Your goal is to make a hand that is as close to 21 as possible, but not exceeding it. A player who has an edge is selected to be the banker, which is why the first banker is selected randomly. The Pontoon rules are as follows:
- Hands with less than 5 cards and 20 or fewer points rank in the order of their point value. A hand with four or three ones which adds up to 21 will beat everything else other than a 5 Card Trick or a Pontoon.
- The dealer stays on 21 or less with four or fewer cards.
- In the case of a draw, the banker wins.
- If a player’s hands total exceeds 21 points, he loses.
- An outcome which is only beaten by a Pontoon is a 5 Card Trick, meaning you have a hand with 5 cards, the sum value of which is 21 or less.
- The best hand of all is a Pontoon. It consists of an ace and a picture or 10.
Pontoon Players' Turns
If the banker hasn't achieved a Pontoon, the game continues from the player to the left of the dealer and goes on in a clockwise manner. When your turn comes around, the following options are available:
- Stick. If the sum is 15 or more, then you may "stick." This means that your stake remains as it is until the next hand's turn.
- Twist. If the sum is less than 21, you may call "Twist me one." If you do this, your stake will not be affected. The dealer will add a card to your hand. If your value remains less than 21, then you may request a fourth and a fifth one to be twisted.
- Buy a card. If your total is lower than 21, then you may announce "I'll buy one.” When you do this, you must raise the stake by placing another bet, at least double your first stake. You will then be dealt another card, facing down. If your total remains lower than 21, then you are still entitled to buy a 4th and 5th card if required.
- Split your cards. If you receive two of the same rank, then you can split them into two hands. Declare this move by placing the face up on the table and making another bet that is the same as the first. The banker instantly deals another one face down to each hand, which you play one at a time.
- Declare a Pontoon. If you get are an ace and a one that represents 10 points, then declare your hand by placing the cards on the table. The card worth 10 points should be face down and the ace should be face up and placed on top of the 10 point card.
- Split hands are equal. If you have stuck or bust on the initial hand, you can play the second one.
- At any point and if your hand’s total is between 15 and 21, you can stick to keep your cards and stake as they stand. The turn is then passed to the next hand.
- If you get 5 cards and don’t go over 21, then you have a 5 Card Trick. That is, you’re able to take any extra ones.
- You may start from buying a card and then carry on twisting, but once you request a twist, then buying is no longer an option. Any complementary you require must be twisted.
If no one has achieved a Pontoon, the dealer puts the used cards to the bottom of the deck and deals a new hand without shuffling. This can improve your win chance if you remember what’s out of play. If you have a Pontoon, then the cards will be shuffled by the dealer and cut before the next deal.
If a player gets a Pontoon without splitting his hand while the banker didn’t get it, the player becomes the banker for the next deal. If there are more than one such player, then the player nearest to the left of the dealer will be the banker.