Wiesenberg (s051 pan): Sophie doesn’t get cheated

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 doesn’t get cheated

“You know, Dollink,” remarked Aunt Sophie, as we strolled through the parking lot of the Anaheim Club, heading for the main entrance, “I just sold the condo.”

We had arrived at about the same time, she in her new BMW 318i and I in my Biarritz. She was likely heading for a session of pan, while I would engage in fiduciary combat at the high-stakes pot-limit hold’em games.

“What?” I queried. “The Hawaiian place? I was going to ask you if I could maybe borrow it for a week or so. I didn’t even know it was on the market.”


“It wasn’t,” she offered, “but you know one of the regulars in my pan game is a real estate broker, and she’d heard me talking about it, and so she hooked me up with a buyer who made an offer I couldn’t refuse. It don’t close right away, though, so if you want it, of course you can stay there for a week or so. Just better get in there soon.”

“Well,” I said, “congratulations, I guess. I always liked that place. I used to love going there with you and Uncle Max when I was a kid. I loved those breakfasts on the lanai up there on the tenth floor, overlooking the ocean. And going to International Market. And right across from Kapiolani Park. Sometimes we could hear a late-night concert from the band shell. Symphony, sometimes; sometimes a loud rock group. And it was always safe to walk there late at night. What a view! The Pali hills behind, and the coral reefs in front. And just walk right out of the elevator onto the beach.”

I tried to hold the door for my aunt, but the liveried doorman beat me to it. There was a time when just the sound of the clicking of the chips as we entered the carpeted lobby beyond the second set of double glass doors would have quickened my pulses, but no more. Now it was just a job.

“Yah, sure,” Aunt Sophie responded, “I can make with the nostalgia, too. But ever since Max passed away, I got no heart to go there no more. And, anyway, I did really good on that sale. I owed a hundred thousand, and it sold for two fifty. That’s one fifty profit.”

“Pretty sweet,” I agreed, as we walked past the playing area into one of the small lounges. It was still deserted early in the afternoon, and we could sit down to chat relatively undisturbed for a few moments before playing. “But don’t you have to reinvest that?”

Try big pan game

“Oh, sure,” she assented, “but I got two years, and for a hundred and fifty I can practically buy a real nice condo outright. I was thinking I might use some of it for a little entertainment before that.”

“And what,” I requested, “were you thinking of doing?”

“Oh, well,” she replied, “soon I’ll invest in a condo. I don’t want a house; too hard to take care of. I want a place just like my apartment, but it’s a good investment to own instead of rent. But I may not need all of it. In fact, an accountant might say it’s not a good idea to invest all of it in a down payment. Better might be maybe put fifty thousand down and invest the rest in something else, like bonds, or a mutual fund, or something. Don’t worry, not without talking to an accountant would I do that. I’m sure such investments have to be weighed against the taxes I might be hit for on the uninvested portion of the equity I get out of the Hawaii place. But, anyway, I might have a few spare thousand to play around with. And I thought I’d like to try out the big pan game. You know, play with the big boys. All you’ve taught me, I’m sure I could hold my own.”

“You don’t mean,” I demanded, “the hundred-dollar-condition game, do you?”

“Of course, bubeleh,” she explained patiently, as if I was hard of hearing. “The hundred. I might win a bundle.”

“You might also lose a bundle,” I retorted. “Aunt Sophie, don’t do it. That’s dangerous. I wouldn’t play in that game!”

“You wouldn’t?” she questioned. “Good as you play? Why not?”

“I don’t play that good,” I returned. “Not good enough for that game. I don’t have the bankroll, and that is a lot of the skill of that game.”

“Bankroll?” she echoed. “What kind bankroll do you need? It’s two thousand a stack. You buy that much in your poker games.”

“Sure,” I came back with, “but I know what I’m doing in poker, and I wouldn’t be likely to lose ten stacks in poker. Oh, sure, once in a while it happens. But you’d be almost a dead cinch in that big pan game. First of all, you don’t know how to protect yourself, and they do. Second, fifty or a hundred thousand is not really a lot for a game that size. The live ones can afford to lose that much. And the live ones in that game would not be considered live in anything smaller. And the hustlers are not about to lose.”

“Are you saying something is going on in that game?” she inquired.


“No, I’m not,” I answered. “I’m saying I don’t know. I’m saying it’s too easy for someone to do something in a pan game. I’m saying that whenever there’s that kind of money at stake, there’s a good possibility of someone trying. You know, all a mucker has to do is a few times in a session give his buddy a pat special. It’s not at all that hard to do. Oh sure, most of them would never do it. But you know if the guy on the outside wins twenty thousand, he could easily slip his friend the dealer ten percent that night, and who’s the wiser? It’s quite a temptation for a guy making only minimum wage pay, and struggling for at most a hundred a day in tokes. Usually it’s quite a bit less, too. That might be a huge game, but the players don’t get out of line in their tokes. They hardly ever toss one of those mallards to the mucker. They toss a five dollar chip, or maybe a twenty for a big hand, one of the chips they get in change when they pay their time collections. You ever notice how the muckers separate the cards when a special comes out? Four sevens of spades in one hand, maybe, and a good mucker usually sticks them four different places in the deck before shuffling for the next hand. A dealer can easily put them where he can get at them, and then shuffle them into place and give them to his partner. Partner knows the cards will come out on the next deal, and, if they don’t, he doesn’t play anything. Again, I’m not accusing anyone of anything. I’m just saying I don’t know, and when I don’t know, I worry. And I know that that kind of money is an awful temptation. And it would only have to happen to you once. And even if absolutely nothing happened, just a small unlucky streak could easily cost you twenty-five, fifty thousand. No, you leave that game to those who can afford to lose that much without it even hurting. Ten-dollar pan is more than enough for you.”

“Tsk, tsk,” she clucked, “such a worrier. Okay, I’ll invest in the commodities market, and stick to the smaller games.”

“Aunt Sophie,” I sighed, “commodities? Whatever am I going to do with you?”

Next: 052 Aunt Sophie goes wild


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