Pontoon: A fun twist on blackjack
Pontoon is a blackjack-type game from the U.K with a very long tradition. It may surprise you to know that it didn’t arise from blackjack! Instead, both pontoon and blackjack trace their roots to vingt-et-un (21 in French), a predecessor game. You can find it at Ignition in the blackjack games section.
Before we dive in, here’s a quick word on how we rate games in our casino game reviews series.
How we rate casino games
Ignition casino reviews take a lot of factors into account. We think about aesthetics – the look and feel of a game – as well as sound and music. Then of course we analyze any jackpots, bonus rounds, and special features to figure out what kind of ups and downs players will see. We also consider how easy the game is to understand, and other general characteristics. In the end, we’re evaluating the whole experience of the game: entertainment value, possible prize size, and just the general vibe you get when playing it. All of this taken together gives us a total score you’ll find in the “star rating” section below.
The theme of this game is very similar to classic blackjack played on a green felt table. This one will make casino fans feel right at home, because there’s the familiar leatherette rail, wood inlays, and chrome cup holders too. Racks of chips are laid out at the dealer’s side of the table.
The game also speaks (i.e. there is a “dealer voice”) at certain points to help make it friendlier and to keep players on track.
Pontoon offers some key differences from our blackjack games:
- Pontoon is played with 8 decks. (While this can make card counting strategies harder to put to use, we also offer single deck blackjack for players that love to keep that count running, so not to worry).
- When a player is dealt 21 in the first two cards, it’s not called a “blackjack.” It’s called a “pontoon.” Go figure.
- The dealer stands at soft 17 or a 5-card hand.
- Five-card hands that don’t bust are winners. These are also called “pontoons.”
- Pushes are a dealer win.
- The house edge is .497%.
Game features + why we love this game
Our online game reviews are built around the idea of finding out what’s genuinely fun about each game. Here’s what makes pontoon a good time:
You’re getting paid 2:1 for 21s as well as five-card hands that don’t bust. Both of these outcomes are called “pontoons.” Regular wins are paid 1:1. Five-card tricks typically need to be made from low cards. One or more aces are generally in play when you hit a pontoon like this. Remember: it doesn’t matter whether your score beats the dealer. If you get five cards and don’t go bust, you’re getting paid.
No dealer upcard
The mystery! In this game, we’re not sure what the dealer is holding at all. The dealer checks for Pontoon at start of hand after cards are dealt, but that’s it. You won’t know what’s going to happen in a hand until the end. This can change your strategy somewhat, and we think that’s part of the fun when departing from straightforward blackjack.
Classic look and feel
Our version of pontoon will take you right back to that casino aesthetic that is such a comfortable place for so many players. You can take your seat and it’ll be just like you’ve sat down at a live game. Of course, because you’re playing at Ignition, you won’t even have to step outside the front door!
We’re giving this one 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a simple, fun game that should satisfy most players, especially those who like blackjack. It adds just enough variation to make things interesting. And you’ll definitely be battling with the idea of going for pontoons in any round where you have a few low cards in your hand. Should you take that hit? Hmm…
Who is this game for?
Pontoon is definitely for blackjack lovers. It’s also a great game for people who love old school games or even Anglophiles. It’s a fun version of the card game that folks have been playing in the U.K. in one form or another for hundreds of years. And if building up a five-card tricks sounds like your idea of a fun way to double your winnings, you’ll want to give this one a shot.
What people are saying
“Pontoon offers more strategic opportunities for experienced players and provides a greater potential for big winnings.” – Ignition VIP player.
“Five-card tricks are more satisfying than blackjacks sometimes!” – Ignition player.
How does it rate compared to other games?
Let’s talk about some other blackjack games for comparison.
Zappit blackjack, for example, gives you the ability to get rid of tough hands and receive new cards. But your zapped blackjacks are only getting paid 1:1. If trouble hands annoy you (like 15, 16, and 17), this might be a cool game. But with the more limited chances to get a double win, it may not be the favored game for people who want to go on hotter streaks than a standard blackjack game allows.
Perfect Pairs, on the other hand, lets you make side bets on whether you’ll pair up on your deal. While this adds a fun element to the beginning of each hand and really turns up the possibility for bigger paydays, it doesn’t add much new strategy to how you play after that. Pontoon, however, gives you a chance to switch up your playstyle to hit more five-card tricks.
- Is a pontoon the same as a blackjack? Yes, they both generally refer to players being dealt an ace and a ten-rank card. In this game, “pontoons” also refer to five-card tricks that don’t add up to more than 21.
- Do five-card pontoons have to beat the dealer’s score? If you get five cards without busting, you win, no matter how high your total is.
- Should I take extra hits to chase five-card tricks? If you’re dealt 16 right from the get-go, you probably don’t want to go after a pontoon payday. But if you get an ace and a three, you should be thinking about getting to five cards dealt. The fun part comes when you’ve got four cards and you could take a hit possibly without busting. Decisions, decisions…
- Are other blackjack plays possible? Splitting and doubling are both available in pontoon.