The casino game blackjack can be traced back to a 17th century French card game called “Vingt Et Un.” Vingt Et Un means “twenty-one” in French, and this game was a big part of French casino play for decades. The most valuable hand in Vingt-Et-Un was a Jack coupled with an Ace of Spades. This is where we get the name “black jack” for our modern casino game of 21.
The English heard the French say Vingt-Et-Un and turned it into “Pontoon.” Pontoon is still incredibly popular all over the world. If you know the rules of blackjack, you know the rules of Pontoon, except that in Pontoon, a hand of five cards that doesn’t go over 21 is the second highest hand in value. The most valuable is a Pontoon, what in a game of blackjack would be called simply a “blackjack”. Blackjack odds are slightly different with that one Pontoon rule variation.
Pontoon odds are different enough from blackjack odds that players familiar with the math behind blackjack should brush up on their Pontoon number skills before jumping into a game. Here’s a quick look at the odds behind the English game of Pontoon.
The biggest impact on blackjack odds that happens when you play with Pontoon rules is the use of what are called Spanish decks. A Spanish deck is made up deck consisting of 48 cards, essentially a standard deck without the four tens. Removing the tens gives an edge to the dealer.
Depending on a few rule variations that exist at different casinos, both online and land-based, the House edge for Pontoon is anywhere from 0.28% all the way up to 0.64%. Understand that those odds presume you’re playing with perfect Pontoon strategy. Just like blackjack, Pontoon strategy cards and charts are available all over the place, from the Internet to casino gift shops.
What other rules and features of the game alter Pontoon odds? The number of decks is the greatest single variable, with Pontoon games using 4, 6, or 8 decks available all over the world. If you want the best Pontoon odds, play at a game that uses just 4 Spanish decks instead of the less lucrative 8 deck game.