Players registered at Microgaming-powered casinos have the chance to diversify their blackjack sessions with Pontoon, a unique variation of 21 which uses different terminology and structure. Microgaming’s version of Pontoon plays with 8 full decks of cards and requires the dealer to stand, or “stick” on all 17s.
In this game, the dealer receives both cards face-down. This peculiarity of the variation and the additional payouts players get for certain combinations of cards call for some significant adjustments in terms of basic strategy. The RTP of the Microgaming version is estimated to be 99.61% under the rules specified below.
Other than that, the software suppliers have incorporated a number of interesting features into the game to increase customization and convenience. Players can control the speed of the game, turn on the autoplay feature and get strategy reminders. We recommend you try Microgaming’s Gold Series version of Pontoon where you get to enjoy more realistic experience graphics-wise and sound-wise.
The Twist and Stick in Pontoon
Pontoon uses a different lingo for basic playing actions like hitting and standing. At the beginning of a round, the player is dealt two cards face-up but none of the dealer’s cards are exposed at this point. One of the terms you must familiarize yourself with is “twist”, which is essentially the same as hitting in conventional blackjack.
One major peculiarity of this game is that the player must twist on all totals under 15. This rule applies unless the player has obtained a five-card trick. This is a special hand that consists of five cards that add up to 21 or less. It offers a larger payout but more on this later.
The second key term in Pontoon is the word “stick”, which basically implies the player stands or declines taking more cards from the dealer. Due to the above-specified conditions, sticking is not an option on totals below 15. Instead, the player would draw cards to lower-value hands until they reach 15 or higher.
The dealer, on the other hand, gets two down cards on the initial deal and must twist to a total of 17. It is irrelevant whether the 17 is soft or hard. Either way, the dealer must stick on their 17. They also peek for pontoons, which are the equivalent of blackjacks in the regular game, or Ace plus a ten-value card. Respectively, the round ends immediately after the peek if the dealer has a pontoon. Pontoon players cannot surrender or insure their hands.
Splitting Pairs in Pontoon
In Microgaming’s take on Pontoon, players have the option to split two cards of equal rank by placing a second bet to the amount of their first one. The two hands are then played one after the other before the dealer reveals their two down cards. The player is permitted to split pairs two times to make three hands. However, if Aces are split, only one card is dealt next to each Ace and twisting is no longer possible.
Buying Cards in Pontoon
In line with Pontoon’s quirky lingo, players have the option to double down but this move is called “buying cards” in this game. This is a very suitable term, indeed, because you literally need to pay in order to receive one more card. Like doubling, buying cards requires you to post an extra wager that equals your original bet.
Unlike conventional blackjack, however, Pontoon allows you to buy on any total consisting of two, three, or even four cards. You can buy once per hand but are also allowed to exercise this move following a split. This is another aspect in which Pontoon differs from the standard game of blackjack.
At this point, you are probably eager to learn what prizes you can pocket for your winning hands. The cool thing about Pontoon is that it compensates for the two face-down cards of the dealer by awarding higher payouts for certain “special” hands.
A payout of 2 to 1 goes to the player who manages to achieve pontoon, which is an Ace and a ten-value card on the initial draw. Pontoon is the strongest hand in the game. It beats everything except for a dealer who also has a pontoon, in which case the two pontoons push.
Another high payer in this game is the five-card trick. In essence, this is nothing but a five-card Charlie or a non-busted hand consisting of precisely five cards. It awards a payout of 2 to 1 and beats everything bar pontoons. The five-card trick offers the same payout even if you have obtained it after a split. All other winning hands offer even-money payouts like in blackjack.
And one final word of advice. If you want to reduce the game’s house edge to 0.39%, you need to use basic strategy. The right moves are different for Pontoon because of the extra payouts you get for five-card tricks. Respectively, the strategy here takes into account the number of cards the player’s hands consist of.