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How Do You Play Pontoon Cards? Pontoon Rules

How Do You Play Pontoon Cards? Pontoon Rules

Pontoon is a fun and exciting card game that you can easily learn and enjoy with friends or family. It's similar to the well-known game of Blackjack but has its own unique rules and twists. 

In Pontoon, the aim is to have a hand with a higher total than the dealer but without going over 21. If your cards total 21 with your first two cards, that's called a "Pontoon", and it's the best hand you can get. 

Players start by receiving two cards face down, and they can choose to 'twist' (take another card) or 'stick' (keep their current hand). There are also options to 'buy' (place an additional bet for an extra card) or 'split' (create two hands if the first two cards are a pair). 

This introduction covers the basics, but make sure to read on for a detailed guide on Pontoon's rules and strategies. 

What Is The Pontoon Card Game?

Pontoon is a popular British card game typically played with a standard 52-card deck. It's a banked card game, meaning one player acts as the dealer, and the rest are the players. 

The objective of Pontoon is simple: get a hand value as close to 21 as possible without exceeding it while also having a higher hand than the dealer. Cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value, face cards (Jack, Queen, and King) are worth 10, and Aces can be worth either 1 or 11, depending on which helps your hand more. 

Like Blackjack, Pontoon puts a twist on the traditional card game, offering additional bets and slightly different rules to keep things fresh and exciting. 

If playing Pontoon, all players' cards are dealt face down, which adds a layer of suspense and surprise to each hand. As the game progresses, players can twist, stick, buy or split their cards, aiming to beat the dealer's hand without busting (going over 21). 

Understanding these basics of Pontoon will prepare you for more detailed rules and strategies, which can help to promote a fun and fair game for everyone involved. Ready to dive deeper? Let's continue. 

How To Play Pontoon Cards

Playing Pontoon is straightforward once you wrap your head around the basic steps. Here, we'll go over them so you can start getting to grips with them. 

Setting Up the Game

To start, you'll need a standard deck of 52 cards. One player acts as the dealer, and the rest are the players. The dealer shuffles the cards and deals two cards to each player, including themselves, all face down. 

Card Values

Each card has a numerical value. Cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value. Face cards (Jack, Queen, King) are worth 10 points each. Aces can be worth either 1 or 11 points, whichever is more beneficial for your hand. 

Player Actions

After the initial deal, players have several options: 

  • Twist: Take another card.
  • Stick: Keep your current hand.
  • Buy: Place an additional bet to receive another card (up to three additional cards).
  • Split: If you have two cards of the same value, you can split them into two separate hands.

Dealer's Turn

Once all players have had their turn and made their choices, the dealer reveals their cards. The dealer must twist if their hand totals 16 or less and must stick on 17 or more. 

Winning and Losing

To win, you need to have a higher hand than the dealer without exceeding 21. If you go over 21, you 'bust' and lose. If the dealer busts, all remaining players win. 

Pontoon Card Game Rules

Let's take a look at some of the specific rules of the Pontoon card game. 

The goal in Pontoon is to have a hand total closer to 21 than the dealer, without exceeding 21. A hand totalling exactly 21 with your first two cards is called a "Pontoon". 

The game just uses a standard 52-card deck, whereas Blackjack and other card games may use multiple decks. One player is the dealer, and the others are players. Each player and the dealer receives two cards, all face down. The players play their hands first, starting from the left of the dealer and going around the table, with the dealer acting last and playing against any remaining players. 

The dealer must twist until their hand totals 17 or more points. Once they reach 17 or higher, they must stick. 

To win, your hand must be closer to 21 than the dealer's without going over. If you go over 21, you bust and lose. If the dealer busts, all remaining players win. 

There are also less common 'house rules' that may be implemented in some games and not in others. A quick search on the internet can reveal some additional rules that people play with to potentially shake things up. 

Are Blackjack & Pontoon The Same?

Although Blackjack and Pontoon share similarities, they are not the same game. Both games aim to reach a hand value of 21 without exceeding it, but the rules and gameplay have key differences. 

Playing Cards

In Blackjack, players are dealt their cards face up. In contrast, Pontoon deals all players' cards face down, adding an element of surprise as you keep your hand hidden from the dealer and other players. Blackjack typically uses multiple decks in a single game, whereas Pontoon is traditionally always played with just one. 


The terms used in each game differ. For example, in Blackjack, asking for another card is called "hit", while in Pontoon, it's known as "twist". Similarly, choosing to keep your current hand is called "stand" in Blackjack and "stick" in Pontoon. 

Dealer Rules

The dealer's rules also vary. In Blackjack, the dealer must hit until their hand totals 17 or more. In Pontoon, the dealer has more specific rules: they must twist until their hand totals 17 or more, but they must stick on soft 17 (a hand total of 17 that includes an Ace worth 11). 

Hand Values

Finally, in Pontoon, there is a hand called a "Five Card Charlie", where a player has a total lower than 21 in 5 cards. It beats all other hands in the game, including a Pontoon (2-card hand totalling 21).  

These differences make each game unique and enjoyable in its own way, offering variety for card game enthusiasts. Whichever you choose to play, be sure to do so responsibly.