Wiesenberg (s010 pan): Sophie gets peckered

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 gets peckered

“Join me for coffee, Dollink,” said Aunt Sophie, bumping into me on the way out of the Anaheim Cardroom early one ayem.

I followed her into the coffee shop. “Coffee,” I replied, “I would love, especially after eight hours of just managing to get out of the hole — or should I say bottomless pit? — in which I was buried. But if I know you, it’s not just idle chitchat we’ll be sharing here. I suspect you have some ulterior motive behind your generosity, probably in the form of a request for pan advice. Am I correct?”

Tsatskeleh,” she happily acknowledged, “you read me like a deck of cards.” We sat in a booth, and Sophie flagged the waitress. “Two double cappuccinos, chocolate cheesecake for me, and blueberry cheesecake for the young man. Now listen, this is serious. Today I got peckered, not just once, but twice, with a pat special. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of pan play, that’s always play a special. How could that happen to me?”

First pan hand

“Before I answer,” I answered, “let me tell you what happened to me the very first pan hand I ever played. I was dealt a pat for six: four fives of spades. In addition, I had three made fours, and two kings. All I needed was a king to drop right out with a jolly popper. Three other players came in ahead of me. Naturally, I declared in. One more player came in behind. Beautiful. The right card and I collect 14 from each of them before they know what hit them.”

“Nice hand,” spake my closest relative. “What happened?”

The coffees and cheesecakes arrived. I paused for a bite of ambrosia and a sip of the elixir of the gods. “Whaddya think?” I ventured. “I never got on the board. The player who came in behind me got hit six times and went out. I must have paid out a whole stack before the agony ended. I should never have played another pan hand again. But, like others in my family, I don’t always have the sense I was born with. Now, as to your hands, tell me about them.”

First to declare

“Well, Dollink,” replied Aunt Sophie, “on one hand, the first three cards I saw were threes of spades. I had won the last hand and I was first to declare. Everyone was waiting for me, so as soon as I saw those threes, I said play. The rest of the hand wasn’t so good, though. I got peckered, and I had to pay four other players, and they all had a lot of pays. And the winner of the hand busted out for 15.”

“Aunt Sophie,” I remonstrated, “you have a very bad habit of picking up your cards one at a time, which keeps the others waiting. I suppose you notice that they’re waiting sometimes, and so make some hasty decisions. Why don’t you try picking up all the cards at once? Or maybe you could pick the first five up one at a time and arrange them, but when the second five come, pick them all up. You can probably get a good idea of what you have without arranging them. Then you might not have made that hasty decision. When you say the rest of the hand `wasn’t so good,’ can you remember precisely what you had?”

“Not exactly,” she responded. “I do remember there were two twos of diamonds, and I think jack-king of clubs. I don’t think any of the other cards worked together.”

“And the other hand?” I probed.

“That one,” supplied Aunt Sophie, “five players declared in ahead of me. I had a hand like yours, pat for six with four fives of spades. Of course, the rest of the hand wasn’t as good as yours. But it had potential for making a lot of money, especially with five paying. Ace-three of spades. Two sevens of diamonds. And I think queen-king of clubs. But even with such a lovely hand I never hit the board. And what made it worse was I paid out two stacks on the hand.”

No cutoffs

“Aunt Sophie,” I sighed, “that’s no `lovely hand.’ Even if you hit the hand perfectly, it would still take three hits to go out. And look what you needed. Deuce of spades, seven of diamonds, or jack of clubs to make another spread, and two of those would be ropes. No cutoffs, none of the potential spreads working together. Most likely you’d never get one of those cards, and would have to hope for a five. You’d have to hit the hand seven times to go out in fives. Sure, if you did, you’d make some money, but it’s not likely you’d get seven hits before anyone else went out. And if you didn’t, you probably would not make any money on the hand. Yes, you’d collect 30 chips the first time you hit the board, but against five other players you might pay out that much; and in fact you did worse than that. Remember, they’re not playing with nothing, particularly the last ones to come in. Even with a pat for six, you need slightly better than what you had to come in against five other players. Not nearly as good as you would need with less pat in the hand, of course, but still just a bit better. You needed at least a noncomoquing pair or a pair of noncomoquers in place of one of those other combinations. And your first hand was even worse. You should have looked at the whole thing, and then quietly discarded the hand when you saw that there was nothing else in it but the one pair, even though that pair was a made special.”

“But a special,” gasped Aunt Sophie, “in the hand. Always I play those.”

“Always,” I chided, “you shouldn’t. Not if it’s likely to cost more than you can potentially make. The first hand was really clear cut. You should never have declared first with it. The second, because it was pat for six, was close to being marginal, but not quite there, really, not against five players. It needed to have been just a bit better. You should have dumped both hands. The second hand you could have played against one or two late declarers. The first hand you could play against the next-to-last player if he or she is the only one to come in, or, if you’re the next-to-last and no one else has come in, you could declare.”

Nu, smarty,” sneered Sophie, “what do you think the others would have said if they had seen me discarding a pat for six hand?”

“My dear,” I proposed, “they needn’t see it.”

“What are you talking?” she queried. “You throw the cards away face up. Everyone would see.”

Make sure they don’t notice

“Of course you throw them face up,” I supplied. “But pan players in the process of declaring don’t notice what others throw away. And you can make sure they don’t notice. Separate those valle spades in the hand before dumping it. If none of them are together, no one will have any idea what was in your hand, except possibly the mucker, and he’s not allowed to say anything.”

“You mean,” Aunt Sophie reasoned, “I should change my strategy from always play a special?”

“Right,” I concluded, “to evaluate every hand based on the situation.”

Next: 011 Aunt Sophie gets a spelling lesson


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