Wiesenberg (s060 pan): Sophie’s winning element


Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Card 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 learns a key winning element

“Dollink,” said my Aunt Sophie, “what is the single most important thing a pan player can bring to the pan table?”

I got the waitress’s attention, and pointed at our two empty coffee cups, appropriate decorations for our table in the coffee shop of the Anaheim Club. “The same thing,” I replied, “that a poker player can bring to the poker table.”

“Well,” she observed, “I know what the worst thing a poker player can bring to the poker table is. According to Doyle, it’s a rabbit’s foot.”

Sunny disposition

“Right,” I agreed, “and, according to me, the best thing a card player can bring to the card table is a sunny disposition.”

The waitress arrived with two pots of steaming coffee. The regular stuff she poured into my cup, and the decaffeinated into Sophie’s, actions that would tend to give an observer from another planet the impression that we had been in there more than once before. Maybe not; do they have cardrooms with coffee shops on other planets? Do they even have coffee shops on other planets? Tatooine, perhaps, but likely nowhere else. “Surely, Tsatskeleh,” she put in, “you’re joking.”

“Joking, my dear?” I responded. “Not at all. What is the main thing a card player is trying to do?”

“Well,” she hesitated, “it depends on the player. But, for most, winning I guess is it.”

“Right,” I said, “and the best way to win, apart from playing properly, of course, is to make the other players like you. If you’re pleasant, the others will gladly give you their money. If you’re not, no matter how well you play, your win rate will not be as high. Most players are losers, correct?”

“Correct,” she supplied.

Nice guy

“And they generally know it,” I continued, “even if they don’t necessarily admit it out loud. Losers often have the choice of whom they lose to. And given the choice between giving their money to an obnoxious winner and a pleasant winner, they’ll pick the nice guy every time. I’ve had players deliberately practically just give me their chips to avoid losing them to the unpleasant players.”

“Seems to me,” Aunt Sophie offered, “the same thing I’ve had happen.”

“Some unenlightened players,” I went on, “make a practice of deliberately annoying the live ones. They lose a pot to some dummy, and then give the dummy a lecture on how bad he played. ‘How could you get in that pot, you idiot?’, they scream. ‘Couldn’t you tell I had a pat seven and there was only one card in the whole deck you could catch?’ Well, the next time a similar situation comes up, do you think the dummy’s going to put all his chips in the pot to try to draw out on the criticizer? No, no. When I get beat, I just say something like ‘Nice hand!’ or ‘Great play!’ and pleasantly push the pot. The dummy’s going to give me more action, even though in most pots I’m going to have more of an edge over him than ‘The Teacher.’

“And even beyond giving lectures, some players try to rile up their opponents. They beat someone, and then insult him. They figure if they make a player mad enough, that player will have a vendetta against them. A player angrily shooting at someone who has beat him in a pot and then needled him loses his judgment, and plays worse against that player than he would normally. This gives the needler an edge. The needler takes advantage of this. Seeing that it’s successful reinforces his own nasty behavior, and he continues to act that way. He doesn’t realize that I, by being pleasant, have more of an edge against the losers than he. The losers just temporarily see red, and play badly against him. But they want to give me their money, because they perceive me as being fun to play against.”

“Ah, hah,” interject Aunt Sophie, “ever since months ago about being polite all the time at the tables you talked, I’ve been on my best behavior at the pan table, and some of the compulsive pisser-hand players seem like they’re eager to give me their chips. You should see the suicide hands they get in with against me. And I’ve noticed that they play much better against that alte cocker Marty Goldblum.”

Pays to be pleasant

“Right,” I stated. “He’s not nearly as unpleasant as a lot of them, but he does have a supercilious way of collecting winning pays, and also seems overly self-congratulatory upon putting out a hand. Enough so that the others unconsciously resent giving him any chips unnecessarily. And that translates into giving him less action, and you more. Now, this is the reverse of the situation I described wherein players would rather give their chips to a more skillful players just because he’s nice. Marty has a greater edge on the game than you do, yet you likely make more from certain players than he just because they prefer throwing their mad money your way than his. So, you see, it pays to be pleasant.

“And, on top of the actual pay, it’s better for your health. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard players threaten physical violence on Friendly Freddy when he gives them the needle. Some have offered to take him out to the parking lot, to which he generally responds, ‘Go ahead. And if I’m not out there when you get there, just start without me.’ One of these times someone’s going to come back to the club after a losing session with a gun, and I’m quite sure Friendly Freddy is much farther up the list of prime targets than you or I.”

Note: There is no Aunt Sophie 061 in this series.
See Wiesenberg (s061): No entry (explanation)

Next: 062 Aunt Sophie and the world-class lowball play

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