Wiesenberg (s034 pan): Sophie comes back

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 comes back

Nu, tsatskeleh, what’s up?” asked my Aunt Sophie, easing into the booth opposite me.

“Nothing much,” I replied. “I just finished playing.”

“In the hundred-two hundred?” she queried. “How’d you do?”

“Oh, you know,” I responded, “I got lucky. I got out of the trap. Made a few bucks.”

“I know what that means,” she said. “You made more than I did in my last five pan sessions, and I’ve been running lucky.”

“Could be,” I commented noncommittally. Then I changed the subject. “Say, you’re the sneaky one, aren’t you? Telling me I wouldn’t like Cousin Minnie’s niece so I wouldn’t think her any kind of a threat, and then you and Minnie worked it out for me to drive the two of them home, knowing that I would have to go most of the distance alone with her.”

Aunt Sophie gazed at me angelically. “Why, Dollink,” she offered, “whatever are you on about? You were the only one heading that way. Did you like her? Didn’t you take her straight home?”

“I showed her the cardroom,” I answered. “She wanted to know more about pan.”


“Uh, huh, Mr. Misogynist,” Aunt Sophie proffered, “and you don’t even want to give the time of day to anyone of the opposite sex, unless maybe it’s me, your aunt. Never mind about that, though. Your business is your own business. But tell me something. How should I play in those 24-hand tournaments?”

“Well,” I suggested, “that’s quite a change of subject. How have you been playing in them?”

“I’ve been playing all but the most hopeless hands,” she returned.

“And how successful,” I questioned, “has that been?”

“I haven’t won one yet,” she came back with.

“Does that convince you,” I continued, “that that’s not the best strategy?”

“No,” she snapped. “Some of these players are in there on every hand, some of the worst pissers you can’t imagine, and they’ve won those tournaments.”

“I don’t doubt it,” I put in. “However, in this case success doesn’t necessarily imply proper strategy. Playing every hand works sometimes, mainly when the dummy doing so gets lucky. But more often than not that causes them to go bust. The consistent winners are those who play smart. They don’t play much different in tournaments from live play. They play the good hands; they dump the bad hands. Of course, they’re likely to play rushes a bit more aggressively, but generally you won’t find them in on too many bad hands. No five-hitters with no pay, for example, in tournaments or outside.”

“Yes, but,” she sputtered, “I would feel like a fool getting busted out of a tournament because of having anted off all the chips.”


“Of course,” I agreed, “I understand that. But that’s unlikely and unusual. In 24 hands, you should find more than a few to play. You just use approximately the same criteria I’ve been telling you about all along. You can loosen up your playing requirements somewhat, because you know that in general your opponents come in lighter than they would otherwise, but you still need quality hands. It doesn’t matter how bad the other players’ hands are if yours are close to impossible. When you said you’ve been playing all but the most hopeless hands, I’m sure that means you play practically anything that isn’t a true Yarborough. No good. You’ll lose more times than you ought that way. Oh sure, if you play in enough tournaments, you’ll have rushes and win some of them that way. But in general, you’ll be supporting the eventual winners by that kind of play. This is all due to a mistaken way of thinking among many tournament participants. They play as if each tournaments was an isolated incident, as if it were the only tournament they would ever play in. But that’s not the case. Tell me, how often do you play in these fixed-hand tournaments?”

“Twice a week,” she supplied, “sometimes three.”

“Uh huh,” I smiled. “So each is not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has to be played as if it’s either play all the hands and win or don’t and lose your chance. In a way, these tournaments are like a long-term pan session that keeps getting suspended and continued, as if you were breaking for meals. Just as in any other playing situation, if you play better than the others, you’ll win more in the long run. If you play every hand in the tournaments, you won’t do any better than the idiots who play every hand in normal play. Sure, they get a rush sometimes and bust the table. But what happens more often? They go broke. They’re the ones who supply all the winners with their winnings. Don’t you be one of those. If you have to go through a tournament anteing and throwing away every hand, then so be it. Better that than going broke playing some pisser when one of the smart players has a one-hit-hand with a pat for four. Even if you have one chip left, and you think you might as well play this one, because next hand you’d just have to play for tops anyway, resist the temptation if the hand is completely hopeless. Who knows? Maybe that next hand would be dealt flat. You might win the tops, and then go on to win the tournament. But if you lose your last two chips on the pisser, you’ll never get a chance to play that next hand.”

“But, but,” she stammered, “I could get lucky and put the pisser out, and then I might make some collections.”

Never smart

“More likely you’d pay off with that one chip,” I declared. “Just play the percentages, the better-than-average hands. I’m not saying you can’t play aggressively, particularly in the middle of a rush. I am saying not to play like a fool. You can lower your playing requirements somewhat because all of the others have lowered theirs considerably more, but that’s just part of playing better than the others. Playing the hopeless hands is never smart play.”

Nu,” she countered, “how many pan tournaments have you won with this strategy?”

“None,” I admitted, “but that’s only because I haven’t played in any. On the other hand, I have played in several poker tournaments, and I’ve won a number of those.”

“Well,” she concluded, “it’s worth a try I guess.”

“Not just a try,” I amended, “you’ll have to keep it up to see the results. This is the sort of thing that shows itself only in the long run. If after a hundred tournaments you still don’t agree with me, come back and we’ll talk about it again. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an appointment on the other side of the freeway.”

Aunt Sophie glanced out the picture window to where the rays of the setting sun glanced off the Matterhorn.

Next: 035 Aunt Sophie forsakes the deuces


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