This one has the potential to get confusing, so it’s worth laying a little ground work before we get started. Bear with us for a moment here.
The game of blackjack and the game of pontoon are often mixed up, or at least the names are often used interchangeably, when in fact, they are different games entirely.
From the same family yes, but different games nonetheless; in the same way that a lion and a tiger are very different animals despite the fact that they are both big cats.
We have an article on how the games differ and how they are the same here, which is probably worth reading to get up to speed.
Adding to this common confusion, is the fact that online game developers have further muddied the waters by introducing the 5 card trick to some blackjack games, despite the fact that the rule isn’t traditionally associated with blackjack at all.
Thus the necessity for this article in the first place.
Oh, and there is also another name for a 5 card trick, which is more traditionally used in blackjack, but that means the same thing. Despite the fact that it shouldn’t be included with blackjack in the first place.
All crystal clear? We promise it will be at the end of the article.
What is a 5 Card Trick?
In pontoon, a 5 card trick would be any hand containing 5 cards that does not go over 21.
This is the second best hand you can get in pontoon, which also tells you that it doesn’t beat 21 if that’s what the dealer is holding. You won’t have any idea either, because in pontoon, both dealer cards are dealt face down.
This is important because you also have to pay for extra cards in pontoon, so to get a 5 card trick you will have had to buy 3 additional cards which means your stake will be 4 units by the end – your initial unit, plus one more unit for each new card.
All this with no clue what the dealer is holding and with a 5 card trick only occurring once in every 50 hands statistically.
It does pay out at 2:1 though.
If you ever watched FRIENDS, you might have noticed a sign hanging in Joey and Chandler’s apartment reading “Five Card Charlie Pays 5 to 1”, which is no doubt a reference to the game – despite some inaccuracies.
The other thing to note, is that a 5 card trick beats any value hand other than 21, so even if your five cards only make a hand worth 16 vs a dealer’s hand of 20, you would still win that round.
So that’s the rule explained, but why is it in pontoon but not in blackjack?
Why is There no 5 Card Trick in Blackjack?
Although there is traditionally no 5 card trick rule in blackjack, it has found its way into the game in recent years online.
It is usually called 5 Card Charlie in these circumstances though, rather than a 5 card trick, but this is just an alternative name for the same thing.
Blackjack is much more common than pontoon in casinos both online and in the real world, but in brick and mortar casinos you will be unlikely to find a table with the 5 card rule.
This is because real casinos cost a lot more to run than online ones, and the 5 card Charlie rule is good for the player rather than the house, so it’s not often included.
Even online, you might find that the rule is there but the card count is higher – so you might see a 6 card or 7 card Charlie rule, rather than a 5 card, but the odds of these larger hands occurring are a bit wild.
|5 Card Charlie||6 Card Charlie||7 Card Charlie|
Despite the massive odds, it might still pay out at 1:1 like a regular win.
There are a lot of variables and this is why the rule has gotten so confusing; not only is it turning up in a game that it wasn’t traditionally included in, but the way in which it is included can change too.
Where it is included in blackjack it won’t usually cost you anything, so it should be seen as a nice minor bonus rather than something to ‘go for’. That said, it does occasionally exist as a side bet too, where you can bet on it happening for a slightly better payout of 5:1.
This makes sense of Joey and Chandler’s apartment sign, but it’s probably not a side bet worth taking.
There are even versions of pontoon online that play more like blackjack (dealer cards dealt with one face up and one in the hole etc.) – this is not how the game is traditionally played – so both blackjack and pontoon have been merged in some cases.