Wiesenberg (s004 pan): Sophie cuts off

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 cuts off

“You gotta explain to me about full value on a bustout,” said a familiar voice on the phone.

“Not over the phone,” I replied. “Meet me at the coffee shop in ten minutes.” I sighed. I had been just about to retire after a profitable evening of seven-card stud, but Aunt Sophie always wanted her answers “now, please, Dollink.”

When I sat down opposite her in the booth, a late-night nosh consisting of a pastrami and chopped chicken liver sandwich, hot German potato salad, and a Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry Soda was waiting at my place. Aunt Sophie knows what I like.


“I was in the small pan game, you know, two-dollar condition,” Sophie commenced. “I was on the board with threes and kings. Three of diamonds, three of hearts, three of clubs, and three different kings. I had a four-nobreak five of spades in my hand and two aces. I got hit with the three of spades. I remembered what you had said about saving cutoffs, but this one was tricky. If I threw the five of spades, any ace would put me flat. If I threw an ace, however, the four-five worked with the three of spades, giving me a concealed rope.”

“Yes,” I put in, “and you were now nine-card flat with three spreads, instead of seven-card flat with two spreads, hoping for a possible ace to put you ten-card flat. You did the right thing. I know that was a tough decision, particularly since the aces could also be helped by deuces, to make a new spread. Better the bird in the hand of the made third spread than the hope, though.”

I had almost finished the sandwich, and was pouring the last of the soda into my glass.

“Then,” Aunt Sophie resumed, “another three of spades came, and I was glad I’d broken those aces. I threw the other ace, and I was ten-card flat. I held the four-five of spades in my hand, because I didn’t want anyone to know I was close to going out, in case they were holding back any pays. If they knew I was flat, they might put down their pays, and cost me a few chips.”

What happened then

Aunt Sophie waved the waitress over, and ordered two cups of coffee, and two slices of cheesecake, mine smothered with blueberries. “And what,” I urged, “happened then?”

“Then,” she continued, “I drew a third three of spades. I set down my four and five of spades with it, and said, ‘Back up the wagon!’thinspace”

“Oh dear,” I interjected, knowing the mistake she had made.

“’Oh dear’ is right,” Aunt Sophie asserted. “Can you imagine, that Marty Goldlum, I thought he was so nice, he should live so long I’ll go to another casino show with him, said to the dealer, in such a cold voice you wouldn’t believe, ‘Dealer,’ he said, ‘tell her what the hand is worth.’thinspace”

“Mm-hm,” I articulated, “I was afraid of something like that. Let me tell you what the dealer said.”

Nu, Mr. Smart Guy,” Sophie blurted angrily, “if you were there, why didn’t you say so earlier?”

“I wasn’t,” I mildly declaimed, “but I know what the hand was worth. You thought you had hit a special that was worth another four chips, that in fact you had busted out on one, so you should have got, you thought, four when it hit, two for going out, four more for getting paid all over again for the three threes of spades, plus another one for the three other good threes, for a total of eleven. You must have been very surprised when the dealer said you were entitled to three chips only.”

Hit a bong

“Damn right I was surprised,” Aunt Sophie raged. The untypical language indicated that was about the most exercised I had ever seen her. “I was losing, and I finally hit a bong, and the dealer tells me I can’t get paid for it. Why was that?”

“Well,” I explained, “you see, you cut off your pay before you could collect. I guess you were so excited about catching your card that you didn’t go out properly. There’s a right way to do this.”

“I’m all ears,” Sophie proclaimed.

“Okay,” I went on. “The three of spades comes. You resist the urge to put down your four and five of spades, clutching them instead to your bosom in your hot little hand. You place that three of spades with the other two threes of spades. You say, ‘Four please,’ or, if you feel so inclined, ‘Back up the wagon.’ Then you must say a magic word. You say, in a portentous voice, ‘And…’ That’s important. You have to use the right intonation. ‘A-a-and,” I dragged out. “Now, you try it.”

“Uh,” she stammered, “it seems silly. ‘Four please, and…’”

Only worth one

“You got it,” I exclaimed. “Then wait till they’ve all paid you. And, by the way, you will hear some groaning when you say that magic word, but don’t let it disturb you. They’re just jealous of your good play. After you’ve been paid, you say, ‘And two for the outs, plus one more for the threes.’ You see, after you’ve cut off the pay by making that rope, the hand is only worth one. If you don’t collect for it first, you never have a spread on the board that’s worth the extra four. And it’s technically not a bustout because you have to cut off the pay to go out. So it’s not worth that eleven you thought. Neither, though, is it worth just that three you collected by the way you played it. If you remember to collect first before cutting off the pay to go out, you can collect seven, or four more than you actually got from each player. Just remember that magic word And when you hit a pay that you have to cut off to go out.”

“I see,” Aunt Sophie murmured, and then spoke more distinctly. “And don’t lose your heart to another pan player, especially a steifspieler.”

*          *          *

(Editor’s note: a steifspieler is a tough player.)

Next: 005 Aunt Sophie doesn’t get caught cheating


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