Wiesenberg (s002 pan): Sophie plays position (1)


Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Pan Player+. This entry in the “Aunt Sophie” series covers pan (or panguingue), which is a multi-player form of rummy, often played for money.

Michael Wiesenberg index.


Black and white photo of Michael WiesenbergMichael Wiesenberg


Aunt Sophie plays position: Part 1

“So much for your advice, Mr. Pan Expert,” accused Aunt Sophie.

My advice?” I questioned. “What’s wrong with my advice?”

“Remember last week,” she went on, “you told me what hands to play and what not? Well, you know that steifspieler Marty Goldblum? I saw him play the most godawful pissers, and still he wins.”

Chopped chicken liver

With a sigh I poured more Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry Soda into my glass, and took a bite from the chopped chicken liver and pastrami sandwich. It was a good thing this casino carried only the best in its deli, and that Aunt Sophie always insisted on treating in exchange for whatever “poils a wisdom” I might inadvertently drop. “Is Marty the little guy with the big diamond pinky ring?” I inquired. “The one that always dresses so well? You know, Aunt Sophie, it’s not good you living all alone in that big house. You need a man around the house, and I know for a fact this Marty has got bucks. I see him playing in the hundred-limit stud; I think two-dollar pan is just for relaxation.”

“Don’t you worry about my private life,” Sophie scolded. “I want to know how he can win with those fercockter hands when I can’t.”

“Well,” I replied, “there’s more to it than that. I’ve watched him play, and he picks his spots. It’s like I said last week. He doesn’t play a pisser with three people in and three more left to declare. He only plays those leaky peekers when it’s just him and the loosest player at the table, or when everyone else has dropped out, and it’s up to him to declare with only one player left, and that one is either the loosey or else a hardrock who only plays the Royal Brazilians. You see, pan is a game of position. Just like hold’em and lowball, but not like stud, where the betting order is determined by the highest or lowest up card. Also, unlike poker, you don’t play a pan hand for money odds. In poker, you can get in on a longshot because of the implied pot odds, the money you might get if you make the hand. In poker, if you don’t make the hand, or you don’t like the hand you make, you can always get out. In pan, once you’re in, you’re in to the bitter end. That would be like having to call every bet in poker, even when you know you’re beat.”

Refine your strategy

“So, tsatskeleh,” Aunt Sophie cajoled, “what about what you told me last time about what hands to play?”

“That still holds,” I responded, “it just wasn’t the whole story. You need to refine the strategy to take position into account. When you’re first to declare, you need a damn good hand to get in. Three pairs, maybe two of them made, and the third not being a bare-ass pair of comoquers, probably either pat for two, or with a real good shot at pay. And it doesn’t hurt to have the pairs working together, so any of several hits put you flat, with cutoffs that could put you out. Just because you won the last hand doesn’t mean you have to automatically play any rag that comes along. You see a lot of people drop more by playing when they shouldn’t the hand after they win than the hand they just won.

“And,” I continued, “with three players in ahead of you, and three more to declare, you need a hand even better than what I just described. Say three good sevens, three made sixes, and maybe three bum fives, probably even a tenth card that either increases one of the spreads or works with them. If you don’t play, all you lose is the ante bean. If you do play a shoe store against that many players, and you have to pay through without collecting, you can lose one or more stacks. If the competition isn’t so stiff, say two in, and only one behind you, you can lower your requirements a bit. Maybe you could play something like three bum sevens, three bum sixes, and maybe a pair of aces and kings, or a four-four-five combination, with the five working with one of the fours. And when it’s down to just two, you can play a lot more hands, as long as they have potential. Say three bum sixes, two of them spades, four-five of diamonds, two aces, and nothing much else.”

Getting in all the time

By now I was in to the chocolate cheese cake and coffee. “But,” I went on, “you still can’t play the gornisht hands I see you get in on all the time, you know, one bum pair, part of a rope, and nothing else. Declare with the real pissers only when you know that by opening in next-to-last position will you get the hardrock in last position out nine times of ten. And that’s hard for you to do with your reputation. Don’t play those when the player in next-to-last position declares first ahead of you, no matter how loose that player is. Particularly against Marty, because he knows how to pick his spots.”

Sophie smiled. “Okay, Dollink. Now I can beat the game. And, confidentially, sweetheart, Marty has already asked me out. We’re going to the Joan Rivers show, and then we’re going to play a little twenty-dollar condition pan. He said he’d stake me. Oy! Wouldn’t my Max turn over in his grave!”

[Continued next time.]

Next: 003 Aunt Sophie plays position (Part 2)

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