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.
Aunt Sophie and the four spreads
“Aunt Sophie,” I said, “sit down. Let me buy you coffee. No, let me buy you dinner. You deserve some kind of reward for what you did.”
“Now whatever do you mean?” she innocently inquired, joining me at a booth in the restaurant near the floor-to-ceiling window of one-way glass that afforded a panoramic view of the vast playing area of our favorite cardroom, the Anaheim Club.
“I think you know just what I mean,” I replied. “As you well know, that is the pan section directly below us. From their side, it looks just like a mirrored wall. But, as you well know, from this side a kibitzer can see every hand, particularly in the $5 game. Now I’m not normally what you might call a railbird, but sometimes when I’m having dinner I do cast a glance out on the games, particularly when I can watch my favorite relative in action.”
I motioned the waitress over. “I think I’ll hold off on dessert,” I told the gum-smacking lady in the abbreviated black maid’s uniform that was the official female working attire in the restaurant. “See what my aunt wants for dinner, please.
Aunt Sophie ordered the Calorie Watcher’s Special, and I pointed at my empty coffee cup.
“Ah ha!” she exclaimed. “Hiding in the potted palms again!”
“Not exactly,” I returned. “I’m sure that every pan player is aware of the unseen audience behind her or him in the restaurant. All of you seem to play for the gallery at times. I know you tried to look nonchalant, but you couldn’t hide your triumph at the coup.”
“Ai, ai, ai,” she sighed in mock distress, “you’ve found me out.”
“Yes,” I retorted, “but I think I’m the only one who noticed. And I must say, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone go out with four spreads. I can’t imagine how you got away with it.”
“Ha,” she smiled. “Now I got something for you, Mr. Smotty. Always you’re telling me so much about pan, but I can tell you this, in the smaller games no one notices anything. Since you been telling how to protect myself, I watch out carefully for any funny business, but I guarantee I’m the only one in the game who has any idea of any of what’s going on. And I don’t mean anything is ‘going on’ in my game, not the way you explained to me. I just mean no one notices how anyone else plays a hand. An elephant could walk across the table and none of them would notice it. They’re too interested in their own hands. Oh sure, they’re also interested in what they other players have down on the board, but only to the extent of making sure it’s a legitimate meld and that no one passes up a card that hits their hand, and that they discard.”
“So,” I questioned, “what happened? Did you get dealt eleven cards?”
“Right,” she responded. “I got eleven, and I didn’t want to take a chance on discarding twice in one round.”
“Why didn’t you just tell the mucker,” I queried, “and let him make your hand right?”
“Because,” she offered, “I didn’t notice till I picked up the cards. Yah, I know, you told me to always count the cards before picking them up, but I was too busy doing something else you recently told me about. That Mrs. Hanigan next to me was exposing all of her cards, and I could easily see them without moving at all in my seat. She practically holds them in front of me. I wanted to see what she’d be stopping if she declared in, and if she had a good hand. Anyway, I just picked up my cards without really looking at them when I saw that she had indicated she’d be playing and didn’t have much of a hand at all. Then I saw almost everything fit in my hand, and so I declared in too. I had a pat for two. The first time I got hit, I realized that I had started with one too many cards. I didn’t think I could pull it off discarding twice in one hand. They don’t pay too much attention, except for that Marty Goldblum, he’s always looking for a chance to foul my hand.”
“And he’d notice if you discarded twice in one round,” I interjected, just as Aunt Sophie’s cottage cheese salad arrived.
“Right, tsatskeleh,” she continued. “So I didn’t. I just discarded normally. Particularly since that first hit put me on a bustout. I put down the patsy, another spread from my hand, and the spread I had hit, and I deliberately didn’t ask for any pay, as if I had forgot. That gave me three spreads on the board, and two kings left in the hand. Two draws later another king came along. I quietly put down the other two kings. Now I had twelve cards on the board. I asked for two, just for the outs. The others were so intent on paying me two chips before I noticed I had pay coming, actually a bustout since I hadn’t asked for pay when I put the patsy down, that they all thought they were saving four chips. They were pleased to see me throw the cards in. They all thought they were getting away with something they never even noticed the four spreads.”
“Yes,” I chuckled, “no one noticed at the table. Just me back here, and I’d never have said anything even if I was in the game. Actually, though, someone else did notice at the table. I know, because I could see him grinning as the cards were being thrown in.”
“Who?” she demanded. “Who saw and didn’t say anything? Am I gonna get in trouble? Is someone gonna blackmail me?”
“No, no,” I laughed. “He won’t say anything. It was the mucker. He’s not allowed to foul anyone’s hand. He can’t say anything. And I noticed you gave him a nice toke.”
“Sure,” she concluded, “because I was so happy to get away with it.