Wiesenberg (s013 pan): Sophie stops saving


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 Wiesenberg

Michael Wiesenberg


Aunt Sophie stops saving

“More lemon chicken, Dollink?” offered Aunt Sophie. In my present misogynist state, the closest I was likely to get to a date was an evening of culture with the woman who had overseen much of my early upbringing. We had gorged ourselves amid the masters at the Prado exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum, and were now out for dinner at the Fiery Dragon, whose Hunan cooking was a legend among cardplayers and civilians alike throughout the Southern Basin.

“Yes, please,” I replied. “Whaddya think, Aunt Sophie, should we fly up to San Francisco for the Pointillist Exhibition?”

Aunt Sophie placed two more chicken breasts on my plate, and ladled lemon sauce liberally over them. She placed Mu Shu Pork in a paper-thin pancake, spooned hot plum sauce over it, and rolled it up into something that resembled a burrito but, at least to my palate, tasted considerably better. “Don’t you think,” offered she, “you’d enjoy something like that much more in the company of a younger woman.”

Not ready to socialize

“Aunt Sophie,” I growled, “you may have been like a mother to me, but you are not my mother, and anyway, even if my mother were around, I wouldn’t let her tell me how to run my life. And after that last disastrous interlude, I’m not ready for that sort of socializing.”

“Okay, okay,” Aunt Sophie placated, “I was just suggesting.”

“Don’t,” I asserted, “suggest.”

“I won’t,” she promised, and quickly changed the subject. “We were talking about splitting last time, which you suggested I should seldom do. You also indicated saving was not a good idea. Why not?”

“Well,” I pontificated, “that depends somewhat on what you mean by `saving.’ That’s actually short for `saving flats.’ If you and I are both flat on the board — and I mean 10 cards flat — and we have this agreement, then if either of us goes out, the other does not pay. Of course, if you’re flat and I’m not, and I hit a pay without going out, you pay me. And if I’m flat and you’re not, and you bust out, I have to pay you. It’s only when we’re both flat on the board — not in our hands, but actually on the board — and one of us goes out, the other doesn’t pay. The reasoning behind that is that supposedly we’re both equally good players, so at the point we’re both flat, it’s just a matter of luck who goes out first. This is an arrangement good friends often make in a pan game.”

“But,” interjected Aunt Sophie, “you said it depended on what I meant by `saving.’ Are there other kinds of saving?”

Doesn’t count

“I’ve seen others,” I responded. “Some players save when both are as much as nine cards flat on the board. That is, you could be 10 cards flat and I nine, or even both of us nine, and if either goes out, the other doesn’t pay. Even a bustout by the player nine cards flat doesn’t count. Others play that flat is flat, whether on the board or in the hand. Some even play that if one is flat, he doesn’t pay the other even for a bustout. Those arrangements, however, are rare. Saving usually means both players 10 cards flat on the board.”

“Okay,” she agreed, “I understand. But why not save?”

“The answer,” I answered, “is similar to what I said about splitting. Why have an arrangement with another player not to pay you off sometimes for going out when you’re more likely to do so than he is? If you feel you have the best of it with other players, why make an arrangement that brings you more on even terms, implies in a way that your play is equal?”

“So how about,” she probed, “with the ones who play better than me? The ones who don’t get in nearly as many hands as I do? Aren’t they more likely to get flat than me, and so shouldn’t I try to arrange not to have to pay them off for going out? If we’re both flat at the same time aren’t they likely to be flat with something that has more possibilities of going out than my hand does?”

Tante,” I rejoined, “if you can get players like that to save with you, go ahead. And, for that matter, if they’ll split, do that, too. I think you’ll find, though, that they don’t split or save with anyone they think plays looser than they do, and that’s most of the other players at their table, because they usually try to get into a game that doesn’t feature others of their ilk.”

That explains it

“I see,” she commented, “that explains why Marty Goldblum and Tight Leo split and save with each other, but rarely with anyone else.”

“Sure,” I observed, “they respect each other’s play, but not yours.”

“Oh yeah,” Aunt Sophie flared, “I’ll show them! I won’t split or save, but I sure as heck will cash out!”

“That will help, of course,” I remarked, “but even more important is to remember all the points we’ve discussed before. And what is the single most important aspect of winning pan play?”

Oy,” she returned, “knowing which hands to throw away.”

“Yes?” I prompted. “And which hands are those?”

“I know what you want me to say;” she acknowledged, “most of them.”

Next: 014 Aunt Sophie remembers

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