Wiesenberg (s009 pan): Sophie learns more etiquette

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.

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Black and white photo of Michael Wiesenberg

Michael Wiesenberg

Aunt Sophie learns more about etiquette

“Last time we talked, Dollink,” said my Aunt Sophie, “you promised to tell me more about etiquette at the pan table.”

It was noon. I had just awakened and was relaxing by the pool. Aunt Sophie had brought a tray containing freshly ground, freshly brewed mocha java, chocolate, plain, and berry croissants from La Petite Boulangerie, Marilyn Douglas rhubarb marmalade, eggs benedict, fresh squeezed orange juice, bacon, and sausage. She knew that plying me with a wholesome breakfast was a good way to get free advice.

“Do you want some more,” I requested, “off the top of my head? You know that these are just my opinions about how a pan game ought to be conducted.”


“Dollink,” purred Aunt Sophie, “opinions from you are worth a carload of misinterpretations and speculations from officials at these cardrooms. They don’t know their, you should pardon the expression, their tochises from a loch in kop.

“Well,” I began, contemplatively buttering a croissant, “I mentioned the player who yells,‘ No calling for cards.’ Is this a rule? Should it be?”

“I don’t think so,” opined Aunt Sophie, “but that’s because I’m the one they’re usually yelling at.”

I dug into the eggs benedict. “I should,” I continued, “ask why this is a problem before asking if it’s a rule. I presume what is going on is that on your draw, you say something like ‘Come on seven of spades,’ if that happens to be the card you need.”

“Yes,” agreed Aunt Sophie, “and you know who always objects the loudest when I call for a card, and who quotes this supposed rule? It’s that yente Marty Goldblum. And when he’s on the board with valle spades, he says something cute like, ‘Black is beautiful.’ He’s most likely to say that when there’s a Shvartseh at the table.”

“Aunt Sophie!” I gasped, for she had always taught me respect for minorities.

“Pardon me,” Sophie apologized, “I mean a black person. It’s just that that goniff always makes me so mad.”


“Okay,” I proceeded. “It’s not a rule. We know that mainly because nothing about etiquette per se in a pan game is a rule. So, if it’s not a rule, why do players object so? My theory is twofold. One, it bugs them. You must admit that a table full of players each crying for a different card would get to be quite an annoyance. Two, is that some pan players are a superstitious lot. They think if you call for one card it prevents their card from showing up. So, what kind of a rule can we come up with? I would say that it’s much more objectionable to be screaming about what other players can and cannot do than whether those players call for cards. Nonetheless, out of respect for the feelings of those who object, players should not chant the name of a card with every draw. Everyone knows what card you need; saying its name aloud will not improve your chances of receiving it.”

Aunt Sophie refilled my coffee cup. “Okay, Dollink,” she sighed. “It’ll be hard, but I won’t call for cards anymore.”

“Believe me,” I ventured, “the other players will love you for it.”

“Any more poils a wisdom?” Sophie queried.

Mucker’s plea

“Do you remember,” I went on, “I jokingly referred last time to the mucker’s plea to ‘throw them in underhand, please’? That’s more than a joke. A pan player tends, more than any other frequenter of a cardroom, to get very emotionally involved with his game. He loses a hand, and angrily flings the cards at the mucker as if the dealer is somehow responsible for his bad luck, or, more often, his bad play. Of course, he doesn’t want to blame himself for losing a hand he likely should never been in. How much easier to blame the dealer! So what happens? A pan dealer gets more abuse than any other club employee. Players throw their cards. They act abusive. They don’t play in turn. (We saw that earlier.) They miscount the value of their hands, and then blame the dealer for not correcting it. So what should be done?”

“I guess,” Aunt Sophie hazarded, “‘shoot the mucker,’ as Marty Goldblum is so fond of saying, is not the answer.”

“No,” I responded, “far from it. Give him a reward. It’s a tough enough job, keeping track of all of those cards, dealing properly, keeping all the cards shuffled, keeping track of the play throughout each hand in case anyone wants to know how much a hand is worth. Don’t make the mucker’s job tougher. Throw your cards in gently face up. I shouldn’t even use the word `throw,’ should I? Set your cards face up on the table at the end of the hand, and slide them gently to within the dealer’s reach. When you draw a card you don’t want, don’t fling it at the dealer, or right into the middle of the muck. Show the card to the player on your right. If he or she doesn’t want the card, then slide it gently face up into the muck. If your card goes over your head, don’t curse the dealer or accuse him of improperly mixing the cards, as if he somehow had control over what card you would draw when. If you get a bad beat, don’t scream at the dealer. If the real reason for your losing is playing too many hands, and playing those badly, don’t take it out on the mucker. You should probably just leave the table.”

“Uh huh,” concluded Aunt Sophie, “in other words, just be a lady or a gentleman all the time.”

Next: 010 Aunt Sophie gets peckered


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