Classic card game is no flash in the Pan!

Sep 17, 2002 6:07 AM

   Nearly 200 card players are expected to swarm the card room at Jackie Gaughan’s Plaza next week, but they won’t be playing traditional poker. Instead, they will play a game now nearly extinct in Las Vegas, Panguingue, which is better known as Pan.

   This game is closely identified with rummy games, and it needs a house dealer. Eight decks of cards are used, however all eights, nines and 10s are removed.

   Pan is played mostly in home games around the country, and a variation of Pan is played in the card rooms in California. But many insist the rules are very different there, and changes too many of the dynamics of the game.

   Unfortunately for its fans in Las Vegas, there aren’t many choices for playing Pan here.  Regular daily games are spread at The Plaza, and the Sahara occasionally has a Sunday morning game. The Plaza also runs regular weekly tournaments at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday and 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

   “There’s just not a high demand for the game by a broad audience,” says Plaza card room manager Barbara Mitchell. “Most of the players are older, and there just aren’t any young people that interested in playing a game like this. It isn’t real easy to learn, but once someone learns it, many just can’t get enough of it.”

   That’s apparent with the enthusiastic turnout that is already registered to play in the Plaza’s Pan-tastic Tournament Sept. 24-26 at the downtown property. This has been recognized for more than 20 years as being one of the biggest Pan tournaments in the country.

   “We already have 17 tables filled and paid for,” said Mitchell. With eight players to a table, that’s 136 already signed up for action, and she reports that 90 percent of the players are from other states around the country, and even Canada.

   There’s no question that this game has attracted people from all walks of life. One player that’s particularly noteworthy is Plaza owner, Jackie Gaughan. “I’ve been playing this game since 1936,” Gaughan says with a broad, proud smile.

   According to Mitchell, the big boss asks for and gets no special attention from any of the players. “He’s just another dedicated Pan player to them. They all play very competitive, but everyone in the room will tell you that Jackie is one of the nicest and down-to-earth type people you would ever want to meet,” explained Mitchell.

When asked what it is about the game of Pan that keeps players coming back, Gaughan, who will turn 82 next month, said, “It’s because every hand is different . . . it’s just so interesting.”

   One of the things that’s very interesting about the game, even if you never play Pan, is the terminology used by the players. Here’s a few of the more intriguing ones, along with their meanings:

Pisser — bad hand to play.

Valle — threes, fives and sevens.

Bong — threes, fives and sevens in spades.

Commoch — invalid, unsuited spread.

Klondike — playing heads up every hand.

Peckered — player doesn’t spread or meld anything from hand onto the table.

Square — spreads or melds of non-valle cards.

PJs — aces and kings.

Tops & Bottoms — aces and kings.

Bookends — aces and kings.