Are you a Blackjack fan? If so, chances are you head straight for the felt the second you walk onto the casino floor with your cash already in your hand (why waste time going into your wallet after sitting down?). After all, nothing beats the thrill of the chase to 21 hoping you wipe the smirk off the dealer’s face in the process. But if you’re squarely focused on Blackjack, you could be missing out on a great game that’s a lot like Blackjack with a few differences.
It’s called Pontoon and it’s a lot like Blackjack but it comes with a few added twists. The first one will surprise you (possibly negatively, just a heads-up), the second will delight you, and the third twist might leave you scratching your head. It all adds up to one of the most interesting takes on the 21 card game you know and love.
Face Down Dealer
If you hate Blackjack because you can only see one of the dealer’s cards, you’re about to have a virtual heart attack. When playing Pontoon, the dealer must keep both of their cards face down. Yes, face down. Not face up. Not even one of them. You are required to base your judgments on what you believe the dealer's hand could be in order to be successful.
But before you get all upset and think this is the worst game ever with horrible odds working against you, there’s actually some really great elements of Pontoon that make it even more appealing than Blackjack.
In Blackjack, doubling down is a great way to make a killing. There are certain predicaments in which doubling down is the best course of action. Mainly, when you have 9, 10, or 11 and the dealer is showing a bust card, you’ll want to double down (9 is something iffy, buy 10 and 11 or optimal). When you double down, you’ll get just one card. Doubling down means that you won’t have the opportunity to hit.
This is OK, assuming you get the card you want. But there’s nothing worse than having 11, doubling down, and hitting an Ace. In that situation, you’re sitting with 12, which is a horrible hand given that if the dealer has 17, 18, 19, 20, or 21, you’re toast.
But Pontoon is a bit different. Actually, make that much different. In Pontoon, you have the opportunity to double down whenever you like. That means whether you’re sitting with 10 or 11, or even a 5, 6, or anything really, you can double down. But that’s not all. In Pontoon, after doubling down, you’re free to hit.
You read that correctly. Doubling down in Pontoon means that you’re confident in your hand, but if things don’t work out with that one card, you have the opportunity to hit on top of it. For example, if you’re dealt a 10 and you receive a 2 for that one card, you can hit again on top of that 2. You’re still making your decision while not seeing the dealer’s cards, but at least you’ll feel better about not having to live with that low hand (unless you think the dealer might have a horrible hand).
Bonus without the bonus bet
If you play Blackjack in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, or any other casino around the world, you’re probably familiar with bonus bets. Some tables will pay you a bonus if you hit 20, with higher payouts for certain cards and suits. Other bonus bets offer big payouts by hitting 21 using a certain number of cards. For example, hitting triple 7s could get you huge payouts. However, in order to participate in any of these extra rounds, you will need to make an additional bet in the appropriate circle.
In Pontoon, you get the benefit of bonus payouts without having to actually place a bonus wager. By hitting 21 using exactly 5 cards, you’ll receive payouts of 5:1. So if you hit that 21 using a 3, 5, 4, 2, and 7, and you’ve placed a $10 wager, you’ll earn $50. Of course, with the opportunity to double down, your initial wager could grow even higher. And since you can hit after doubling down, Pontoon gives you the opportunity to double down and still make that hand of 21 using 5 cards.
In Pontoon, you must hit on 14 or less
Blackjack gives you the freedom to stand on any hand you desire. That means if you’ve been dealt 13, you’re free to stay if you think the dealer will bust. On the other hand, pontoon is a little bit different. In Pontoon, you must hit if you’re holding 14 or anything smaller. There’s no option to stand, so keep that in mind before you ask Customer Support while the “Stand” button has been disabled during your game.