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Pontoon is a classic and exciting card game that’s similar to Blackjack but with its own unique set of rules. Whether you’re a novice looking to learn a new card game or a seasoned player looking to refresh your memory, this beginner’s guide will walk you through the rules and strategies of Pontoon.

Objective of Pontoon

The primary objective of Pontoon is to get a hand value as close to 21 as possible without going over, just like in Blackjack. However, in Pontoon, a hand of two cards totaling 21 is called a “Pontoon” and is the highest-ranking hand, even surpassing a hand of three or more cards totaling 21.

The Deck

Pontoon is typically played with a standard 52-card deck. The cards have point values as follows:

  • Number cards (2-10): Face value.
  • Face cards (Jacks, Queens, Kings): Each worth 10 points.
  • Aces: Can be worth 1 or 11 points, whichever benefits the player more.


  1. Dealing: At the start of the game, the dealer shuffles the deck and deals two face-down cards to each player, including themselves.
  2. Hand Values: Players can peek at their cards but should keep them hidden from their opponents. The hand values are calculated by adding the points of the two cards in each hand.
  3. Twist and Stick: Players can choose to “twist” (draw another card) or “stick” (keep their current hand). Unlike Blackjack, you can twist as many times as you like, even after reaching 21.
  4. Pontoon: If a player is dealt an Ace and a 10-point card (10, Jack, Queen, or King), they have a Pontoon, and they automatically win the round. The dealer pays double the player’s bet for a Pontoon.
  5. Five Card Trick: If a player accumulates five cards in their hand without going over 21, they win automatically, and the dealer pays double their bet.
  6. Bust: If a player’s hand value exceeds 21, they bust, and they lose their bet.
  7. Dealer’s Turn: After all players have completed their turn, the dealer reveals their hand. The dealer must twist until they have a hand value of at least 15 and must stick once they reach that point. The dealer pays out to any players with higher hands and collects from those with lower hands.

Betting and Payouts

Players can place bets at the beginning of each round. The standard payout structure in Pontoon is as follows:

  • Winning hand (excluding Pontoon or Five Card Trick): 1:1 payout.
  • Winning with a Pontoon: 2:1 payout.
  • Winning with a Five Card Trick: 2:1 payout.


To maximize your chances of winning at Pontoon, consider the following tips:

  1. Know When to Twist or Stick: Deciding when to twist or stick is crucial. In general, it’s advisable to twist if your hand value is below 15 and to stick if it’s 15 or higher. However, these are not strict rules, and it depends on the specific context of the game.
  2. Count the Cards: Try to keep track of the cards that have been played. This will give you a better idea of what cards are left in the deck and can help you make more informed decisions.
  3. Be Wary of the Five Card Trick: If you’re approaching five cards and have a hand value close to 21, be careful about twisting, as you might risk going over 21.
  4. Understand the Odds: Recognize that Pontoon has different odds and strategies compared to Blackjack, so adapt your approach accordingly.

Pontoon is a fun and engaging card game that offers a unique twist on the classic game of Blackjack. As you gain more experience and understanding of the game, you’ll be able to develop your own strategies and tactics to increase your chances of success. So, gather some friends, grab a deck of cards, and enjoy the thrill of Pontoon!




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