OBJECTIVE OF PONTOON: The aim is to collect cards with a face value more than the banker’s, but not exceeding 21.
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 5-8 players
NUMBER OF CARDS: 52 deck cards
RANK OF CARDS: A (worth 11 or 1 point), K, Q, J (court cards are worth 10 points), 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2
THE DEAL: Players designate someone as the banker. Since the banker has an advantage, this can be chosen randomly (whoever cuts the highest card). The banker deals each player a single card face down starting to the left. The banker is the only player who is not permitted to look at their card.
TYPE OF GAME: Casino
Create a hand as close to 21 without going over 21. During each hand, players make bets on having a better hand than the banker. Below are the hands, ranked best to bust.
- Pontoon, the best hand, is reaching 21 with two cards- ace and a face card or a 10.
- Next is the Five Card Trick, which is reaching 21 or less with five cards
- After, the next highest hand is 3 or 4 cards which total 21
- Hands that total fewer than 20 with five cards are ranked, the highest ranked hand is the one closest to 21.
- Hands that exceed 21 are bust, this hand is worthless
After the first card has been dealt, starting with the player left of the dealer, players place their initial bets. Before the game begins, a minimum and maximum bet should be agreed upon. After, the dealer deals the second card. All players, including the banker, look at their cards. If the banker has a pontoon they will immediately reveal it and collects double of what each player staked.
If the bank does not have a pontoon, starting with the player left of the dealer, players may try and improve their hands by collecting cards from the dealer. Each turn offers the following possibilities:
Announce a Pontoon, if you have an ace and a ten point card, declare your pontoon by placing your ten point card face-down and your ace face-up on top of it.
Split your cards, if you have two cards of equal rank you can split them. In doing so, separate each card into two hands, put them face-up, and place an equal bet to your initial bet. The banker deals two cards face down to each hand. These hands are played one at a time with separate cards and stakes. If any of the new cards is equal to the first two you may split again, and theoretically, have the opportunity to do so until you have four hands. Ten point cards can only be split if they are actually the same, for example, two 10’s or two queens. A king and a jack cannot be split.
If your hand is less than 21 you can buy a card by saying, “I’ll buy one.” If you choose to buy a card you must increase your stake an amount equal but not more than twice your initial bet. For example, you have an initial bet of $100, you may bet between $100-$200, for a maximum of $300 total. The banker deals another card face-down. If your hand’s total is still less than 21 you may buy a fourth card, on this bet you may stake an amount equal to the initial bet and no greater than the amount the third card was bought for. For example, in a hand where the initial bet was $100 and the third card was bought for $175, the fourth card may be bought for anything between $100-$175. If need be, a fifth card may also be bought, following the same rules.
If your hand is less than 21 you may want to twist by saying, “Twist me one.” The amount which you’ve bet in unaffected. The banker deals one card face-up for your hand. If your total is still below 21 you may ask for a fourth (or even a fifth) card to be twisted.
If the sum of your hand is at least 15 say, “stick.” You are choosing to stick with your cards and your bet remains unaffected. Play moves to the next hand.
During the game, if your hand exceeds 21 through either buying or twisting, you have gone bust. Throw your hand in, face-up. The banker collects your stake and your cards will go to the bottom of the banker’s deck.
You may start your turn by buying cards then twisting. After you have twisted you are not allowed to buy cards anymore, they may only be twisted.
If you split, you play one hand then the other(s). After you choose to stick or the hand busts, you begin playing the next.
After the all the player’s have had their turn, the banker flips there two cards face-up. Player’s cards should be face down unless they have a pontoon, twisted, split, or gone bust. The banker may choose to add more cards, face-up, to their initial two. Once the banker is satisfied with their hand they can choose to stay and play with the cards they have. There are three possible outcomes:
Banker busts if they end with a hand over 21. If this happens they must pay out an amount equal to their stake to each player and double that if
The banker stays at 21 or less with four cards or less will collect stakes from players with lower value hands and pay out to players with higher value hands an equal amount of their stake. The players with pontoons or five card tricks are paid out double. For example, a dealer who stays at 17 will say, “paying 18.” The banker will then pay out to all player with hands 18-21, with players with a pontoon and five card trick earning double. If a banker stays at 21 they only pay out to players with a pontoon or five card trick.
If the banker makes a five-card trick they pay out double to players with a pontoon only. All other players, including those who may have a five card trick, pay in double their stake to the dealer.
If no player makes a pontoon, at the end of a deal all cards are collected by the banker and put at the bottom of the deck without any shuffling. However, if there is a pontoon the cards are shuffled and cut before the next deal. A player who makes a pontoon who is not the dealer nor split their deck acts as the next banker. If there are multiple players who fit this criterion the next banker will be the player left of the original banker.
The banker may sell the bank to another player at any point in the game at a mutually agreed upon price.
Two simple variations require only aces be spilt and no other pairs. As well as the variation that allows players to stick with at least 16, as opposed to the standard 15.
Pontoon is the British version of blackjack, the American interpretation of the French vingt-et-un (twenty-one), and is closely related to other versions of the classic blackjack like Spanish 21.
Shoot Pontoon is an alternative version of Pontoon that incorporates the betting mechanism used in Shoot as well as the normal form of betting. At the beginning of the game, the banker forms a ‘kitty,’ a bet of an amount of money between the minimum and maximum bet amount. After initial bets of players have been made, starting from the left of the dealer, players can make a shoot bet. This bet is separate for the normal bet of the game and is placed between the player and the kitty.
Players are not forced to make a shoot bet. However, if you choose to make a shoot bet, it may be any value you choose, provided the sum of all the shoot bets is less than the kitty. So, if the first player places a shoot bet for the total value of the kitty no other player may place a shoot bet.
Following making all the shoot bets the banker deals the second card. In the event the banker has a pontoon, all shoot bets go into the pot and players pay in double their stake. Normal rules apply, however, there are some additional betting opportunities:
If you wish to buy or twist for a fourth card, before receiving the card, you are allowed to make another shoot bet as long as does cause the total of shoot bets to exceed the kitty. You may place this bet even if you did not place the initial shoot bet. This only applies to the fourth card.
After splitting, the initial shoot bet only counts for the first hand. Another shoot bet may be placed for the second hand. This shoot bet is subject to the same rules discussed above.
If a player’s hand goes bust, their shoot bet is added to the kitty. This allows other players to make more shoot bets.
Shoot bets and pontoon bets are handled at the same time. Players whose hands exceeded the bankers are paid an amount equal to their shoot bets out of the kitty. Players whose hands are equal to or worse than the banker’s have their shoot bets added to the kitty by the dealer.
Preceding a new deal the banker has the opportunity to add more money to the kitty. If the kitty is dry the dealer must either put up a new kitty or sell the bank to the highest bidder. When the position of banker changes hands, the old banker leaves with the contents of the kitty and the new dealer puts up a new one.