Wiesenberg (s012 pan): Sophie quits splitting

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 quits splitting

“Drinking, Dollink?” asked Aunt Sophie. “May I join you?”

I was sitting at one of those small, intimate tables-for-two in the Anaheim Cardroom’s darkened taproom, the sort of table casino showroom maître d’s usually plunk tourists down at who tip less than a twenty. I didn’t often come in here, but the livest player in the 20-40 low had just gone 10 bets with me before the draw, broken an 8-4 when I stood pat, made a wheel, and gone another 10 bets — the rest of his chips — after the draw. Naturally that was the hand I had a pat 6-4. The live one then proceeded to scatter my 600 around the table, plus 2000 more, to everybody but me. That was worth a small Metaxa Seven-Star or two. “Sure,” I offered, “why not? I’d much rather think about pan now than lowball.”

A cocktail waitress came over. “Bring me,” Aunt Sophie addressed the girl, “a shot of Kirschwasser with a water back.” She lit one of the three Kent IIIs she allowed herself per day. “What’s your opinion on splitting and saving?”

Never split

I ordered another Metaxa. “You know what I say when I sit down to play pan. `I never split, save, or cash out.’”

“Actually, bubie,” she put in, “you never say anything like that at the pan table or anywhere else when you’re playing cards. A poifect gentleman, that’s what you always are. And if you weren’t, I wouldn’t listen to your advice.”

“Thanks,” I replied, “but there is some truth in that rather tired old pan joke. I really don’t split with anyone in a pan game, for the same reason that I don’t play easy against anyone in a poker game. I consider myself to be a good player, so why split? When the live one declares and I get to play alone against him, I figure to win more often than not. If instead I have an agreement to split with him when no one else is in, all I get is half the tops, instead of the many more chips per hand I would get by being more selective about the hands I choose to play and by playing the ones I do get in on better than he. The only reason I would want to split would be if I had a piece of the house’s action, because splitting is good only for the house. The more hands that get split, the more hands per hour, and the more that leaves the game in the form of the drop. Some players split with everybody, probably because they feel they don’t want to hold up the game. They don’t want to make the other players wait while they drag a head-up hand out to its often protracted conclusion.”

“Oy,” exclaimed Aunt Sophie, “such dirty looks they give me when I play a hand against the next-to-last declarer. Usually I end up splitting just not to get the others mad.”

“Uh, huh,” I nodded, “and does Marty Goldlbum split with you when you declare next-to-last?”

“No,” she agreed, “he always plays them out. And usually beats me, too.”

“Right,” I asserted, “and that’s because he regards you as one of the live ones. I’ll bet he splits with all the hardrocks, though.”

“Come to think of it,” Aunt Sophie observed, “he does always split with Old Leo.”

“Mm-hm,” I went on, “and I’ll bet he doesn’t give in when someone objects to his slowing down the game by insisting on playing one out with just you. He probably says something about having a hand that’s just too good to throw away.”

Not that good

“That’s just what he says,” she assented. “But you know what, those hands are usually not really all that good.”

“Of course,” I pointed out, “but they are just slightly better than yours. Enough to give him an edge overall when he plays head-up against you. You do have a tendency to play almost anything when you’re first to declare in next-to-last position. He just has to be a bit more selective than you. And of course, never split with you.”

“I see,” Aunt Sophie remarked, “so I should never split.”

“Well,” I backtracked, “perhaps `never’ is a bit strong, but never with anyone you think you play better than. If a player knows you always split, he’ll declare without even looking if he’s first in next-to-last position, because he knows it’s an automatic half of the tops. And he’ll always come in when you open from that position. Keep them guessing. Don’t always split. They’ll have much more respect for your playing ability. You’ll be thought of as a tough player. Just remember to be a bit more selective about the hands you play. Don’t automatically play anything in those positions. Remember my advice from a few weeks back. You can declare a lot more liberally than in an early position if you’re next to last, or play with someone who declared first from that position, but the hand has to have at least a little something going for it. If you do that, you won’t be the live one anymore, and you’ll start winning chips from those who do play everything in that position, and also from the tough players who play you as if you still played that way.”

Next: 013 Aunt Sophie stops saving


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