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Comparing Pontoon and Blackjack

Although pontoon is quite similar to the conventional casino game of blackjack, it also differs from it in various aspects. To begin with, the starting cards in Pontoon are dealt in face down position to all the players and the dealer, implying that no one gets an idea about the dealer’s cards until the completion of the betting rounds. Furthermore, even though you’re permitted to take a look at your cards, you can’t see the other players’ hands until the end of the game (unless of course they go bust!).

Please also note that the pontoon played in UK differs greatly from the version that’s played in permissible places in Singapore and Malaysia. The variant that’s played in the latter two countries is a lot like Spanish 21 or Matchplay 21. We’ll mainly refer to the British version while talking about pontoon in this write-up.

Let’s now see how blackjack and pontoon compare to each other based on various aspects of play:

How blackjack or pontoon are made?
Both blackjack and pontoon involve getting as close as possible to a card total of 21, without going overboard. Both the games are played using a regular 52 card deck (few casinos may also use two 52 card decks) and the card values are also similar. The decks aren’t shuffled until someone gets a blackjack. In pontoon, it is only natural blackjack that is referred to as pontoon.

Card rankings
It’s not until we refer to the card rankings that the things start getting a whole lot different in pontoon. In pontoon, 5 card trick is considered the second best hand after ‘pontoon’ and it can emerge as a winner even if it doesn’t total up to 21. To give you an example, if you are dealt 3 and 2 as your first two cards, and you twist three more cards, that come out to 8, A and 2, the total value of your hand will be 16, and it’ll beat any hand received by the dealer, except a pontoon. Both 5 card trick and pontoon pay 2:1. Apart from this, all other rankings are same as blackjack, and your main purpose is to get closest to 21 without going over. However, unlike as in Blackjack, in pontoon you’re not allowed to stand on a total value of 14 or less. In other words, you can only stick if your total hand value is between 15 and 21 in pontoon.

Buying cards and twisting
Another major difference between pontoon and blackjack is how the betting round happens. Although the start is the same, that is you make your decision based on your two initial cards, the difference arises in the manner in which you get additional cards. While in blackjack you simply ask the dealer to hit, in pontoon you can either twist more cards (same as hit) or buy additional ones. You’re required to double your stakes if you choose to buy a card. In pontoon you can’t buy more cards if you choose to twist, but the vice versa is possible. However, no buying exists in Blackjack.

Betting strategy
The betting strategy in pontoon changes completely as every player has the secondary goal of winning using a five card combination. So, even if you start out with a not-too-good hand like 3 & 2 or 4 & 3, you can always buy a card rather than taking the twist. Why this is so is because you’re anyways going to twist if your third card also turns out to be a low or mid-range number, so you might as well play the 2:1 odds with a better wager! So, if your third card turns out to be a 6, you’d be forced to take the fourth one, leading to the possibility of the fifth one too.