Pontoon is a blackjack variant offered at most online casinos. It is significantly different from the normal blackjack variants in which one of the dealer’s cards is dealt face up and the other is dealt face down. In Pontoon both the dealer’s cards dealt face down. This not only makes the game more challenging but also requires changes in other rules and payouts so as to maintain the required balance between player and dealer. The nomenclature used in Pontoon is also different. A blackjack is referred as pontoon. Doubling is referred to as buying a card. To hit is referred to as to twist. To stand is referred to as to stick. Pontoon optimum strategy is determined through computer simulation and coded on a strategy card. The player’s hand value is indexed against the number of cards dealt to him. This is because an important part of the strategy involves playing aggressively to get the five card hand that has not busted.
When the player has just the two initial cards dealt the optimum strategy is as follows. The player should stick for hard totals of 15 and more and for an ace with an eight, nine or ten; should buy a card for hard totals of 10 and 11; should split eights and aces and twist in all other conditions. When the player has three cards dealt the optimum strategy is as follows. The player should stick for hard totals of 15 and more and for Pontoon; should buy a card for hard totals of 9, 10 and 11 and for soft totals of 19 and 20 and twist in all other conditions. When the player has four cards dealt the optimum strategy is as follows. The player should stick for hard totals of 18 and more and for Pontoon; should twist for a hard total of 17 and buy a card in all other conditions. When the player has a five card hand that has not busted he should stick in all conditions.
The net result is that Pontoon has a house edge of 0.4% based on optimum play. This is what the best variants of blackjack offer. Players should not feel that they are being shortchanged by the alterations in the rules. However they should ensure that they are using optimum strategy, preferably through the use of the Pontoon strategy card. The above discussion is based on Pontoon offered by the software provider RTG. Other software providers like Microgaming, Playtech and Cryptologic may have slightly different rules and require appropriate changes in optimum strategy.