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Pan-9 is an idiotic game similar to baccarat, in which the object is get 9, the best, unbeatable hand. Unlike baccarat, you get 3 cards instead of 2, with the option to draw one more card. Face cards are worth zero, and in pan-9 the 7s,8s,9s, and 10s are removed from the deck. So a typically good starting hand is a 6, a 2, and a king (6+2+0=8) and a typically bad hand is king-queen-jack, which equals zero, forcing you to draw a card. Pan-9’s distinction is that it is probably the only card game in which three face cards is always a horrible hand. Like baccarat, if your hit card pushes your value over 9, e.g. your 5 hits another 5, you have effectively busted your hand (“overhit”) since you now have zero, and your only hope is to push with the dealer.
…House rules generally require that you hit on starting hands of 0 thru 4, and stay on hands 7 thru 9. That means there’s exactly one decision to make in the game, whether to hit on 5 or 6, and everyone pretty much plays it the same way; hit on 5, stay on 6. Hitting on 6 is considered a risky, cavalier play, but is not as statistically foolhardy as, say, hitting hard 17 in blackjack.
…That’s the whole game. You get three cards, you either take one card or don’t. If you beat the dealer hand, you win. The funny thing about pan-9 is that, because the dealer hand follows all the same rules as the player hands, one ends up winning a lot with very low numbers, because the dealer often has junk. There’s nothing statistically to prevent the dealer from having zero all the time, which sounds great, until you realize that there’s also no reason that the dealer can’t have the best hand over and over and over again. (Unlike blackjack, there are no real high-value cards that you can attempt to count; the cards are all valuable relative to their sum total in combination with the other vards)
…One could make an argument that such a simple game is a perfect distillation of gambling; there is no pretense of skill or method, you put your money down and you either get good cards or you don’t. In that way it’s a bit like playing War. One could also say that this is why the game is so popular in certain California casinos, because it has relatively even odds, and attracts the truly knowledgeable type of player who want to avoid the inevitable house advantage.
…But in fact, it’s a stupid game which takes no thinking, and hence is played almost exclusively by rich morons. By “rich,” I mean having a lot more disposable income than me (which admittedly does not take a lot), and by “moron,” I mean people who have difficulty counting up to 9.
…To make up for the relative mundanity of the game, the habitual players have created an awesomely inane culture of superstitious “strategy” that they use to justify their interest/obsession/addiction to an entirely pointless and boring game.
…Also, at the risk of belaboring this point, since many of them are immensely dumb or chronically drunk, the repeated task of adding up three numbers is actually an intellectual challenge, and one more befitting their cognitive level than the relatively mind-twisting game of poker.
…In the entries that follow I’ll attempt to go into more detail on my experiences at the table, playing the game I just described, with the worst people on the planet Earth.


Written by dommah

October 6, 2005 at 9:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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