Blackjack vs Pontoon

To all intents and purposes, many people consider Pontoon to be the same as Blackjack - the same game with a different name. However, although they share many similar elements, there are some key differences that set them apart.

Here, we will look at the two games - how they are different and how these differences can affect how you play them.

Understanding the Games

Pontoon and Blackjack are two incredibly popular card games that you’ll find in casinos all over the world. Although they share many similarities, they also have big differences. Let’s take a look at how the two games work - and how they differ:


Blackjack is a classic card game where the objective is to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over.

Players are initially dealt two cards, and they then have the option to:

  • Hit - receive another card
  • Stand -keep their current hand

Depending on what they are dealt and the variant, they may also have the option to double down, split or surrender. The dealer will be dealt two cards… one face up and one face down, so the players can see at least one of the dealer’s cards.

The game uses one or more standard decks of 52 cards, with face cards worth 10 points, numbered cards worth their face value and aces counting as either 1 or 11 - depending on what benefits the player’s hand the most. The best possible hand is an ace and a 10-value card… and this is called a Blackjack.


Pontoon, on the other hand, is the British version of blackjack. Again, the main objective is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. However, when you play Pontoon, some of the terms and rules differ.

Terminology: There is often different terminology used when playing, which we will look at later.

Dealer's Face-Down Card: In Pontoon, both of the dealer's cards will be dealt face-down (rather than one face-up and one face-down). This adds an extra layer of uncertainty because they won’t have any information about the dealer's potential hand.

Five-Card Trick: In Pontoon, if you can get a hand consisting of five cards without busting, then this is an automatic win, no matter what the dealer has. This rule gives an extra advantage to the player and can influence house edge.

Winning Ties: In standard blackjack, a tie with the dealer would be considered a push, and the player's bet would be returned. However, in Pontoon, if there is a tie with the dealer, then the dealer wins.

Double Down: In some versions of the game, players can ‘buy’ extra cards after they have doubled down, which wouldn’t normally be an option in traditional blackjack.

So, essentially, while the aim of both Blackjack and Pontoon is to reach 21 points or as close as possible, they both have their own different rule variations and terminologies. If you are a player who enjoys a game of blackjack, then you may well find Pontoon to be an interesting twist on the casino classic.

Terminology in Blackjack vs Pontoon

As we mentioned above, one of the key differences between the two games is the different terminology that they use - which reflects the unique rules of both games. Here are some of the different terms you might come across.


Hit and Stand: In Blackjack, players would use the terms ‘Hit’ and ‘Stand’ to indicate whether they want to draw another card or stick with the current hand they have. ‘Hit’ means requesting an additional card, and ‘Stand’ means deciding to keep their current hand.

Blackjack: The best hand in Blackjack will be made up of an Ace and a 10-value card (10, Jack, Queen or King) and is referred to as a ‘Blackjack’. This is the highest-ranking hand in the game and usually offers a better payout.

Up Card: In Blackjack, the dealer will be dealt his first card face-up - which means that players can potentially see how strong or weak their hand might be and make their decision based on that information.


Twist and Stick: In British Pontoon, instead of the options of ‘Hit’ and ‘Stick, the equivalent would be Twist or Stick. Twist would mean requesting another card, while Stick would mean choosing to stick with the hand they have and not get any more cards.

Pontoon: In Pontoon, the best hand you can get would also be an Ace and a 10-value card. However, instead of being called a Blackjack, it's referred to as a Pontoon.

Five-Card Trick: A term that you won’t find in Blackjack and is unique to Pontoon is ‘Five-Card Trick’. This means that if you manage to form a hand of five cards without going over 21, then you’ll automatically win, no matter what the dealer has.

Buying Cards: Finally, another term you won’t find in Blackjack is ‘Buying Cards’. In certain Pontoon games, you’ll have the option to ‘buy’ extra cards if you’ve doubled down - which gives you more opportunities to improve your hand.

These differences in the terminology generally reflect the differences in rules and overall gameplay between Blackjack and Pontoon.

Strategy in Each Game

Obviously, Blackjack is famous for being a strategic game, where using the basic blackjack strategy can give you the best statistical odds of maximising your hand. However, the differences in rules between the games can have a huge impact on your strategy and how you play your game.

So, with that being said, here are some of the differences in the game that can affect your potential strategy options.

1. Dealer's Face-Down Cards

Blackjack: In Blackjack, the first of the dealer cards will be dealt face up, this means you will have a better idea of whether the dealer potentially has a strong or weak hand - or whether there is the potential of a blackjack. This information can help to influence your decision as to whether you hit, stand or make any other strategic choices.

Pontoon: In Pontoon, both of the dealer's cards will be dealt face down - which makes it impossible for you to even make any kind of a guess as to how strong or weak the dealer’s hand is. This lack of information means that there is a lot more uncertainty, and it can affect your strategy as you will need to rely solely on your own hands and the other cards that are visible on the table.

2. Five-Card Trick

Pontoon: The Five Card Trick rule in Pontoon is a feature that you won’t find in Blackjack - and it encourages players to try for a five-card hand without going over, as getting this will automatically result in a win. This rule can massively impact your Pontoon strategy, as you can decide to prioritise building a longer hand to try for this winning opportunity.

3. Buying Cards

Pontoon: In some versions of Pontoon, players are allowed to ‘Buy’ extra cards after doubling down, which gives them more opportunities to improve their hands. The ability to buy cards can add an extra layer of complexity to your Pontoon strategy, as you will need to decide when you should or shouldn’t use this option.

Blackjack: Buying cards is not generally available in Blackjack - once you’ve doubled down, that’s it. This generally simplifies the decision-making process in comparison to Pontoon.

4. Ties

Pontoon: In Pontoon, if there ends up being a tie between the player and the dealer, then the dealer wins. This rule will affect a player’s strategy as they will generally be more inclined to take extra risks and aim for a stronger hand.

Blackjack: When playing Blackjack, a tie will normally result in a push, and the player's bet will simply be returned - no win, no loss. This can potentially make players a bit more conservative in situations where a tie is possible compared to Pontoon.

Whether you're playing Pontoon or Blackjack, the differences are minimal, but they can have a massive impact on how you play your hand and what basic strategy you employ. You need to make sure you adapt your decision-making processes and tactics according to the rules of the game you are playing.

Take Time to Think | BeGambleAware.org | 18+

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