How to Play Australian Pontoon

The game of pontoon that is played in Australia is an exciting variant of blackjack and more closely resembles Spanish 21, although there are a few important differences. It is also common in other parts of the world such as Malaysia, as players go up against the dealer and try to avoid going over 21.

Basic Rules

Australian Pontoon is one of several games to have been developed as an offshoot of blackjack’s incredible popularity, with subtle changes being devised to give players different options or challenges. Find out how to play traditional Blackjack, or how to play Spanish 21, which is very similar to Australian pontoon.

Just like Spanish 21, Australian Pontoon is played with 48-card decks after the four tens have been removed. Likewise, a player’s 21 wins regardless of the dealer’s hand and the bonus payouts generally follow the same rules as Spanish 21. The main differences to Spanish 21 are:

  • The dealer has no hole card and will only draw their second card at the end of the round, meaning that it is possible to draw a 21 and beat the dealer even when they get a natural or “Pontoon” (two-card hand equal to 21).
  • If a player decides to double on a soft hand, the ace counts as 1.
  • There are limitations on how many hands to which players are permitted to split. In Spanish 21, players can split to four hands, even on aces, but in Australian Pontoon aces are not usually allowed to be re-split.
  • The dealer always twists (hits) soft 17, which is not always the case in Spanish 21.
  • Players can only take late surrender when the dealer has an ace or picture card face-up. If the dealer gets a Blackjack, the player still loses their whole wager.
  • The dealer wins all ties.

Due to the dealer not having a hole card, there are various other rules which can be applied when the dealer does get a Blackjack and the player does not hit 21:

  • Original Bets Only (OBO) - The player loses only half of their original bet.
  • Busted Bets Plus One (BB+1) - The player loses any hands they bust, plus their original bet.
  • Original and Busted Bets Only (OBBO) - The player loses any hands they bust, plus an amount equal to their original bet for every hand they hold. In this respect, players lose out if they have split.


Observe the same etiquette guidelines as for traditional blackjack and be polite and civilised at the casino, both towards staff and other players. It will not be appreciated if you tell others how to play or constantly harangue the dealer. Use only one hand to touch your cards and learn the hand signals to keep the game flowing.  Do not touch your bet after you have put down your wager and be as familiar as possible with the rules before starting to play.


Basic strategy in Australian Pontoon is similar to Spanish 21, and the same charts can be used for whether to stick (stand), twist (hit) or double down, but there are a few points for players to be aware of before they leap into the action.

Doubling on soft hands is not recommended because the aces must then be treated as 1s, while surrendering is also of little benefit due to the fact that it can only be done against an ace or picture card. If the dealer gets a natural, then the player loses their entire bet anyway and forgoes the chance to draw a 21 themselves.

The no-hole card rule lowers the house edge significantly and makes the game very appealing for players but, just because the dealer does not receive a second card until the end of the round and a 21 will win automatically, it is important not to be drawn into risking too much. It can be tempting to take another card when you have a 17 or 18, regardless of the dealer’s up-card, and end up going bust, but you should stick to the basic strategy.

Where to Play Australian Pontoon

Australian Pontoon is played in casinos across Australia, as well as in other countries like Malaysia, while it can be found in various other parts of the world. If you have ever played Australian Pontoon, get in touch to reveal what you loved about it!

Important Terms:

1Hole Card

A face-down card given to the dealer in Spanish 21 and blackjack. One of the key rules in Australian Pontoon is that there is no hole card and the dealer will only draw their second card at the end of the round.

2Hit (or twist)

Taking another card.

3Stand (or sticking)

Deciding not to accept another card.


When a player has two cards of the same value, it is sometimes possible to split them into two hands and play each one separately. The player must place a separate wager on the table for each new hand.


Deciding not to play a hand. In Australian Pontoon it is of little value because it can only be done against an ace or face card. If the dealer gets a natural, then the player still loses their entire bet.

6Hard Hands

Any hand which does not include an ace.

7Soft Hands

Any hand which includes an ace. For example, an ace and a three would count as a soft 14.

Visit the Casino Glossary for more terms which you might find in Australian Pontoon or similar table games.

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