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Winning Pontoon Strategy for the Veteran Blackjack Player

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games in the world, but if you're only familiar with the American standard variant, you might be surprised at what you're missing. Pontoon is a British alternative to the traditional rules, but it has been around a long time in its own right and has made a name for itself as both a parlor game and a casino attraction. It has proven to be particularly popular online, where players look for a diversion from the typical casino fare.

If you want to give it a shot, why not bring your best strategies along with you?   Similarities and Differences Blackjack and pontoon are very similar, but the differences are significant enough to require a new set of strategies. The basic goal of the game, however, is roughly the same. Your object is to get as close to 21 as you can without going over. In traditional blackjack, a tie with the dealer is considered a push and you get your money back.

That's not the case with pontoon; the dealer wins the bet if there is a tie. This alone should affect your strategy going in.Pontoon also features a five-card trick, sometimes referred to as a five-card Charlie. This is where you have a five-card hand that has not gone over a value of 21.

This hand can beat anything the dealer has other than a "pontoon." A pontoon hand is a two-card hand equaling 21, equivalent to "blackjack" in the version everyone’s familiar with.The player in pontoon has the option of standing with any total of 15 or more or any five-card hand. The player may hit at any time, even after he has elected to double.

Doubling may be done only once per hand, and you can only do it when you have between two and four cards in your hand.One major disadvantage to the pontoon player is that the dealer's cards are hidden until the end. This eliminates the option of using the dealer's hand as a guideline. In some ways, this element simplifies the game. Card counting certainly isn't possible in pontoon, though it isn't an available technique in online blackjack anyway.

It would be pretty hard to count cards out of a virtual, randomly-generated deck. Playing For Keeps If you want to cut the house edge to its lowest possible point - and a good pontoon game will have a lower house edge than traditional blackjack - it can be helpful to stick with a few basic rules:

  • The wise player will stand when they have a hard total of 15, 16, or 17, or a hand with a total of 18 or more.
  • Most pontoon experts advise doubling on hard totals between 8 and 16 when four cards have been dealt.
  • It is also a good idea to double soft totals between 19 and 21.
  • Split only aces and 8s.
  • Other than these situations, it's usually prudent to hit.