
– As dealer gets no hole card, it’s possible for the player to split and/or double and then lose various bets to the natural pontoon of a dealer.
– An ace received in a pre-double hand is mandatorily treated as a 1, instead of 11. For instance, any player opting to double on soft 17 (if he/she has an ace and one or more cards summing to 6), is actually doubling on a 7. Hence it’s inadvisable to double on soft hands.
– Players aren’t permitted to draw on split aces.
– As in case of Spanish 21 where you can split to 4 hands, there are certain limitations with regard to this rule in pontoon. Many casinos don’t permit such re-splitting, while in other venues you can’t re-split aces. Other casinos may allow you to re-split at least once.
– The only situation in which a player can surrender to a dealer is when the dealer gets a face card or an ace. In the event that the dealer gets a natural, all players lose their entire bets to the dealer.
– Many casinos allow players to double only when they receive two card hands. Others may permit players to double regardless of the number of cards they get, referred to as NLC or ‘not last chance’ doubling.
– The dealer must always hit on the soft 17, referred to as H17.