Wiesenberg (s003 pan): Sophie plays position (2)

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.

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Black and white photo of Michael WiesenbergMichael Wiesenberg

Aunt Sophie plays position: Part 2

“Nu, tsatskeleh,” cajoled Aunt Sophie, “you got time for maybe a cup coffee?”

“A cup coffee,” I replied, “I got time for. Even a cheese danish I got time for. An answer to your questions on pan I’m not so sure I got.”

Sophie signaled the waitress. “Give the boy a cup coffee, and two cheese danish with lots of butter.”

Aunt Sophie has called me “the boy” since my bris, which took place during the Truman administration.

“The question,” she began, “is not so hard. It’s hard maybe trying to decide which hands to play and which not, but I want to know about the play of a particular hand.”

A marvelous hand

The Huntington Park Casino coffee shop has excellent pastries. I thoughtfully buttered a piece of danish. “Tell me about it,” I suggested warily.

“I got dealt a marvelous hand,” she went on. “Three sevens of spades, four good sixes, and two twos of spades with the ace of spades. Nice, huh? The three of spades or a spade deuce puts me down for six.”

I could sense what was coming. “You didn’t get one of those three gemlike cards, though, did you?” I queried gently.

Aunt Sophie lit a Kent III, one of the three per day she allowed herself. She did not smoke the cigarets in the way most people do. She sort of chewed the smoke a little, never inhaling, before blowing it back out. “You’re right, Dollink,” she replied sadly. “I did not. On his first pluck, the player to my right drew a seven of diamonds, and dumped it. I could see he wouldn’t be stopping sevens, so later when I needed them, he might give them to me. But I wanted my own chance at the deck. I mean why settle for collecting only four beans when I could hit a three or deuce of spades and be 10 cards flat before anyone could collect even one?”

“Mm-hmm,” I assented. “Go on.”

“So of course I passed up that seven of diamonds,” she continued. “If it had been the seven of spades, now, I would have taken it. Down for six on my first chance at a card is not so bad. Then, on my draw a seven comes back again, the seven of clubs. Well, now I was getting chicken, so I put down the bong and collected four.”

“And what,” I asked suspiciously, “did you discard?”

Deuce-deuce-ace combination

“One of the sixes,” she retorted, “the six of diamonds, I think. I wasn’t about to break up that beautiful deuce-deuce-ace combination. I still had made sixes for another spread.” Sophie drew in and chewed a mouthful of smoke, leaving an orange stain on the filter.

I caught the waitress’s eye, and pointed at our empty coffee cups. “And then?” I prompted.

“And then fives started running,” Sophie continued. “The guy on my left draws the five of diamonds. I draw the five of diamonds. The guy on my right draws the five of spades. And get this, he has two bare-ass fives of spades. The lady on his right plucks a five of clubs, and she has fives, too. Then, when it gets back around, the guy on my left draws a seven of clubs, and forces it on me.”

“Yes?” I questioned with feigned interest. I had watched her play many times. I knew what was coming. “What did you discard then?”

“Why, another six,” she responded. “That way I still had two more discards to go before getting knocked off the spades.”

“Please continue,” I urged.

“Two more sevens came along,” Sophie ventured. Now I had seven of them. Would you believe?–four sevens of spades, two diamonds, two clubs, so I still couldn’t make another collection.

And do you know, I never saw a deuce or three of spades. Sixes started running after I got rid of them. Fives and jacks, those ran, too. I never got another hit after that. The guy on my right finally went out. And he had a bong, too. Even though I was dealt a patsy for four, and managed to put it down, I couldn’t put the hand out. If only I hadn’t got knocked off that beautiful combination.”

Back to reality

It was time to bring Sophie back to the reality of proper pan play. “Aunt Sophie,” I commenced, “I’m afraid you made a few mistakes on that hand. You should have put it out; you should have made money, and the guy on your right would never have hit that five of spades. Look what happens if you take that first seven of diamonds. You’re down on the board with four sevens. You have four good sixes in your hand. Now you can use any seven or six, plus the five of diamonds and the jack of diamonds. You know, in a hand like that, if you get lucky, the guy on your left discards a deuce or three of spades, or he passes on a card you can’t use, and you draw one of those magic cards, and you’re down for six with three spreads. But in case the miracle doesn’t happen, those three cards are just discards. For heaven’s sake, the sixes and sevens all work together. You don’t come off sixes, made or not, just for a potential bustout. And just follow through what would have happened. The guy on your right draws that seven of clubs. Likely he can’t use it. The five of spades goes over his head. Sixes, fives and jacks were running. The guy on your left drew a five of diamonds with which you could have made a spread, and you drew one. One of those cards undoubtedly would have come to you. You would have gone out with sixes, sevens, plus a rope. You might have got more pay along the way. At the worst, you’d’ve put the hand out with no more pay, and made another six beans from every player, instead of losing money. You know the old saying, save your cutoffs, don’t you?”

“I’ve heard it,” Sophie acknowledged sheepishly.

“There’s another saying that fits this situation,” I persisted. “You should have it engraved on a little card, and set it down in front of you whenever you play, and look at it everytime you have to make a decision on discarding. Keep your hand together.

Next: 004 Aunt Sophie cuts off


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